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September 29, 1967

Vassar celebrated the opening of the new computer center and the dedication of its IBM 360 computer. “No other women’s college…has a computer of this capacity,” stated President Alan Simpson. Professor of mathematics Winifred Asprey ’38 introduced the keynote speaker at the dedication, her former Vassar professor and a computer pioneer, Commander Grace Murray Hopper ’28, who spoke on “Computers and Your Future.” Concurrently serving in the Navy (since 1943) and as staff scientist in the UNIVAC division of the Sperry Rand Corporation, Hopper, Susan Frelich ’70 reported in The Miscellany News, “emphasized the future because she feels that she actually lives in the future. This is only the beginning of the computer age, she said; we are only beginning to know what to do with computers.”

“She then explained that although computers can perform two operations simultaneously (multi-processing), we do not know how to use this power since human beings can only perform sequential rather than parallel thought operations. Creating a form of multi-dimensional mathematics should be our next challenge she said. She pointed out, however, that one must remember that machines are useless without people telling them what to do and that there is a serious shortage of such brainpower.”

Student seminars and faculty research were highlighted as the college embarked on academic computing. Among faculty projects cited by The Miscellany News were the examination of light wave patterns given off by amber by Professor of Chemistry Curt Beck, tests of intuition devised by Associate Professor of Psychology Malcolm Westcott and a study by Associate Professor of Religion John Glasse of the use of Lutheran doctrine by Ludwig Feuerbach, whose identification as “(a nineteenth century theologian)” drew a spirited posthumous response from Feuerbach in the issue for October 4.

“It is pleasant,” he wrote, “to have made the front page of The Misc…even if it had to be as data for Vassar’s new computer.” “I am distressed, though,” Feuerbach continued, “at being billed as a ‘theologian.’ That is just what I have wanted not to be, ever since I quit theology after having tried it as a freshman. I am a philosopher. As to Lutheran doctrine,” the philosopher continued, “I hope your man Glasse has found that that didn’t really interest me. What did was Martin Luther the man, and his lively reports on religious experience from within…. He misunderstood his own experience, of course, as Chrisitians do. But I’ve cleared that up in my book, The Essence of Christianity. It’s in paperback, you know.”

A frequent visitor to the campus, Grace Murray Hopper returned in the fall of 1971 to join three other distinquished alumnae, Princeton philosopher Margaret D. Wilson ’60, historian C. Doris Hellman ’30 and microbiologist Gladys L. Hobby ’31 in a discussion of “Science and Human Values,” the final Alumnae Association Centennial Seminar.

The Miscellany News

The Years