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The Office of the President sponsored a program commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, featuring performances by the Vassar Gospel Choir and the Madrigal Singers, readings by the Ebony Theatre Ensemble, a screening of the 1987 documentary Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years 1954–1964 and speeches by President Frances Fergusson and a former colleague of Dr. King’s, Reverend Samuel D. Proctor of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem.

Proctor compared the civil rights struggles in the late 1950s and the late 1980s, concluding that focusing on a particular issue in the 1980s was difficult because “racism is endemic, systematic, amorphous and all over…not from a particular source.” Proctor also emphasized the need for education among African-Americans, saying “Black people must break into the un-black PhD field…They must be there when making decisions about our future… we can’t be overlooked.”

The Miscellany News

Vassar clarinetist David Krakauer presented avant-garde jazz in An Evening of Theatre Music in the Powerhouse Theater, in what Mike Rorro ’89, writing in The Miscellany News, called “a brilliant performance of three avant garde compositions…. An Evening of Theatre Music opened with Krakauer walking on stage and saying ’I’m Dave Krakauer,’ followed by a few minutes of pre-recorded applause. He asserted his identity to the audience, but was responded to by canned applause, a symbol of the synthetics of performance. The polarity of his charater was seen in his vacillatioin between the smiling ‘entertainer’ and the alienated, screaming artist. Duality was a central theme.”

Krakauer performed “Homage to K,” “The Kasper in Me,” a duet with the piece’s composer, avant garde pianist Anthony Coleman, and the world première of “Unknown White Clarinet.”

The Journalism Forum and the American Culture program sponsored a lecture by New York Times economic writer Leonard Silk on “The United States in the World Economy” in Blodgett Hall. Silk spoke about the effects of “Reaganomics” on the domestic and global economy, suggesting that the rapidly increasing trade deficit was a flaw in the Reagan plan. “The great majority of people,” he said, “think something is wrong, and I am with that sizable majority.” Silk also predicted that the next six months would show “very slow growth or a recession.”

The Miscellany News

Sasaki Associates Inc., commissioned in 1986 to study the College’s grounds, presented a long-term master plan, described by Vice President of Finance and Treasurer Anthony C. Stellato as “a broad plan for the future: a macro-view of the campus landscape.”

Two forums were held on March 28 in the Villard Room to discuss the master plan.

Associate Professor of English Thomas Mallon read from his first novel Arts and Sciences: A Seventies Seduction (1988), which explored the coming-of-age of Artie, a graduate student in English at Harvard.

The New York Times described the novel as possessing “an ingenuous jeu d’esprit, with an energetic, trotting quality.” yet concluded, the novel “fails both as humorous satire and as serious fiction.”

The New York Times

Mallon’s subsequent novels included Henry and Clara (1994), Dewey Defeats Truman: A Novel (1996), Two Moons: A Novel (2000), Bandbox (2004) and Fellow Travelers (2007).

The Vassar College Art Gallery displayed an exhibit curated by Professor of Anthropology Walter Fairservis, Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Paintings from India: Rarities of the China Trade. The paintings combined Indian, Chinese and British artistic techniques. Wendy Kagan ‘91, who wrote about the show for The Miscellany News, was particularly enchanted by the collection’s watercolors, “The colorful patterns and intricate details give the scene a soft and subtle beauty. The watercolors, though created by a variety of artists, all share this particular, almost painstakingly precise quality. Looking at them conjures images of an artist absorbed in concentration, employing perfection in each tiny stroke of the brush.”

Philaletheis presented two one-act plays “Spectrum” and “Butterfly” by Daniel Jones ’91 in Rockefeller Hall. Both plays dealt with the concept of race; “Spectrum” explored a post-racial future world, and “Butterfly” studied the old age of a blues-singer.

Vassar hosted the annual Seven Sisters swimming meet and placed fourth out of the five competing colleges.

Ellen Moore ’91 placed first in the fifty-yard freestyle, the first time that a Vassar student had won the event at the Seven Sisters meet.

The Committee to Stop Rape Now and Vice-President for Administrative and Student Services Natalie Marshall ‘51 presented the program “Walking the Sexual Tightrope: Rights, Responsibilities, Respect,” a discussion of sexual power and power imbalance. Assistant Director of Career Development Ellen Timberlake, a coordinator of the program, said, “The purpose of the program as we heard it from the students on the Committee was to organize a week of events focusing not just on acquaintance rape but on the balancing act we try to maintain between taking care of our own rights and those around us.”

As part of the ten-day program, sexuality scholar Andrea Parrot from Cornell University lectured on February 19. Other events included dorm discussions involving role playing, a lecture/demonstration by former police commander Sylvia Bailey on self-defense, a lecture/discussion by Brother-to-Brother’s Michael Grupp on male reactions to rape and a screening of a film about sexual harassment.

The Miscellany News

Patricia Goldman-Rakic ’59, professor of neuroscience at Yale University Medical School, delivered the Matthew Vassar Lecture on “Psychobiological Studies in Nonhuman Primates: An Unplanned Odyssey.” A prominent researcher, Goldman-Rakic was responsible for mapping the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain used in complex planning and controlling social behavior. The authors of Cognitive Neuroscience: The Biology of the Mind explained this accomplishment: “At a time when most neurobiologists were examining the visual system in detail, [she] dove into the most complex cortical zone in the brain.”

Michael S. Gazzaniga, et al, Cognitive Neuroscience: The Biology of the Mind

Dr. Goldman-Rakic’s lecture was followed by a panel discussion on career options for students concentrating in biopsychology.

The Philaletheis musical Godspell (1970), directed by Kara Kennedy ’89, was performed in the Chapel. The musical—parables from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke interspersed with texts from hymns set to contemporary music—originated as a student production at Carnegie Mellon University, and it enjoyed a long off-Broadway run. A Godspell touring company performed at Vassar in 1977, and an earlier Philaletheis production, in 1983, took place in the Aula. Kennedy explained her goal with the show, “We created an atmosphere, or we tried to, where people could get emotionally involved…the best way to draw someone in is to appeal to their sense of humor…by the second act, people are listening to the message – that there is hope.” The Miscellany News

Talking Drums, an eight person group that performed music and dance inspired by West Africa’s folk cultures, presented African folk music in Skinner Hall. Talking Drums was led by master drummer Martin Kwaakye Obeng from Gomoa Aboso, Ghana. Mike Rorro ’89 described the drumming as “a spontaneous art,” in which the group created “percussive undercurrents of energy.”

The Miscellany News

A New York Times article cited Vassar’s seven-year admissions program to “recruit and retain minority students” as a success in the context of an overall national decline in college enrollment and graduation among students of color. The article noted Vassar’s “academic resource center that provides counseling, tutoring, seminars on special skills and special cultural programs for minority students.”

The Vassar Student Association council voted to send an all-female delegation to the Seven Sisters Women’s’ Conference on “Women and Politics” after a College-wide controversy over whether male students should be part of the delegation. The council also determined that delegates to future conferences would be selected by campus women’s groups.

In the past the other Seven Sister schools had allowed Vassar men to attend the conference as observers, but not as active participants.

Philaletheis presented “What I Need is a Good Bonk on the Head” and “The View from the River Styx”, two one-act plays written by Adam Langer ’88, in the Aula. Langer directed “The View from the River Styx,” in which the Devil goes to college, and Laura VonEschen ’90 directed “What I Need is a Good Bonk on the Head,” in which the characters rebel against their playwright.

Langer produced What I Need is a Good Bonk on the Head in Chicago in 1989 at the Shattered Globe Theater at Sheffield’s School Street Café. On his web site he recalled the play: “A playwright’s characters come to life and write him out of their play. I starred in this show when I was at Vassar and still cringed the last time I saw myself on the videotape.”

Violinist Betty-Jean Hagen and pianist Todd Crow, professor of music, performed works by Schumann and Prokofiev in Skinner Hall.

Hagen joined the faculty in the fall of 1988 as a Lecturer in Music.

Ellen Currie, Vassar’s writer in residence and author of Available Light (1986), read her works in New England Building.

Publisher’s Weekly wrote of Available Light, “There is pathos underlying the rollicking comedy in Currie’s inspired debut, but readers gleefully rocketing at top speed from page to page will not be consciously aware of it until they are brought up short in the novel’s final chapters. Written with deadpan, irreverent comic verve, with dialogue so saucy that one keeps wanting to say, ‘Listen to this!’ the book has as memorable a cast of characters as we’ll see this season.

Ellen Currie read from her work at Vassar, under the auspices of the English department, in 1987.

Vassar hosted the annual Middle Atlantic Fencing Association Championship, with the men’s team placing second of thirteen teams.

The Board of Trustees raised tuition $1,200 to a total of $12,300 and room and board $220 for a total of $4,470.

Vice-President for Finance and Treasurer Anthony Stellato said of the increases, “We can take comfort in the fact that overall charges at Vassar are far from the top of our peer colleges.”

The Miscellany News

The men’s lacrosse team competed in their first varsity game, losing to Manhattanville 11-5 despite a strong start. Goaltender Robert Green ’91 explained, “We just lost our intensity. If we can keep up what we started then we’ll be fine.”

The Miscellany News

Philaletheis presented feminist Susan Griffin’s Emmy award-winning play Voices(1975) directed by Heidi Robbins ’88. The show, which features the monologues of five different women on the turns their lives have taken, is crafted around the women’s gendered struggles. “The play felt hopelessly monotonous and uncompromising at first, but thanks to the five wonderful performances, it developed real style and real feeling over time.”

The Miscellany News

Jorge Salaverry, a former Nicaraguan Sandinista, lectured on “Why I Left the Sandinistas” in the Villard Room. “We were thinking that our dream of having democracy had finally come true. The reality is that that enthusiasm, that joy lasted very little,” Salaverry said, “because we very soon realized that we had changed from a dictatorship with one head, to a dictatorship of nine heads which are the nine comandantes of the Sandinista Party.” The lecture was followed by a reception held by The Vassar Spectator, the conservative campus newspaper, and The Vassar Conservative Society.

The Vassar Spectator

Italian film scholar and theorist Angela Dalle Vacche from Yale University delivered a Foreign Film Festival lecture on “The Body in the Mirror: Italian Film Theorizing History” in Chicago Hall.

Dalle Vacche taught at Vassar from 1985-1986 in the Italian department.

Reverend Al Sharpton, representing the family of Tawana Brawley, an African-American teenager from Wappinger’s Falls, NY, who disappeared for four days in November 1987 during which she claimed that she was physically and sexually assaulted in a racially-charged crime, announced at Vassar that Brawley would speak about her ordeal.

Sharpton said the next day, “At some point it will be necessary to break the pain of the family and to say that we see the system will not work without a victim coming forward.”

Poughkeepsie Journal
In October 1988, a grand jury determined that Brawley had not been sexually assaulted and may have orchestrated her own disappearance and alleged brutalization.

F. Elizabeth Richey, professor emeritus of physical education, died. A memorial service was held in the Chapel on September 18 in memory of Richey, Vassar’s field hockey and squash coach from 1937 until 1978. Richey was inducted into the United States Field Hockey Association Hall of Fame on January 16, 1988.

Congressman William H. Gray III of Pennsylvania, the first African-American to serve as chairman of the U.S. House Committee on the Budget, delivered the 1988 Commencement address. Gray evoked the non-violent philosophy of Martin Luther King Jr., spoke of the threat of nuclear war and told the graduating seniors, “You are a generation raised on pizza and Pop Tarts, Rambo and Reagan. You were born in the burning sixties, grew to maturity in the painful seventies, and in the decade of the eighties, you accepted your responsibility for the future as you educated yourselves for this moment.

“You are now the miracle of time and space. You have been born for just this moment. You are ready to set the tone, tune the instruments, make the music. It is your song that will now play. It is your song that must be heard. It is your turn to dance.”

Press & Information Office, News

Gray, the brother of Dr. Marian Gray Secundy ’60, later served as majority whip (1989-1991) in the House of Representatives, the first African American to fill this position. Gray was president of the United Negro College Fund from 1991 until 2004.

The New York Stage and Film Company, described by co-founder Leslie Urdang as “the first company doing both theatre and film, and both development and production in one place,” held its summer retreat at Vassar.

In the summer of 1988, Vassar and the New York Stage and Film Company also jointly oversaw an eight-week apprenticeship program.

Nancy Schrom Dye ’69, associate dean at the University of Kentucky, became dean of the College, succeeding Professor of Religion H. Patrick Sullivan, who had served as dean of the College from 1978 until 1988.

A women’s historian, Dye was also appointed professor of history. Her book, As Equals and as Sisters: Feminism, the Labor Movement and the Women’s Trade Union of New York appeared in 1980, and she co-edited Gender, Class, Race and Reform in the Progressive Era with Noralee Frankel in 1991.

Reverend Janet Cooper Nelson replaced Rabbi Susan Berman ’78 as the Director of Religious Activities and Chaplaincy Services (DRACS). On her new position leading Vassar’s religious communities, Nelson told The Miscellany News, “Worship life at college should be excellent, not marginal.” Nelson hoped to engage students and to “get every Vassar College student off-campus to do something,” believing firmly in the benefits of volunteer work.

Under the auspices of the United States Information Agency and the American Council of Teachers of Russian, 21 Soviet and 17 American teenagers lived together on the Vassar campus in the first exchange of secondary school students between the two countries. On a trip to the Capitol at Albany, 15-year-old Sasha Popov told reporter Grace O’Connor from The Albany Times Union, “I have very good impressions so far,” and Chris Turner, 16, an award-winning student for Russian from Tamarac High School in Troy, NY, praised the classroom discussions. But, he said, the best talk was in the residence halls where everyone is very frank: “They ask about us and we ask about them.”

Asked about the implication of his visit to the United States, Soviet student Oleg Kachalov said, “We shall do our foreign policy and Americans will do their foreign policy, and this friendship will be very useful then.”

Under the exchange program, a similar delegation of American students studied with their Soviet counterparts in Moscow.

The Albany Times Union

Dr. Margaret Good Myers, Vassar economics professor from 1934 to 1964, died. An active participant in Planned Parenthood of Dutchess and Ulster and the Poughkeepsie League of Women Voters, Myers advocated feminist economic policies, such as husbands and wives both working part-time.

“They say colleges don’t prepare women for homemaking,” Myers said in 1950. “No girl should be taught to live the way we force them to live…. Why, the swing from feminism has reached the point where some women are afraid to say they are bored with their children. Children can’t be the whole life.”

The Houston Chronicle

Construction began to expand the Retreat (first constructed in 1975) to alleviate overcrowding. “Because the demands on the Retreat in recent years have been so much greater than it was built to handle,” President Fergusson said of the planned renovation, “it has not been as pleasant a place as it ought to be for students, other members of the campus community or visitors.”

Miscellany News

The renovated Retreat re-opened on October 17.

Stencil prints from the 1947 “Jazz” series by Henri Matisse were exhibited in Jazz D’Esprit: Matisse Makes Music in the Vassar College Art Gallery. “The vibrant and uplifting nature of the prints demonstrates an interesting combination of both the influence of the vivacious jazz musical style and the use of abstraction.”

The Miscellany News

The Colorado String Quartet, “the first all-women quartet to attain international stature,” performed Beethoven’s Quartet in G Major, Op. 18. No. 2, Charles Ives’s Quartet No. 2 and Brahms’s Quartet in C minor, Op. 51, No. 1 in Skinner Hall. Colorado String Quartet Official Website

“Gifted with the ability to fuse four individual voices into a unique, harmonious whole,” described a review of the performance in The Miscellany News, “Their playing is always tight, as if each member anticipates the others’ inflections and intentions. Without any apparent visual cues, their crisp attack kicks in spontaneously, as do their cut-offs.”

Students participated in First Step ’88, a weekend program designed to engage the campus in community service. On Friday, students performed volunteer jobs in the community, such as cleaning up litter or painting a soup kitchen. Friday also featured a clothing drive at the Mug and a benefit concert at the Aula—at which the Raymond Avenue Ramblers and Betty and the Baby Boomers performed. The Ramblers were a Vassar faculty/staff/student group and the Boomers, a group from Dutchess County, consisted of Betty Boomer, Jean Valla McAvoy, Paul Rubeo and Steve Stanne.

First Step ’88 continued with a 36-hour Hunger Action Ultimate Frisbee Marathon, performances by campus bands, movie screenings, a campus party and all-campus meals on Saturday and Sunday. The goal was to raise $10,000 to combat homelessness and hunger.

Linda Fairstein ’69, head of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, gave a lecture on sex crime prosecution in the Villard Room. The lead prosecutor in the “Preppy Murder” trial of Robert Chambers in 1986, Fairstein spoke of the need to improve the prosecution of sex offenders, observing, “traditionally victims haven’t expected justice.” The Miscellany News

A forum, Learning for Living in a Global Village, celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Maguire Fellowship program, established by Helen Maguire Muller ’45/4 to allow graduates to study and travel abroad in fulfillment of both academic and personal plans. A panel of students spoke about their junior year abroad experiences and a faculty panel discussed the educational value of study abroad.

The Vassar College Art Gallery presented Signs and Stories, Native American Desert Arts, guest-curated by Professor of English Frank Bergon and Assistant Professor of Anthropology Charles Briggs. The exhibit included textiles, baskets and ceramic arts created by Southwestern Native Americans between 1850 and 1987. Highly popular, the show attracted about 2,000 visitors in its first month. “The beautiful, rich colors and designs are wonderful to see, and you will inevitably learn about the Native American Indians of the Great Basin and the Southwest,” Isabel Borland ’91 wrote in her review of the exhibit for The Miscellany News.

The Students Afro-American Society (SAS) met with Vassar’s chief of security George Lochner to discuss allegations that black students were asked for identification on campus more frequently than white students. “The administration has never given us a hard and fast rule about carding, Lochner said of the carding procedure. “It’s possible that we could be doing it excessively…. I’d love to have a policy, but I don’t think it’s possible. The system just doesn’t work great. It’s a problem for us and a problem for our relations with minority students and guests.”

The Miscellany News

Elizabeth L. Eisenstein ’45/4, Alice Freeman Palmer Professor of History at the University of Michigan from 1975 until her retirement in 1988, lectured on campus as the President’s Distinguished Visitor. Eisenstein’s two-volume The Printing Press As An Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early Modern Europe (1979) established the parameters of modern print culture studies.

Dr. Eisenstein spoke at Vassar in 1978 and 1981.

The Ebony Theater Ensemble presented “Apollo at Vassar,” a talent show of never-before-seen acts, based on the model of the Apollo Theatre in New York City. Students from Marist, Yale, West Point and the State University of New York at New Paltz were invited to attend. The prizes were $100 for winning first place, a trip for two to the real Apollo Theater for winning third place, and a “booby trap” prize of one t-shirt for coming in second – a ploy by event creator and ETE president and founder Karen Griffith ‘89to keep the competition “interesting and unusual.”

The Miscellany News

Edward “Vance” Blankenbaker ‘92 won “Apollo” with a performance of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It Home To Me.”

Vice President George H. W. Bush and his running mate, Indiana Senator Dan Quayle, handily defeated Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis and Texas Senator Lloyd Bensen in the presidential election, taking 53.4 percent of the popular voted and 426 electoral college votes to their opponents’ 111.

The Cooperative Bookshop held a book signing party to celebrate the publication of new books by four faculty members: Professor of English Frank Bergon’s Shoshone Mike (1987), Visiting Assistant Professor of Drama Sarah Kozloff’s Invisible Storytellers: Voice-Over Narration in American Fiction Film (1988), Lecturer in English Nancy Willard’s Things Invisible to See: A Novel (1985) and The Firebrat (1988) and New Perspectives on Poughkeepsie’s Past: Essays to Honor Edmund Platt (1987), edited by Professor of History Clyde Griffen, to which Associate Professor of Religion and Africana Studies Lawrence H. Mamiya and Associate Professor of Geography Harvey Keyes Flad also contributed.

Jeff Greenfield, political reporter for the ABC News television program, Nightline, spoke on campus, discussing television coverage of the 1988 presidential election. Greenfield said he doubted that television coverage had caused the “negative campaigning” used by candidates George H. W. Bush and Michael Dukakis. “Nothing I say,” Greenfield said, “is meant as an excuse or justification for the kind of coverage that was put on this campaign.” But, he declared, “television has changed American politics less than most people think it has… and… television has less to do with who wins than is commonly understood.”

The Miscellany News

President Frances Ferguson spoke about the value of a liberal arts education in a four-person panel on “Keeping America Competitive: The Role of Education” at the New York Times Presidents Forum, a yearly meeting of college presidents, administrators and industry leaders. Other speakers were General Electric Foundation President Paul M. Ostergard, Professor Thomas A. Kochan of the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Fred. M. Hechinger, president of the New York Times Foundation. New York Governor Mario Cuomo delivered the forum’s keynote address.

Beyond Vassar

Two hundred and seventy people lost their lives when a bomb exploded on Pan American Airways flight 103, a flight from London Heathrow Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport, over Lockerbie, Scotland. Among the dead was a Vassar student returning from a semester abroad in Abingdon, England.

A memorial service was held in memory of the student on February 1, 1989, in the Chapel.

The Years