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March 13, 1959

President Blanding welcomed CBS journalist Edward R. Murrow to Vassar via television, as his “Person to Person” interview program visited the President’s House. The Miscellany News had alerted the campus to preparations for the event: “On Monday afternoon the director of the show interviewed Miss Blanding in preparation for the program, and on Friday 25 people from CBS will be on campus to make the technical arrangements for the broadcast. In order that students may watch the program, a third television set will be installed on the stage of Students’ Building to complement those in the Child Study and Old Council Rooms.”

The President introduced Murrow to her sister, whom he called “Miss Ellen” throughout the interview, and she showed the audience both family and college treasures, including Matthew Vassar’s beer mug, bearing an image of his brewery and one of his country home, “Springside.” Asked about the most pressing challenge to education, as she saw it, Blanding replied that one desperate need was improvement in American secondary school education, and, in response to her saying that “the real key” to improving academic performance was to “raise the level of expectancy,” Murrow quoted his previous interviewee of the evening, author and playwright Budd Shulberg, who had told him, “It’s never a mistake to expect too much.” President Blanding agreed.

Launched by Murrow in October 1953 to “revive the art of conversation,” the series conducted live remote interviews from the homes and workplaces of newsworthy people ranging from boxer Rocky Marciano and actor Marlon Brando to McCarthy investigator Robert F. Kennedy and Fidel Castro. Murrow’s innovative technology stationed large television cameras in several rooms of the house and equipped Miss Blanding with an early high-frequency wireless microphone.

Edward R. Murrow spoke on the topic, “American Is an Island” in a lecture at Vassar in October 1949, and a retrospective of his life and work was given at the college under the auspices of the Poynter Program in September and October 1974. He died in April 1965.

The Years