Skip to content Skip to navigation
Skip to global navigation Menu

The Miscellany News reported that former Vassar professor and coach Betty Richey had been named to Lacrosse Magazine’s All-Century team. A member of the Vassar faculty from 1937 until her retirement in 1978, Richey held the record of 21 consecutive years as an All-American lacrosse player and was once cited as the country’s greatest lacrosse player. She was a member of the U. S. Field Hockey Association Reserve and All-America teams for 20 years, and she was a co-founder in 1965 of the Intercollegiate Women’s Squash Championship.

In 1995, when Katherine Allabough ’69 was among the first woman players named to the College Squash Association’s Hall of Fame, Richey, who died in 1988, was among the first woman coaches to be so honored.

The college established the annual Betty Richey Field Hockey Tournament at the time of her retirement.

Dutch-born architect, urbanist and architectural theorist Rem Koolhaas delivered an illustrated lecture, “Another Profession,” before a standing-room only audience in Taylor Hall. The first lecturer in the Agnes Rindge Claflin Lecture Series, Koolhaas was founder of the architectural firm Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) and the author of two influential studies of contemporary urban design, Delirious New York: A Retrospective Manifesto of Manhattan (1978) and S.M.L.XL (1998). Wrting in The Miscellany News, Lauren Arana praised the architect’s “liberal use of visual schemes, which were essentially high-tech teaching aids. The combined photography, text, charts, symbols and distorted images to explain in literal terms the point he was making…. The slides became works of art themselves, combining top quality photographs and technology with ingenious symbols and captions. Koolhaas presented his work and his diagrams with an enthusiasm that was both confident and modest…. It required a suspension of disbelief on more than one occasion when he described his sometimes far-fetched urban proposals, but there was that was ultimately convincing and trustworthy about his personality that made the audience obliged to do so.”

The distinguished art historian and director of the Vassar Art Gallery Agnes Rindge Claflin first taught at Vassar 1921. Returning after masters and doctoral studies at Radcliffe, she taught at Vassar from 1923 until her retirement in 1965. Her extensive and influential association with modernist artists and collectors and with the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) was reflected in both the teaching and curriculum of the art department and the gallery’s acquisitions and programming during her time at the college.

Peter Kwong, professor of Asian American studies and urban affairs and planning at Hunter College, spoke in Sanders Auditorium on illegal Chinese immigrants in the United States. Professor Kwong’s research in Forbidden Workers: Illegal Chinese Immigrants and American Labor (1999)—interviews with immigrant workers, their families in China, activists, Chinese-American bosses and human smugglers—was regarded as a most reliable guide to a startling instance of “modern slavery” in America.

Bernard McGinn, Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor of Historical Theology and of the History of Christianity at the University of Chicago, lectured in Sanders Auditorium on “Apocalypticism and Mysticism.” A preeminent scholar of mysticism in Western Christian thought, Professor McGinn published Visions of the End: Apocalyptic Traditions in the Middle Ages in 1979, and he was co-editor of The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism (1999). His The Flowering of Mysticism: Men and Women in the New Mysticism, 1200-1350, the third of a projected five-volume study of Christian mysticism in the West, appeared in 1990.

Promoting Equality and Community Everywhere (P.E.A.C.E) sponsored its annual Equal Rights Awareness Week, offering workshops and events, including an exhibition of children’s art in the College Center—pictures from elementary school student participants in the P.E.A.C.E. mentoring program. The young artists were entertained at a cookies and juice reception by the Barefoot Monkeys, Vassar’s interactive juggling, fire-dancing, free-from acrobatic troupe. Some 175 local high school students also joined in workshops led by such groups as Boston’s United for a Fair Economy, Poughkeepsie’s Children’s Media Project and Battered Women’s Services during the week.

The event’s keynote, on February 24, was an address by social activist and revisionist American historian Howard Zinn, who spoke on “Bringing Democracy Alive” in the Chapel. The concluding event, a dinner in the Aula sponsored by the Black Students Union, the African Students Union and the Caribbean Students Alliance honored Black History Month.

Professor of history James Merrell was one of three American historians to receive the prestigious Bancroft Prize, an annual award established at Columbia University in 1948 by historian Frederic Bancroft. Professor Merrell was awarded the prize for Into the Woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier (1999), a groundbreaking study of 17th century negotiators in Pennsylvania—diverse colonists and Native Americans—of “the Long Peace” among the several antagonists. The Bancroft Prize for 1990 was awarded to his earlier book, The Indians’ New World: Catawbas and Their Neighbors from European Contact through the Era of Removal (1989) along with both the annual Frederick Jackson Turner Award and the annual Merle Curti Award of the Organization of American Historians.

One of only five historians to win two Bancroft Prizes, Professor Merrell told The Miscellany News, “Many better historians than I have not won this prize,” adding, “It was humbling to win the first time. [Winning it] twice makes me even more humble.” Of her colleague’s achievement, Professor of History Miriam Cohen noted, “He teaches American [history], and it is his deep-seated commitment that Native American history be intertwined with the history of colonial America.”

Radio recordist and producer Jim Metzner spoke in Sanders Auditorium on “The Magic of Sound —a Journey to the Mind’s Ear.” The founder, narrator and producer of the popular “Pulse of the Planet” radio series on National Public Radio, Metzner taught for several years in Vassar’s American Culture program. He was also associated with the college’s “Hudson Valley Radio” project, a weekly radio series produced under a grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and directed by Professor of Psychology Randy Cornelius. The 16 half-hour program in the series, broadcast between May and September 2003, celebrated “the nature and culture of the Hudson River from it source in the Adirondacks to its mouth in New York City.”

In recognition of Earth Day and sponsored by the Vassar Greens, environmental activist and lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. lectured in the Chapel on “Our Environmental Destiny.” The chief prosecuting attorney since 1984 for Riverkeeper—formerly the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association (HRFA)—Kennedy co-authored The Riverkeepers: Two Activists Fight to Reclaim Our Environment as a Basic Human Right (1999) with John Cronin, a former commercial fisherman and since 1983 the HRFA’s first official Riverkeeper. In 1999, Kennedy became head of The National Alliance of River, Sound and Baykeepers, subsequently the Waterkeepers Alliance. He also served as clinical professor and supervising attorney at the Environmental Litigation Clinic at the Pace University School of Law.

“I love my job,” Kennedy told his large audience of students, visitors and (as the event was part of Parents Weekend) Vassar parents. “I love going out on the river with the fishermen, fighting the bad guys, working with the students.” Praising recent protests at the meeting in Seattle of the World Trade Organization, Kennedy rejected the alleged conflict between environmental and commercial concerns. “If you ask people on Capitol Hill why are you doing this,” he said, “they say the time has come to choose between economic prosperity and environmental protection. That is a false choice.”

“Kennedy talked about the role of nature in American idealism, literature, art and religion,” Kate Eickmeyer ‘03 reported in The Miscellany News. “He emphasized the importance of protecting the environment for the sake of future generations.” Greens member Kate Bedient ’01 appreciated the range of Kennedy’s remarks. “What impressed me most about RFK, Jr.,” she said, “was that during his talk he managed to mention a handful of the world’s most famous authors, list off prestigious poets, describe the works of numerous painters and recall the history of the world’s largest religions, while never losing his place or even glancing at a notecard.”

The Miscellany News

Judith K. Major, professor of architectural and landscape history from the University of Kansas, lectured in Taylor Hall on “To Live in the New World: A.J. Downing and American Landscape Gardening.” Professor Major’s book To Live in the New World: A. J. Downing and American Landscape Gardening (1997) traced the evolution of the work and thought of the first American landscape architect, Andrew Jackson Downing, emphasizing his contribution to the definition of a distinctly American cultural landscape.

A native of Newburgh, NY, Downing published A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, Adapted to North America in 1841, and the following year he collaborated with Alexander Jackson Davis, the pioneer of American Gothic Revival and Hudson River Bracketed architecture, on Cottage Residences. In 1850, Downing accepted a commission from Matthew Vassar to design the buildings and the setting for his country home “Springside,” the design and construction of which were underway when Downing and his family died in the fire and explosion of the steamer Henry Clay on the Hudson River on July 28, 1852.

John B. Taylor, the Mary and Robert Raymond Professor of Economics at Stanford University, gave the annual Martin H. Crego lecture, “What Should We Do With the Big Budget Surplus?” in Sanders Hall. In anticipation of the Clinton administration’s announcement of a budget surplus and asking his audience to choose among four uses for the money—debt reduction, increased government spending, tax reduction and “all of the above”— Professor Taylor told them that the last option was the correct answer. Proposing that the first three options be exercised in a 2-1-1 ratio and forecasting that surpluses would continue into the future “as far as the eye can see,” he allowed that “discretionary spending depends on what Congress does and on who the next president is.” He said however that “based on pretty sound assumptions” the federal surplus over the next ten years would aggregate to $4 trillion.

The Crego lecture, part of the Crego Endowment established in 1956 by Jean Crego ’32 in honor of her father, was an annual lecture in the general field of economics under the auspices of the economics department.

Phil Brown, professor of sociology and environmental studies at Brown University, spoke in Sanders Auditorium on “A Summer Eden: The Jewish Experience in the Catskills.” Professor Brown’s Catskill Culture: A Mountain Rat’s Memories of the Great Jewish Resort Area was published by Temple University Press in 1998, and he edited In the Catskills: A Century of Jewish Experience in “The Mountains,” an anthology of fiction and non-fiction in 2002.

President Fergusson conferred the bachelor’s degree on 528 members of the Class of 2000 at Vassar’s 134th Commencement. The day’s main speaker, Geraldine Laybourne ’69, former president of Disney/ABC Cable Networks and, in 1998, founder of Oxygen Media, presented the graduates with three principles for success: belief that good ideas compensated for lack of experience; recognition that passion for one’s work sustained long effort; conviction that “no” was never an acceptable answer. Matthew Vassar, she said, exemplified this last verity in his determination against all odds to found a genuine college for women. As to the first principle, Laybourne asked, “Do you know who has the best ideas?” Her answer: “Twenty-year-olds.”

The New York Times

The college received the first installment of a five-year $1.3 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The grant, intended to enrich the work of the biology department and to extend the department’s influence into the Poughkeepsie community. Specifically, it funded: student research and fellowships, both in Vassar’s Undergraduate Research Summer Institute (URSI) and through travelling grants; four high-quality fluorescent microscopes with computer imaging and faculty training in fluorescent microscopy, computer imaging and laser optics; three community outreach programs—teaching internships for Vassar students in local high schools and summer science programs on campus for both high school science teachers and local community college science students—and a new tenure track in biology to accommodate curricular development in both the biology department and the interdisciplinary program in science, technology and society of bioinformatics—a developing field combining biology, chemistry, computer science and mathematics. Associate Professor Bill Strauss, the principal writer of the grant explained that the new field was “developing computing resources to deal with the massive amount of information that is generated by genomic projects and proteomics, which is the study of protein structure and function and their relation to genetics.”

“We’re all quite excited about the influence that this grant can have on our academic lives and the curriculum,” Professor of Biology Robert Suter said, adding, “I am particularly delighted that the grant will support another of Vassar’s efforts to interact fruitfully with people in our surrounding community.”

The Miscellany News

Chartered in 1953, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute was the realization of the aircraft pioneer’s longstanding interest in philanthropy serving society through biomedical research and science education.

Harvard University Professor of Astronomy Robert Kirschner, head of the Optical and Infrared Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, delivered the keynote address, “Taking the Measure of the Universe: How Big? How Old? How Do We Know?” at the annual Undergraduate Research Summer Institute (URSI) Symposium in the Villard Room. Student researchers spoke about their work, and poster sessions on the summer research were presented in the second floor gallery of the College Center.

Professor of medicine, bioethics and the history of medicine and clinical professor of surgery at Yale University School of Medicine Sherwin B. Nuland, MD, lectured in Taylor Hall on “The Mystical Origin of Medicine.” A prolific writer whose work appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books and TIME, Nuland published The Mysteries Within: A Surgeon Explores Myth, Medicine and the Human Body in 2000.

Vassar’s newest multidisciplinary program, Environmental Studies, presented its first speaker as David Kline spoke about “An Amish Farmer’s Essays.” The author of Great Possessions: An Amish Farmer’s Journal (1990) and Scratching the Woodchuck: Nature on an Amish Farm (1997), Kline crafted “his discussion from moment to moment,” wrote Michael Centore ’02 in The Miscellany News, “allowing his visionary impulse to eclipse all else, letting the instant dictate his subject and cadence. A thought extolling the virtues of butter would be buttressed against homage to family life and the duties of parenthood, without any feeling of disjunction. The unity was in the calm transition from topic to topic.” Centore concluded, “[Kline’s] interactions with questioners was like the course of his life itself: marked out with a special care, candor and piety that few of us have mastered. The college is fortunate he chose to share.”

Five years in development, the environmental studies program was first proposed by a small faculty group in the 1994–95 academic year. With aid from conservationist and philanthropist Priscilla Bullitt Collins ’42, the multidisciplinary curriculum developed and was approved by the college in December 1999. Professor of English Daniel Peck, the new program’s first director called it “the most fully interdisciplinary environmental studies program in the U.S.” Peck’s colleague Associate Professor of Chemistry Stuart Belli agreed, “What we’re doing with environmental studies,” he said, “is bridging the gap between the social sciences, the natural sciences and the humanities.” Meleah Houseknecht ’01, the first Vassar graduate in environmental studies, said the program reflected “the fact that environmental studies, by nature, includes every discipline.”

The Miscellany News

The residential life office released the results of an anonymous survey of 800 residents of the nine residence houses taken at the end of the 1999–2000 academic year. Less than 300 of the students surveyed responded, and “although over 40 percent of the respondents said that they keep their doors unlocked when they are out of their rooms or sleeping and 51 percent stated that they let strangers into their houses, 90 percent claimed that they feel safe in their residence halls.” Director of Residential Life Faith Nichols suggested that this result reflected a false sense of security, and Dean of the College Colton Johnson commented, “personal responsibility is the final piece of any security system.” He suggested that “secure” in this case “means ‘no bodily harm or great loss of property.’ Low level breaches of security occur when people decide that is it not important to take the final step of locking their doors.”

The Miscellany News

Sponsored by the Vassar Democrats and the Dutchess County Democratic party, former Texas governor Ann Richards led a political rally in the Chapel supporting the senatorial candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Reminding her audience that she was “an unrepentant civil rights, feminist, labor union, working people Democrat,” Richards reassured the enthusiastic audience that “Hillary feels very strongly about involving college campuses all over the state of New York and making sure they participate on Election Day.” Speaking of Clinton’s Republican opponent, she said, “I know that Rick Lazio [‘80] is a graduate of Vassar, and I’m happy for him. A good education is a real asset when you’re looking for work in the private sector.”

The Miscellany News

On November 7 Clinton won the senate seat being vacated by Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan with 55.27 percent of the vote to Lazio’s 43.01 percent.

Beyond Vassar

In the presidential election on November 7, Al Gore won 48.4 percent of the popular vote, George W. Bush gathered 47.9 percent and Ralph Nader drew 2.74 percent. In the Electoral College tally—ended by a controversial decision in The Supreme Court—Bush won 271 electoral votes to Gore’s 266.

On November 10, The Miscellany News reported that a pre-election poll of 264 Vassar students—slightly more than 10 percent—showed that 57.6 percent chose Gore, 15.5 percent supported Nader and 3.4 percent favored Bush. The article also stated that 82 percent of the student body voted in this election by absentee ballots, locally in Arlington or by travelling to their home towns.

At Waryas Park on the Hudson River waterfront in Poughkeepsie, the Vassar Greens hosted one of 41 simultaneous vigils urging the removal of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) from the river. Banned in the United States in 1977, the carcinogenic chemical had been allowed to enter the Hudson since 1947 by General Electric (GE) plants in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward, NY, and in 1983 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared some 200 miles of the river between Hudson Falls and New York City eligible for “Superfund” remediation under the 1980 Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).

The vigils were prompted by the imminent release of an EPA report determining the degree of PCB contamination in the site and recommending a remediation process. Vassar Greens co-founder and Hudson River Sloop Clearwater environmental intern Michelle Sargent ’01 told The Miscellany News, “A vigil is a place to contemplate or mourn something, and the fact that we have waited 20 years for the EPA to come out with a report including recommendation for action to clean up the river is a tragedy.”

The EPA report, released on December 7, ordered GE to develop and undertake a cleanup plan for the site. The resulting project—of which Phase One was completed in October 2009—was expected to cost the company nearly $500 million.

Sponsored by the Student Activist Union (SAU) 28 Vassar students joined some 10,000 protestors at Fort Benning in Georgia to protest the School of the Americas (SOA), a training program for soldiers from the armies of several Latin America countries. Founded in 1990 after a Congressional inquiry determined that the massacre in El Salvador in 1989 of six Jesuit priests along with a co-worker and her teenage daughter had been carried out by troops trained at the SOA, an organization called SOA Watch staged annual protests, drawing participants from across the country. “These priests,” protestor Peter Owens ’03 told The Miscellany News, “stood up against military tyranny, as we do, and their martyrdom is what the protest is shaped around.”

“For me,” Owens said, “the most amazing thing about the SOA protest is the diversity and sheer numbers of people who attend…. I felt like is was most important to be there, make my voice heard, and add one more person to the already massive resistance.” “I think everyone who went,” added Evan White ’03, one of the trip’s organizers, “felt that is was a very valuable experience. Although this happens every year it is a really powerful experience…. There were old nuns and younger protesters that came together to say that the SOA can’t be allowed in their names, fund by their tax dollars.”

The Miscellany News

British-American realist painter Rackstraw Downes gave a two-part lecture, “Turning the Head in the Empirical Space,” in Taylor Hall. His first presentation, examining the history of visual theories of perspective and perspectival painting, starting with Dutch 16th-century painters, led to his second, an interactive history and demonstration of his unique perspectival technique. Noting that Downes had turned from abstract art to embrace representational en pleine aire work in the 1970s, Lauren Arana ’01 wrote in The Miscellany News, “Downes describe this realization with giddy enthusiasm, abandoning the podium to demonstrate with his pointer the perspectival ellipsis that he achieved by turning his head from right to left as he painted the landscape before him. This method creates a stretched panorama that includes pictorial space beyond the limits of the canvas or page. Downes showed several drawings and paintings to which he had to attach extra pages or canvases to accommodate the breath of the landscape as he viewed it.” “The distorted effect,” she observed, “of Downes’s 100 to 180 degree elliptical perspective reduced to a two-dimensional canvas affords the viewer a more sweeping expanse than the average landscape painting, giving his work a more [dramatic] effect.”

“Later,” Arana concluded, “when explaining his exaggerated perspective, he stretched his neck and explained that you would have to be in a yoga pose! in order to fully capture his view. His lecture easily could have been translated into a fascinating…NPR or BBC program that I would be happy to stumble upon…any day.”

The Years