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October 11, 1986

Frances Daly Fergusson was inaugurated as the ninth president of Vassar College in a ceremony held in the Outdoor Theater and attended by faculty, students, alumnae/i, the Board of Trustees, former Presidents Alan Simpson and Virginia Smith, and delegates from eighty universities and colleges. During the inauguration, the bell on Main Building rang nine times to honor Fergusson, and Vassar’s eight preceding presidents.

Speakers at the inauguration included Mary Draper Janney ’42, chair of the board of trustees, VSA President Richard Feldman ’87 and the Presidents of Wellesley College, Yale University and the University of Rochester. Feldman noted the college’s recent decision to divest itself of stock in companies operating in South Africa, adding that “Vassar, by setting very high standards for itself and its students, has more often than not been ahead of its time…and now that the college has committed itself to divest, it has set an example for the world to follow….”

In her remarks, President Fergusson echoed Feldman’s concerns, saying “Today, in many quarters, truth has become narrowly conceived, rigidly tied to ideologies and unbending in the face of competing truths…. We see the consequences: the Iranian revolution, the intransigence of the South African government and the rise of fundamentalism in America.”

The New York Times

The inaugural ceremony capped off a week’s celebration of Fergusson’s presidency and of the college’s 125th anniversary. The week’s events included a ceremony dedicating Main Building as a National Historic Landmark, a conference on the building’s architecture, an alumnae/i panel discussing the Vassar experience and a concert by the Vassar College Brass Choir.

The Years