Skip to content Skip to navigation
Skip to global navigation Menu

500,000 Chinese communist troops force UN forces below the 38th Parallel and recapture Seoul.

Paintings by Picasso, lent by the artist through the courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, were exhibited in Taylor Hall.

An exhibition to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the birth of Queen Isabella I of Spain, known as Isabel la Católica, was opened in the Library, with the cooperation of the Department of Spanish.

“This is the first day of Spring, an inappropriate time for a lecture, so I will try to appeal to the senses instead of the intellect,” said pioneering microbiologist René Dubos, speaking on “The Living Earth and Its Microbial Alchemy.” Passing from the sensory impressions of microbial activity in springtime—the fresh “earth” smell, faint phosphorescences, bubbles in a pond—to the many new uses for micro-organisms in fields ranging from pharmaceuticals to brewing beer, Dr. Dubos, from the Rockefeller Instiute for Research, said that they all arose from the same truth: for every type of organic substance there is in nature a type of microbe that will attack and break down that substance.

Writing in The Miscellany News, Barbara Butterworth ’54 said, “Dr. Dubos concluded his informative talk by predicting a great future for enzymes, which do the work in chemical processes, and for man, who is learning more each day about the basic material of the earth—micro-organisms.”

The French-born American microbiologist—winner in 1948 of the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research and, for his influential book So Human an Animal (1968), the 1969 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction—spoke at Vassar again in April 1953, October and December 1956, February 1959, April 1968 and February 1972.

After nearly a month’s bitter fighting, U. N. forces pushed the Chinese communist forces back to the 38th Parallel and retook Seoul.

Santha Rama Rau, Indian author and memoirist, lectured on “Barriers to Understanding between East and West.”

Student leaders of Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Radcliffe, Smith, Vassar and Wellesley met at Barnard for the Seven-College Conference on Student Government.

The New York Times summarized a philosophical squabble at Vassar that had received considerable attention:

Plato vs. Spencer: For months the Philosophy Department at Vassar College has been rocked by a philosophical but violent dispute. Associate Professor Lewis S. Feuer, a disciple of the English philosopher of evolution, Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), felt that the department’s stress on Plato (circa 427-347 B. C.) was old hat. Assistant Professor Joseph Katz defended Plato. Last week it was reported that Professor Feuer had attempted literally to put into effect the Spencerian doctrine of ‘the survival of the fittest’—by punching Professor Katz in the nose. Plato’s “good life governed by reason” triumphed; Professor Feuer and his departmental supporters resigned. At the week-end a Vassar student, asked what the college thought of the un-philosophical clash, quoted Plato, ‘No human thing is of serious importance.’”

Walter White, head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, lectured on “Color Lines around the Globe.”

Honoring Matthew Vassar, the college celebrated the 85th Founder’s Day. Following the traditional visit to the Founder’s gravesite in the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery, former president Henry Noble MacCracken told an all-college assembly of Vassar’s humble beginnings, his life’s accomplishments and the founding of his college. The faculty play followed a picnic supper.

In the first of two articles in The New York Times, reporting on a study involving 72 colleges of the effects of McCarthyism on campus freedom of speech and inquiry, Kalman Seigel described the “subtle, creeping paralysis of freedom of thought and speech…attacking college campuses in many parts of the country, limiting both students and faculty in…the free exploration of knowledge and truth.” Seigel identified five fears the study found on campuses: social disapproval; a “pink” or communist label; criticism by regents, legislatures and friends; rejection for further study at graduate schools; and investigation by government and private industry for employment and service in the armed forces. “Such caution,” he wrote, “has made many campuses barren of free give-and-take of ideas….”

Seigel quoted a recent anonymous letter to The Miscellany News, in which “the writer noted that she did not now belong to, nor did she intend to join any political association on the campus. The decision, she said, involved careful thought on her and her parents’ part.”

“In today’s world,” the student wrote, “of ‘witch hunting,’ ‘subversive actions’ and ‘pink tinges,’ such factors as these must be taken into consideration by every student…. It is particularly important if the student might some day want a position with the Government.”

President Blanding announced a $400,000 gift to the college from the chair of the board of trustees, Katharine Blodgett Hadley ’20, through the Rubicon Foundation. The fund was used to help address operating deficits in the current and succeeding years and to improve faculty salaries. Mrs. Hadley’s mother, Minnie Cumnock Blodgett ’84, was a trustee between 1917 and 1931, and she and her husband had given the Minnie Cumnock Blodgett Hall of Euthenics to Vassar in 1925.

George J. Hecht, chairman of the American Parents Committee and publisher of Parents Magazine, spoke to the Vassar Child Study Club on the need for government action to aid the country’s schoolchildren. Of the nation’s 51 million children under the age of 18, he said three-quarters needed dental care, 10 million had defective vision, 3 million were deaf to some degree, 500,000 had orthopedic defects and 175,000 had active tuberculosis.

“Schools are perhaps the number one problem of the country,” reported The Miscellany News, “in regard to children at the present time according to Mr. Hecht. Three or four million children are attending school on a two or three shift basis.” A million school children, he added, suffered from mental disabilities. Action was still pending in the House of Representatives on a National School Health Services Bill approved by the Senate the previous year.

The father of Susan Hecht ’52, Mr. Hecht and Parents Magazine established an awards program the following year, offering two $50 prizes for the best senior theses in child study. “Mr. Hecht,” said The Miscellany News, “also announced that if any thesis, prize-winning or not, proves worthy of publication in Parents Magazine, the magazine will pay the author for publication rights at its regular rates.”

The New York Times, The Miscellany News.

Vassar psychologist and education researcher Helen Trager was one of two experts asked by Thurgood Marshall, chief counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, to testify in a South Carolina courtroom in the first test case of the “separate but equal” policy in Southern schools. The three-judge panel reserved its decision in the case, Briggs v. Elliott, which became one of five combined by Marshall in his 1954 for argument before the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education.

The director of the Mary Conover Mellon Foundation for the Advancement of Education since its founding in 1949, Dr. Carl Binger resigned, declaring in a report prepared for the board of trustees that he did not “believe a matriarchy provides a wholesome atmosphere in which students are likely to develop satisfactorily.” A statement from the college, accepting his resignation “with regret,” thanked Binger for his “knowledge, experience and enthusiasm,” and Katharine Blodgett Hadley ’20, chair of the board of trustees, praised his work on “getting the program started.”

Binger had urged the college to create a separate psychiatric and sociological department for student support and to increase the number of males and married couples on the faculty. Of the 195 members of the faculty, 139 were women, 119 of them unmarried. Nineteen of the 27 departments of instruction were headed by women.

The New York Times

Simultaneously with the college’s statement about Dr. Binger’s resignation, the public was informed of the most substantial accomplishment to date of the Mellon project, the establishment of a house fellow program. President Blanding had described it earlier in her annual report:

“As a result of faculty recommendation, an experiment is to be initiated in three student houses with Mary Conover Mellon House Fellows instead of the usual Residents…. The House Fellows…will have special interest in and qualifications for advising students; they will be relieved of one third of the normal teaching load and will accept certain definite responsibilities in connection with the social life of the student houses….”

President’s Report, 1950-1951

The plan was later extended to all residence halls.

Commencement week for 1951 began with the return to the campus of 650 alumnae from 11 classes ranging from 1901 to 1945. The alumnae heard about educational innovations at the college from Dean Marion Tait, and they nominated Frederica Pisek ’25 as an alumnae member of the board of trustees. In the afternoon, alumnae, seniors, parents and guests enjoyed the senior play, written by Susan Neuberger ’51, in the Outdoor Theater. Afterward, the daisy chain led the group to the seniors’ class tree.

In the evening, the tradition of Shakespeare in the night was again observed with a production in the Outdoor Theater of Twelfth Night.

President Blanding conferred the bachelor’s degree on 309 members of the Class of 1951 at Commencement in the Outdoor Theater. In his commencement address, former Massachusetts governor Robert F. Bradford drew on recent revelations of government alliance with organized crime by Senator Este Kefauver’s Senate Crime Investigating Committee to denounce paternalism in government. Bradford asserted that “the real villain in the Kefauver drama is not the sleazy racketeer, or even the cheap politician who has ridden into office on his back. It is John and Jane citizen who have tolerated all this, and tolerate it today.” Public disengagement from the work of active citizenship, he said, had created “a new type of American Government—a hand-out government, tax and tax, spend and spend, until government has a hand in everyone’s business…. If you throw away the formula for individual liberty, and substitute a mother-knows-best government, you may have gained temporary benefits, but you have lost the permanent source of all benefits, the right to be free.”

The New York Times

The French Embassy announced that—along with students from Yale, Wellesley and the University of Oregon—Regina Weiss ’51 won a nationwide essay contest on the theme “Importance of Paris in the Past and Future.” The four students’ essays were chosen from 75 written by students in 50 colleges and universities. The essays, in French, were written in a three-hour period, at the start of which the topic was revealed.

The contest’s sponsors originally planned for two winners, but, finding four outstanding submissions, with the aid of the Alliance Française and the American Association of Teachers of French, they were able to award four. The prize was a month-long trip to France, as guests of the French Government and the Paris Bimillenary Committee, to take part in the celebration of the 2,000th anniversary of Paris. The group sailed on the Ile de France on June 28.

A parent-young adult discussion on mutual needs was held as part of the Vassar Summer Institute for Family and Community Living. Thirty-eight young interns at the institute representing 16 colleges and universities spoke with parents attending the institute about the needs of young people to establish and have recognized their independence within the family. The internships were intended to help the young people prepare for careers as teachers, social workers, child psychologists and nurses. In another discussion group, 12 fathers discussed how fathers might take more responsibility in the home and with family matters.

A major theme throughout the four-week institute was discipline of children in the family and in school. The New York Times reported that a conclusion reached was “that children whose rights were respected were more responsive to discipline and guidance. ‘The most important thing for today’s children,’ it was concluded, ‘was the need to learn how to face uncertainty with confidence.’”

140 adults and 150 children, from 29 states, India, Canada and Australia, attended the institute.

The New York Times

The Mary Conover Mellon House Fellow program began in three residence halls. Based on the assumption that the teaching faculty should be an intellectual force in the residential aspects of student life, faculty members were relieved of 1/3 of their teaching responsibilities and moved into remodeled apartments in the residence halls.

Professor of English Helen D. Lockwood ’12 spoke at Fall Convocation. Identifying ignorance and fear as dangerous forces in an uncertain world, she saw informed and engaged confidence as the best attitude. “At this crucial time,” she said, “we should support the men fighting in Korea and our policy-makers in Washington and at the United Nations with renewed faith in the eighteenth-century American dream of men free and equal, men ready for change, making a new republic based on consent. And we should add twentieth-century realism in implementing it and accepting others’ efforts to extend it.”

Vassar’s 87th academic year began with 1,426 students—450 of them freshmen—and 41 new faculty and staff appointments.

The New York Times

The Dexter M. Ferry Jr. Cooperative House was dedicated. The gift of Mr. Ferry, father of Edith Ferry Hooper ’32 and Jean Ferry Davis ’35, the building was designed by Marcel Breuer, who was responsible also for its interior design and its landscaping. Constructed at a cost of $200,000, the T-shaped modernist building accommodated 27 student residents and a faculty advisor.

Two of Mr. Ferry’s sisters, Blanche Ferry Hooker ’94 and Queene Ferry Coonley ’96 had given $100,000 in 1919 for the erection of Alumnae House. At the dedication, Mr. Ferry—five of whose nieces and whose daughter-in-law also attended Vassar—said that the “the building is in grateful appreciation of all Vassar has meant to the Ferry family.” Mr. Ferry had previously presented to the college twelve outstanding works of nineteenth century European art.

Katharine Blodgett Hadley ’20, chair of the board of trustees, accepted the building for the college, and both President Blanding and Marcel Breuer spoke at the dedication. Penelope Wells ’52, president of the new residence, expressed the students’ appreciation.

A lecture series on the Near East included: geographer and population scholar George B. Cressey from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University; Mohamed M. Shalaby, social affairs officer at the United Nations; Russian émigré political scientist George Lenczowski from Hamilton College and the Polish-American assyriologist E.A. Speiser, professor of oriental studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dorothy Wrinch, professor of physics at Smith College, gave the 10th Helen Kenyon Lecture, “The Architecture of Living Things.” On the following day Dr. Wrinch held a seminar on “The Applications of Structural Principles.”

His Eminence Mar Athanasius Yeshue Samuel, Archbishop-Metropolitan of Jerusalem and Transjordan, lectured on ‘The Dead Sea Scrolls.” Mar Samuel was a central figure in the discovery and exposition of the scrolls, one of which, the famous Isaiah scroll, was exhibited in the Aula.

Mar Samuel’s appearance at the college was arranged by Marguerite Smith ’12, a trustee of and the librarian at the Zion Research Foundation in Brookline, MA., where the scroll was earlier shown and examined.

The first program of the Vassar Broadcasting Association was given over WKIP, Poughkeepsie radio station, under the auspices of the Radio Workshop. The first Vassar radio programs had been broadcast over station WGNY of Newburgh in January 1938.

Reviewing recently released recordings, Howard Taubman, music critic for The New York Times, praised The Italian Madrigal by the Vassar Madrigal Singers, directed by Professor of Music Harold Geer. “The fourteen young singers,” wrote Taubman, “ sing this music with disarming clarity and sweetness…. One has the feeling that the spirit is close to the one that prevailed in the days when these pieces were new.”

Addressing the problem of steeply rising costs, “common to many privately endowed colleges,” President Blanding announced a $400 increase in comprehensive fees for the coming year, to $2,000. She added that the actual per-student cost was $2,436, saying that the endowment and current gifts presently covered $435 of each student’s costs.

The New York Times

Helen Liverman Weston ’34 won the grand prize, $25,000 and a model General Electric kitchen, in the 3rd annual Pillsbury Mills baking contest with her “Starlight Double-Delight Cake,” a chocolate cake with chocolate icing. Receiving her prizes from President Truman’s daughter Margaret at a luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria, Mrs. Weston, a former researcher for the Solar Aircraft Company and schoolteacher, said that the recipe was a joke. Her husband had walked into the kitchen one evening and “just dreamed it up.”

The New York Times

The Years