Fall / Winter 2023 Vassar Quarterly

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Vassar Celebrates 100 Years of Alumnae House
Fall / Winter 2023
Silver Linings Celebrating the Spelman Art Collection September 30, 2023 through January 28, 2024
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center betty Blayton Vibes penetrated 1983 acryclic on canvas on display



Vassar Celebrates 100 Years of Alumnae House
This coming year will mark the 100th anniversary of the Alumnae House, the stately Tudor on the hill that has served as a place to rest our heads, grab a bite, socialize with friends, seek intellectual fulfillment, and celebrate impressive members of the Vassar community. It has also been the home base for the Alumnae/i Association of Vassar College (AAVC). VQ goes back to the beginning—from the original donors (sisters and graduates of the College) to the many donated “treasures” that filled the House. Moreover, we look at the life lived within those walls, the bonds created and strengthened.


President Bradley says the Alumnae House is becoming part of a “signature gateway to campus.”
How a late professor’s research is helping to rebuild Notre-Dame, the impressive class of 2027, new grants for innovative campus projects, President Bradley honored by Yale, the Loeb turns 30.
Laser analysis rendering of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame
Courtesy of Marie Tallon
Tennis players in mid game on tennis court
Kelly Marsh
Vassar’s new tennis center—among the best outdoor tennis facilities at colleges in the northeast.
The Vassar Club of South Asia’s recent gathering in Kolkata, and an alum-helmed film about the journalist who revealed the horrors at Hiroshima.
Jean Tatlock headshot
Library of Congress
The 1958 Vassar lecture by J. Robert Oppenheimer and his tumultuous relationship with Jean Tatlock ’35.
Vassar students holding class of 2027
Buck Lewis

Remembering Professor Anne Gittleman

Professor Anne Gittleman headshot
Courtesy of the Gittleman family
I was saddened to hear of the passing of Professor Emerita Anne Iker Gittleman on October 24, 2023.

Anne taught at Vassar for 33 years (1954-87). I knew her first as a formidable presence in the Department of French and Francophone Studies (previously the French Department) when I was a student and later as a wonderful colleague when I joined the faculty.

Anne and I shared an office when I started teaching in Chicago Hall. It was a tiny space for two, and we had to be careful quite literally not to step on each other’s toes. Since we often corrected papers and exams side by side, I learned by osmosis: Underline every mistake, make just a few suggestions, encourage all rewrites.

A distinguished scholar, Anne is best known for her meticulous critical edition of Garin le Loherenc. It is a model of the genre. The fact is that she embodied high standards in whatever she did: teaching, scholarship, or service to the department and College. She was also a wonderful hostess, as evidenced by the many times Barney and she opened up their home to members of the Vassar community.

We missed her after she retired. She remains with us now as an inspiration.

Cynthia B. Kerr ’72
Professor Emerita of French and Francophone Studies

A Real “Drag”

I was appalled to find a celebration of a drag artist up front in the VQ Summer 2023 issue. The article equates drag performances as part of the push for equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community and [says] that today’s students are “several steps ahead” in recognizing those rights.

I see “drag” as a mockery of women and of female sexual expression just as “blackface” is considered a mockery of Black people today. Yes, both are forms of artistic expression.

Drag queen with spotlight reading book
Allyse Pulliam
The Summer issue was redeemed by the in-depth look at AI and ChatGPT in particular. I, too, have found that the bot reversed information it had previously given me when I presented it with other information I found on the internet. And it apologized and offered more suggestions for further research into my topic which I did find helpful. I find that it is always helpful after receiving a response to a query from ChatGPT to push it further.

I posed this issue to ChatGPT: “Why are drag performances not considered in poor taste as blackface performances were?” It gave a long, detailed answer that drag is okay but blackface is not supporting today’s norms. When pushed with the message: “But many people find drag performances offensive as a mockery of women and female sexual expression,” ChatGPT agreed it’s important to respect and engage with the diversity of viewpoints on this issue. The Vassar article dismissed noncelebratory reaction to drag performance as just “backlash” rather than addressing other points of view objectively.

Incidentally, I am a registered Democrat. Unfortunately, that is an important piece of information in this discussion.

Paula Honnell Ashley ’61
Glendale, AZ
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President’s Page

Honoring History, Charting a Path to the Future

Outside view of Vassar buildings with the Vassar institute logo
When my husband and I first formally visited Vassar during the presidential search process in 2016, we stayed at Alumnae House. It was vintage Vassar. The lovely building from the 1920s, on the hill overlooking the Juliet, surrounded by trees and the beauty of campus beyond. The push-on, push-off light switches carried particular charm, reminding me of my grandmother’s house. Fast forward, it is 2023, and we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of this magnificent investment in the Alumnae House and all that it has meant for the Vassar family over the years.

Today, Alumnae House anchors what is becoming a signature gateway to campus, which will now include the Vassar Institute for the Liberal Arts, The Heartwood (a 50-room inn featuring the Salt Line restaurant and the Night Owls bar), with Alumnae House presiding on the knoll. These three buildings, along with the Alumnae Lawn (now conserved in perpetuity) and thoughtful landscaping to enhance access and synergy of the area, make contemporary the age-old functions of hosting alums and guests, convening conversations, and enjoying the Vassar community over good food and drink. Yes, Vassar Devils will continue to be served.

The architecture of the Institute and Inn takes inspiration from Alumnae House. For instance, the subtle pattern in the Institute glass siding mimics the wooden timbers on Alumnae House. The shape of the Inn windows and dormers recalls the windows and dormers of Alumnae House, and a gentle accessible path through greenery connects the new structures with the older Alumnae House. This bringing together of the historical and the contemporary while thoughtfully considering their interrelationship is core to Vassar—the ability to honor tradition and be cutting-edge at the same time.

Vassar is a place where edges meet. And the collisions of ideas, ways of being, and beliefs can spark creativity. It can be rough—working at the boundaries where differences are in full view—but this is where novel advances emerge, where learning happens, and where transformation begins. The Institute and Inn will enable expanded programming (e.g., conferences, workshops, community engagement activities, lifelong learning efforts) for Vassar and broader local, regional, national, and global communities. And for those who cannot make it physically to campus, the Institute hosts a podcast called “Conversations at the Salt Line,” again prompting conversations where differences and edges in one’s life come together for learning. Recent guests have included Professor Eddie Glaude, Jr., Jason Blum, Chip Reid, Sasha Velour, Stacy London, and Margaret Hamburg.

In summary, the new addition to the “West Campus” builds upon the vision of Alumnae House while honoring its 100 years of convening. Together, this part of campus exemplifies the bringing together of disparate paths in a hospitable and inclusive environment to connect us all for the next 100 years and beyond.

Come visit!

Elizabeth Bradley headshot
Elizabeth Bradley signature
Elizabeth H. Bradley
John Abbott
Vassar Today

President Bradley Awarded
Yale’s Highest Alum Honor

President Bradley being awarded at a Yale ceremony
Tony Fiorini
As she accepted one of Yale University’s most prestigious awards, Vassar College President Elizabeth H. Bradley reflected on the “shifting gears” of her career path in the fields of public health and academia.

Bradley, who received her PhD from the Yale School of Public Health in 1996, was one of four recipients of Yale’s Wilbur Cross Medal, the highest honor the university bestows on its graduate school alums. Cross Medal recipients are nominated by peers in their field and then evaluated and selected through an internal review process at the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Bradley accepted the award and delivered the Dean’s Lecture at the School of Public Health in ceremonies at the university on October 2.

In her talk, “Getting on the Balcony,” Bradley spoke of the many transitions in her career that began as an administrator at Massachusetts General Hospital, shifted to her graduate work, public health research and other leadership positions at Yale, and pivoted again to a series of global health initiatives that she has continued to carry out while serving as Vassar’s President since 2017.

“I love transitions—as much as they are unsettling, too,” Bradley said, “because they allow a time of disengagement and reengagement, and in that moment when one has disengaged from the previous work but not yet reengaged fully in the new work, all things are free, unencumbered, full of potential, open to what may be new. … Transitions, for me, are at the heart of learning.”

Bradley explained how she is currently applying what she learned while taking part in a research project in 2003 with Dr. Harlan Krumholz, a professor at the Yale School of Medicine, to a new project she and others at Vassar are currently undertaking. The original project examined how hospitals responded when heart attack patients were initially admitted.

“In 2003, only about a third of patients with lethal heart attacks received the angioplasty (or similar procedure for opening a blocked coronary artery) within 90 minutes of arriving at the hospital,” she said. “And opening that artery saves lives. We noted, however, that a set of hospitals were consistently getting it right—they were faster and more successful. And amazingly to us from our privileged perch, these were ‘no name’ hospitals.” The study led to changes in heart-attack protocols at hospitals across the country that have resulted in the saving of countless lives since then, Bradley noted.

Applying this methodology to a completely different subject, Bradley and a team of researchers at Vassar are currently analyzing policies and procedures at colleges that maintain much higher than expected graduation rates. “What are they doing differently? That’s our research question, and of course we want to learn and ideally spread whatever evidence emerges,” she said.

Bradley concluded her talk by reflecting on the patterns that have emerged in her life and career. “First, students have often been at the center of change for me. They often do not know it, but they have opened many doors in unexpected ways,” she said.

“Second, the pursuit, rather than the attainment, of truth seems crucial. At the height of accomplishment, I have moved to open a new area of inquiry. It is not for everyone, but it has made for a meaningful journey for me.

“And last, if change is the throughline of this talk and my career, I must end in paradox—as all this change has been possible due to the tremendous stability that has come from my love-filled marriage to John, the stability of our health—which we all know is so important—and the many institutional and personal supports that Yale and the academy at large have provided me.” —Larry Hertz

Vassar Today
Man and woman posing with award plaques
Buck Lewis

“Small but Mighty”

Vassar Earns Campus Housing Award
The Association of College and University Housing Officers–International (ACUHO-I) provides resources, support, and programming for more than 17,000 residence life professionals on more than 900 campuses on five continents. For the second year in a row, Vassar has been recognized for outstanding contributions to the organization and the profession.

Current ACUHO-I President Leon McClinton presented the President’s Service Award to the College at the organization’s annual convention this summer in Portland, OR. Luis Inoa, Dean of the College for Residential Life and Wellness, right, accepted the award for the College and collected accolades of his own. Having earned the President’s Individual Award for service to ACUHO-I last year, this year Inoa was the recipient of the James A. Hurd Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions by a professional of color.

Inoa serves as Co-Chair for the Future of the Profession, Supporting Mental Health imperative and is the incoming chair of the Small Colleges and Universities Network. Yetty Marquez-Santana, Vassar’s Director of Residential Education, who also attended the event, serves as ACUHO-I’s Director of Inclusion and Equity.

As he announced the award, McClinton referred to Vassar as “a small but mighty college in the northeast that has become a tried-and-true friend of ACUHO-I. My thanks go out to Vassar for sharing these talented individuals with us and serving as a model for what an engaged member institution looks like.”

“You don’t do this work to earn an award,” Inoa concluded, “but to be recognized by our peers puts Vassar on the map as a small college that does lots of good work.” —Larry Hertz

Renowned Filmmaker and Cinematographer on Success in the Biz

Ellen Kuras in mid conversation
Karl Rabe
Acclaimed filmmaker and cinematographer Ellen Kuras spoke about the groundbreaking work she has done on several major Hollywood motion pictures during a conversation with Professor of Film Mia Mask on September 30 in the Martel Theater. The talk was presented under the auspices of the Capotorto and Mulas Family Distinguished Lecture in Film. Kuras’s work includes her Emmy-award-winning and Oscar-nominated documentary Betrayal and critically acclaimed feature films Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Blow, and Spike Lee’s Bamboozled and Summer of Sam. Kuras told the audience that her work required commitment and passion. “But [filmmaking] isn’t a competition; it’s a collaboration,” she added. “The person who brings you coffee on the set is just as important as everyone else, and I try to lead by example.” Kuras advised them to “learn your craft, but never feel entitled. It’s a privilege to be there, so treat people with kindness. There’s a timbre in the industry toward bullying, but part of my success has come from treating people kindly. It doesn’t cost anything to be kind.” —Larry Hertz
Robert Brigham professional headshot
Monica Church
The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations awarded Robert K. Brigham, Professor of History on the Shirley Ecker Boskey Chair, the Peter L. Hahn Distinguished Service Award at its annual meeting in June. The award recognizes a senior historian who has provided significant contributions to the growth and development of the organization over the course of their career. Honorees demonstrate “a deep commitment to the organization’s mission of promoting and disseminating scholarship in the field of foreign relations broadly defined as well as its distinguished tradition of mentorship, teaching, and public advocacy (especially as it relates to the declassification of government documents).”
Vassar Today
Vassar community members in chapel for Convocation 2023
Speakers Celebrate Togetherness, Growth,
and Vassar’s Uniquely Beautiful Campus at

Convocation 2023

As members of the Vassar community gathered in the Chapel for the College’s Convocation ceremonies on August 30, Professor of Art Yvonne Elet urged her audience to open their eyes to the buildings and landscape of the campus as a place that helps to define their college experience.

“The fundamental role of a college campus is to foster intellectual discovery, creative thinking, a sense of community, and discourse,” Elet told the more than 1,200 attending the 158th annual event. “It is a place that provides a sense of safety and belonging; and at the same time, a healthy jolt of disorientation to provoke new modes of thinking. It is a laboratory for learning.”

Professor Elet led her audience on a virtual tour of campus elements, noting that “the collection of buildings, landscape elements, and the enduring tree canopy all contribute to the distinctive character or spirit of the place—its genius loci. The campus is a tangible expression of the College’s identity, where physical setting serves to express intangibles of character and meaning.”

Yvonne Elet speaking at convocation
Class of 2027 students holding banner marching to first convocation
Priya Nair in between AAVC Vice President Brian Farkas and Stephanie Goldberg
Clockwise: Convocation speaker Professor of Art Yvonne Elet urged the Vassar community to explore the College’s beautiful, historic campus. Vassar’s newest class marches into their first Convocation. Priya Nair ’15, center, accepted the AAVC Young Alumnae/i Achievement Award from AAVC Vice President Brian Farkas ’10 and Stephanie Goldberg ’14 of the AAVC’s Recognition Committee during Convocation.
All photos, Buck Lewis
Elet said she had recently met a Vassar alum who told her she had not appreciated, until she returned five years after graduating, how beautiful the campus was—she had been too busy to notice her surroundings. “I think that characterizes most of us at times: so overloaded and living in our heads that we fail to register fully what is around us,” said Elet. “ So, I am exhorting you to explore and enjoy our park-like campus.”

As the class of 2027 filed into the Chapel clad in the caps and gowns they will wear again four years from now, they were greeted by the music of organist Gail Archer, then a riveting performance by the Convocation Choir that President Elizabeth H. Bradley said brought tears to her eyes.

New Faculty Endowed Chairs
During Convocation, President Bradley announced the seven new recipients of faculty endowed chairs. They are:

Tobias Armborst
Professor of Art, the Isabelle Hyman Chair

Kathryn Libin
Professor of Music, the Mary Conover Mellon Chair

Colette Salyk
Associate Professor of Astronomy, the Maria Mitchell Chair

William Hoynes
Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Sociology, the Jane Baker Nord ’42 Chair

Laura Haynes
Assistant Professor of Earth Science, the Mary Clark Rockefeller Chair

Molly McGlennen
Professor of English, the Anne McNiff Tatlock ’61 Chair

Ming-Wen An
Professor of Mathematics and Statistics, the Elizabeth Stillman Williams Chair

In her opening remarks, Bradley said the Convocation ceremonies welcomed the Vassar community to the start of the academic year. “We are joining in a long tradition, working together as a community,” Bradley said. “May this be a year of learning and growing together.”

Priya Nair ’15, Deputy Chief Diversity Officer in the Office of New York Governor Kathy Hochul, echoed the themes of community and personal growth while accepting the Young Alumnae/i Achievement Award, presented annually by the Alumnae/i Association of Vassar College (AAVC). “I am so grateful to Vassar, because it is a huge part of where I am today,” Nair said. “Vassar gave me skills like writing and research, but also skills of relationship building, of being curious about other people, and most importantly, of being authentically me.”

Nair said they were eager to see how the undergraduates seated in the Chapel before them would tackle the world’s challenges upon leaving the campus. “Please know you will always have me in your corner,” they said. “I can’t wait to see all the ways you will transform yourselves and transform the world.”

Nair received the award from Stephanie Goldberg ’14, a member of the AAVC’s Recognition Committee and AAVC Vice President Brian Farkas ’10, who reminded members of the Class of 2027 that “Vassar is not a four-year experience. Vassar is with you for a lifetime.”

Olivia Gross ’24, President of the Vassar Student Association, urged her fellow students, particularly members of her class, to make the most of the coming year. “When we come back to Vassar, it should be with no regrets,” Gross said. “College is about connections and support. This is our college experience, and we have the power to make it the best it can be.” —Larry Hertz

Vassar Today
Bojana Zupan, Hadley Bergstrom, and Jennifer Kennell posing for picture in lab
Co-authors of the NSF grant proposal that enabled the purchase of the state-of-the-art microscope. From left, Bojana Zupan, Hadley Bergstrom, and Jennifer Kennell.

Kelly Marsh

Grants in Action!

Game-Changing Microscope to Benefit Vassar and Other Local Colleges
Vassar has received a grant from the National Science Foundation to purchase a one-million-dollar, state-of-the-art microscope that will significantly enhance faculty and student research opportunities at Vassar and other nearby colleges. The proposal for this custom-made research tool was submitted by Hadley Bergstrom, Associate Professor in the Psychological Science Department and the Neuroscience and Behavior Program, and a team of faculty from Vassar as well as Marist and SUNY New Paltz.

The Leica Stellaris 8 is a next-generation confocal microscope that will transform faculty and student research opportunities at Vassar and other Mid-Hudson regional colleges. It is scheduled for delivery in December and is expected to be fully operational for research projects across multiple disciplines by spring, said Bergstrom, who lead a multiyear proposal submission process.

“Twelve faculty members in five departments contributed to writing the grant proposal,” Professor Bergstrom said. “That demonstrates just how much this microscope will be used. It’s a real workhorse that we will use in our day-to-day teaching as well as in our research.”

Professor Zupan said she was looking forward to using the new microscope in student-led projects in her lab. “Imaging with the old microscope is so time-consuming—it takes 90 minutes to perform a procedure that will take eight minutes on the new one,” Professor Zupan said. “With its capacity to complete more projects more quickly, the new microscope will enable more students to be trained on confocal microscopy techniques, which will hopefully make them more excited about participating in research. This acquisition is a real game-changer for a lot of us.”

Associate Professor of Biology Jennifer Kennell, who co-wrote the grant proposal with Bergstrom and Associate Professor of Psychological Science Bojana Zupan, said the grant calls for Vassar to share the use of the microscope with other college faculty and students in the region. This collaboration is consistent with ongoing Vassar faculty collaborations with science faculty at other institutions in the Hudson Valley.

Members of the science faculty at two local colleges said they were also looking forward to using the microscope for their research. “This [microscope] will be a real community resource,” said Megan Dennis, Associate Professor of Biology at Marist College.

Lydia Bright, Professor of Biology at SUNY New Paltz, said she was eager to use Vassar’s new acquisition for her own research. “I look at live cells and need to see how proteins move around, and this microscope is ideal for my work,” Bright said. She said she planned to bring some of her students to Vassar as well. “It will be good for them to see some cutting-edge technology that they may encounter in grad school or later in their careers,” she said. “It will be good for them to be able to say that they have used this kind of technology.”

The Preserve at Vassar Gets New Trees

Student volunteers and community residents planted 200 trees on the Preserve at Vassar as part of a three-day project in September. The aim was to provide a buffer for the Casper Kill, a stream that runs through part of the Preserve, and to help foster the animal habitat. Preserve Director Keri VanCamp said the College used a $40,000 grant from a local conservation group, Partners for Climate Action Hudson Valley, to purchase 40 trees with a diameter of two inches or more and 160 smaller ones for the project. More than 50 species of trees—maple, American boxwood, sorghum, and cockspur thorn, to name just a few—were selected to enhance the Preserve’s biodiversity. The project is part of a comprehensive plan undertaken by the College to improve the entrance to the 500-acre Preserve, thanks to a major gift from the class of 1971. The gift will fund improved pathways; new pedestrian-safe paths to the Barns; modifications to vehicle traffic routes; and parking and signage to create a more welcoming entrance to the Farm and Preserve. VanCamp said the next phase of improvements will include the construction of a pavilion for picnicking and other gatherings by members of the local community as well as those from Vassar.
Two students in grass field with tools
Grace Adams Ward ’24

Vassar’s Historic Musical Performances Get New Life in Digital Recordings

For more than a century, students, faculty, and staff in Vassar’s Music Department, student choral groups, and the Vassar Libraries have been creating and collecting recordings of Vassar musical performances, but the collections have been physically deteriorating and incompletely cataloged, making them largely inaccessible to music scholars wishing to conduct research.

A $40,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation through the Council on Library and Information Resources “Recordings at Risk” program enabled the College to digitize nearly 300 performances recorded on phonograph records, tapes, and compact discs between 1934 and 2016. They are available for listening at Vassar’s Digital Library by members of the Vassar community; educators and researchers may request access by emailing library_systems@vassar.edu. The recordings include formal concerts, Vassar class “parties” (original musical plays), a cappella group performances, school songs, and collaborations between Vassar faculty, students, and choral groups from other colleges and universities.

“Recordings at Risk” is a limited-term (2017-2025) national regranting program to support preservation of rare and unique audio, audiovisual, and other media through digital reformatting. The digitization was done by firms in Philadelphia, PA, and Andover, MA.

Sarah Canino, Nicole Scalessa with Ann Churukian smiling holing vinyl records
Above, from left to right: Music Librarian Sarah Canino spearheaded the digitization project along with Nicole Scalessa Head of Digital Scholarship and Technology Services. They are shown with Assistant Music Librarian Ann Churukian.

Buck Lewis

Vassar Professor Awarded Climate Research Grant

Jennifer Fehrenbacher smiling in lab
Buck Lewis
The rise in carbon-dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels has long been acknowledged as a major cause of global warming, and the resulting rise in ocean temperatures has likewise been linked to climate change. But what if the ocean could help us absorb more carbon dioxide? Laura Haynes, Assistant Professor of Earth Science on the Mary Clark Rockefeller Chair, pictured above, will lead a comprehensive initiative to explore this question as a recipient of a $480,415 research grant from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Haynes, along with Jennifer Fehrenbacher, Associate Professor of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University, and Emily Osborne, a Research Scientist at NOAA, will collaborate on a study. It will assess how proposals to use the ocean to combat the rise in carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere will affect marine organisms. Some are proposing to dump alkaline minerals into the ocean to help it absorb and store more carbon dioxide, but the impacts of these actions on marine life remain largely unknown. Haynes, Fehrenbacher, and Osborne will investigate how adding these minerals to the ocean would affect foraminifera—small, shell-building plankton that are important to the ocean’s carbon cycle.

Haynes, who has been studying foraminifera throughout her academic career, said the grant would fund research she will be doing at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences in summer 2025 and 2026. She will recruit four Vassar students each year to assist her in her research. The grant is part of a $24.3 million project funded by the National Oceanographic Partnership Program, a consortium of public and private organizations including NOAA, the National Science Foundation, the federal Department of Energy, the Office of Naval Research, and the ClimateWorks Foundation.

Lumina Grant to Shine Light on College Success

Grants in action badge
According to recent studies, four-year colleges in the United States graduate about half of their students in six years. But some institutions, including some that lack the resources of more prestigious colleges and universities, achieve much higher than expected results. A team of Vassar College researchers, headed by President Elizabeth H. Bradley, has secured a $125,000 grant from Lumina Foundation to learn how and why these institutions are succeeding.

Bradley will be joined by Wendy Maragh Taylor, Associate Dean of the College for Student Growth and Engagement, and Professor of Education Christopher Bjork as lead investigators on the project. Charlotte Gullick, Exploring Transfer Together Program Manager, and Biniam Tesfamariam, Vassar’s Director of Institutional Research, are the other members of the team. They plan to visit six institutions having greater than expected results over the next 12 months, meeting with faculty, students, and administrators to gather relevant data.

The Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. Lumina envisions higher learning that is easy to navigate, addresses racial injustice, and meets the nation’s talent needs through a broad range of credentials. The foundation aims to work toward a system that prepares people for informed citizenship and success in a global economy. —Larry Hertz

Connecting Alums:

Multicultural and Affinity Engagement’s New Virtual Series
The vibrant and ever-evolving Vassar alum community of over 41,000 individuals across the globe includes scientists and singers, veterans and volleyball players, first-generation college graduates, and members of Native American nations. Multicultural and Affinity Engagement in the Office of Advancement, led by Director Sharon Parkinson, introduced an exciting initiative this fall. This initiative strives to deepen connections and foster engagement among Vassar alums globally, celebrating their shared experiences and diverse backgrounds.

“Multicultural and Affinity Engagement Virtual Events” kicked off in October, Latinx Heritage Month, with an event featuring Dr. Natasha Gordon-Chipembere ’92, author of the award-winning historical novel Finding La Negrita. She spoke about Costa Rica’s Afrodescendiente heritage, its contemporary expatriate community, and how her background as a child of Costa Rican/Panamanian immigrants influenced her writing.

Natasha Gordon-Chipembere headshot
Joshunda Sanders headshot
Authors Natasha Gordon-Chipembere ’92 and Joshunda Sanders ’00 kicked off the Multicultural and Affinity Engagement Virtual Events this fall.

Courtesy of the subjects

A second event in November, a month in which veterans are celebrated, featured novelist Joshunda Sanders ’00. Hosted by Vassar veterans Makeda Johnson ’20 and Asia Baker ’24, Sanders discussed her novel Women of the Post, inspired by the only unit of Black women to serve overseas during WWII.

“These events are a testament to our commitment to honoring the diversity of Vassar experiences and providing engaging opportunities for our valued alums,” said Parkinson. “What it gives them, I feel, is something that speaks to them personally.”

The initiative strives to deepen connections and foster engagement among Vassar alums, celebrating shared experiences and diverse backgrounds.
Vice President for Advancement Tim Kane agrees. “It is important that Vassar celebrate and recognize the shared affinities of our alums, including athletics, social identities, former student affiliations, and much more,” he said. “Sharon is our first full-time director for this work, and I am excited to see her bring these priorities to life.”

Parkinson and her intern/event producer, Arily Velasco ’25, want to involve more alums in generating program ideas and urge those with ideas regarding affinity-based programs that would appeal to a wide-ranging audience at various life stages to email vassaraffinity@vassar.edu.

Other events—open to all alums—are in the works and will be announced soon. Follow @VassarAffinity on Twitter and Instagram, download the Vassar Mobile App, or watch for invitations in alum inboxes for more information. —Kimberly Schaye

Vassar Today

Vassar’s Newest Class by the Numbers

The College received a record number of applications this year—12,145, which is a 6.4 percent increase over last year’s record. It was our most selective year ever with a 17.7 percent admit rate. At the end of a heroic effort by Admission, Vassar welcomed 689 students to our latest class of 2027! These students hail from 41 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, and represent 56 countries of citizenship in addition to the United States. They are an impressive bunch, as you can see by the pages that follow!
  • 62%

    Identify as female

  • 38%

    Identify as male

  • A

    Grade point average

  • 14.2%

    Are the first in their families to go to college

  • 36%

    Of domestic students identify as people of color

  • 33%

    Are bilingual or speak English as a second language

  • 49

    Languages are spoken in addition to English

  • 18%

    Are Pell Grant recipients

  • $20.8M

    Vassar scholarship funds awarded to the class

  • $55,857

    The average Vassar scholarship award


  • 12%
    Were leaders in their high school’s student government
  • 26%
    Played a musical instrument
  • 22%
    Participated in drama productions
  • 21%
    Were captains of a varsity sport
  • 45%
    Held a job while in high school.

And there’s more!

Our students are more than a bunch of numbers. Each has a unique story to tell.
Among their ranks are individuals who:
  • ballet shoes icon
    Danced in the Bolshoi and Joffrey summer ballet intensives.
  • tony award icon
    Took a gap year to act in a Tony-award-winning Broadway play.
  • reptile icon
    Was founder and president of their school’s reptile club.
  • pug icon
    Fostered 12 pugs over 7 years as part of a regional pug rescue group.
  • wind surfing icon
    Taught windsurfing.
  • cookies icon
    Is a social media influencer who reviews cookies.
We hope you will get to meet some of these amazing students soon.
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The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center Celebrates 30 Years and a Continuing Legacy

The Loeb logo
When the doors of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center—named after a trustee—first opened to the public in November 1993, the local and national headlines highlighted the construction of a “world-class art museum” to house the College’s already “exceptional art collection.” The architect César Pelli had, in his own words, designed a “symphony in architecture,” combining different spaces, materials, and lighting schemes to create “a series of movements.” The new building offered considerably more room and improved conditions to view Vassar’s art treasures, which had been, by that point, collected since its founding about 130 years before. Vassar was the first college in the United States to include an art museum as part of its original mission.
Outside view of The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
When the doors of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center—named after a trustee—first opened to the public in November 1993, the local and national headlines highlighted the construction of a “world-class art museum” to house the College’s already “exceptional art collection.” The architect César Pelli had, in his own words, designed a “symphony in architecture,” combining different spaces, materials, and lighting schemes to create “a series of movements.” The new building offered considerably more room and improved conditions to view Vassar’s art treasures, which had been, by that point, collected since its founding about 130 years before. Vassar was the first college in the United States to include an art museum as part of its original mission.

The overall complex of structures, incorporating both the new edifice and the renovated Taylor Hall (site of the Art Department, its classrooms, and library), serves as the entrance to the campus alongside the Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library fronting on Raymond Avenue. The two connected buildings reinforce the importance of the visual arts and other academic resources in promoting the open exchange of ideas and inquiry in a liberal arts education. As an example, among the almost 30,000 visitors to the Loeb last year, there were 4,492 students from 22 different departments and programs for nearly 250 class sessions (about half of which were in the arts). Moreover, in addition to the hundreds of works of art regularly on display, 619 objects were temporarily pulled from storage to support teaching in the building’s galleries and classrooms.

Vassar student guide in mid explanation of art to seated kindergarten students
30 160 logo
Vassar is not only celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, but it is also honoring 160 years of the collection. From its very beginning, the College recognized the importance of the visual arts in promoting the open exchange of ideas in a liberal arts context.
Vassar Student Guides connect the Loeb to the local community, giving citizens—from kindergartners to senior citizens—tours of the exhibitions.
Every year since 1999, when the first Coordinator for Public Education and Programs position was created, a dozen Vassar undergraduates are hired to work as Student Guides to give all public tours—serving kindergartners to senior citizens and everyone in between. Drawn from all class years and a wide range of disciplines, they give the Loeb a greater ability to connect with visitors on a variety of levels and from a range of perspectives. A current Student Guide majoring in American studies, now working with the newly endowed Putnam Assistant Director for Learning and Community Engagement, noted the significance of her experiences: “From the class meetings held in the galleries, fervently discussing lithography and curatorial practices, to conversations with eight-year-old patrons about the Hudson River School and how marble is carved into statues, the Loeb has taught me so much about art history, the process of sharing and exchanging ideas, and about myself as a learner and a teacher.”

The prominent location of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center intentionally forges a vital link to neighboring communities. The recent expansion of its outreach efforts—including partnerships with the Poughkeepsie City School District, Arlington Central School District, The Art Effect, Celebrating the African Spirit, Dutchess County Historical Society, Locust Grove Estate, and the Poughkeepsie Public Library District—was recognized last June when the Loeb received the Dutchess Award. The accompanying proclamation celebrated its “enriching educational programs and unwavering commitment to fostering creativity and cultural appreciation [that] have greatly enhanced the quality of life for residents of the County and beyond.”

When the Vassar Quarterly, in 1990, announced that Frances Lehman Loeb, class of 1928, would provide funding for a new museum—the largest gift ever bestowed on the College by a living individual to date—she was lauded for her generosity:

“All her life she has loved art, been inspired by it, and made it accessible to others.” Today, after 30 years, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center continues to honor a woman whose life of philanthropy and public service embodied the ideals of liberal learning and bolsters the reputation of her alma mater. —T. Barton Thurber

T. Barton Thurber is the Anne Hendricks Bass Director of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center.
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Lynn Straus ’46: A Life of Giving

Alum’s generosity leaves a legacy at the Loeb.
Lynn Straus smiling in front of colored background
Courtesy of the Straus family

ynn Straus ’46 was a philanthropist, an adventurer, an avid art collector, and a tireless champion of early childhood education. An enthusiastic member of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar who donated many works of art, Straus leaves behind a legacy that will extend well beyond the campus community. She passed away on January 28, 2023, at the age of 97, and is celebrated as an alum whose ties to Vassar continue to inspire and encourage today’s students.

After graduating from Vassar, Straus received her Master of Science degree from Bank Street College of Education. She was director of the Village Fours in Mamaroneck, New York, which became the model for the Head Start program. She met and fell in love with her late husband, Philip Straus Sr., and they shared 54 years together before his passing in 2004. 

The Strauses were ardent philanthropists, often gifting Vassar and Harvard University (Philip’s alma mater) works of art and contributions to support annual giving, special capital projects, and endowments. Lynn dedicated her time to Vassar by serving as a member of the Board of Trustees and on her Class Reunion Gift Committee. She and Philip supported the renovation of campus buildings, including the restoration of Gordon Commons Dining Hall’s second floor ceiling to its original architectural splendor. They were the lead donors to the Exploring Transfer program, an initiative to give community college students a chance to explore opportunities at a four-year liberal arts college.

But the Loeb held a special place in Lynn Straus’s heart. 

For years, Straus was an active member of the Friends of Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. She played a pivotal role on its advisory board for nearly a decade. In honor of her 50th reunion, the Strauses endowed the Philip and Lynn Straus Curator of Prints and Drawings position, currently held by John Murphy. 

Beginning in 1983, the couple donated countless works of art from artists such as Edvard Munch, Albrecht Dürer, Helen Frankenthaler, and more. 

“Their impact has been truly transformational,” said T. Barton Thurber, the Anne Hendricks Bass Director and Lecturer in Art for the Loeb Center. “Ranging from old master prints to German Expressionists, all of the nearly 50 objects are of the highest quality and many are unique examples by some of the greatest artists in the history of art. The opportunity for Vassar students, faculty, and other visitors to examine and enjoy these objects firsthand is immensely meaningful, and creates a lasting legacy for generations to come.”

At her memorial service, Philip Straus Jr., one of Lynn and Straus Sr.’s children, asked the crowd of roughly 150 people to stand if his mother’s generosity had helped any person or family get through school. 

“I think a third of the audience stood up. She really cared about helping other people,” Straus said. “My parents were very connected to the Jewish tradition of giving and being good to other people. She stayed involved in Bank Street and Vassar because of her connections and because of how important she thought education was for other people.” 

Lynn Straus’s bequest gave Ruby Funfrock ’24 the opportunity to experience masterworks of art firsthand. As the summer 2023 Ford Scholar/Pindyck Fellow at the Loeb, Funfrock had two main projects: looking into 1930s photographs and prints for a fall display and exploring Lynn Straus’s bequest.

“For a summer project, we had Ruby focus on one aspect of the gift: the prints by Edvard Munch and the German Expressionists inspired by him,” John Murphy, who worked closely with Funfrock over the summer, said. “Those works connect to the longer German woodcut tradition, which are also represented in works Lynn has given over the years, including a magnificent early 16th-century chiaroscuro woodcut by Hans Wechtlin.” 

Funfrock had originally come to Vassar interested in studying biology before making the leap to art history. She dreams of working in a museum after graduation.

“It’s wonderful,” Funfrock said in July. “It’s honestly a dream come true. This is my first experience gaining hands-on training with prints. So it’s been a really lovely summer. I think it enriches my Vassar education.” 

Funfrock has spent time with the works donated by the Strauses, identifying themes and techniques, a difficulty when you only see photos of the works in a classroom setting.   

“I’ve learned about these artists, studied their works, and seen them in PowerPoints,” Funfrock said. “Having the opportunity to work with them in person, and working with John, who’s a really wonderful expert, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I feel incredibly grateful for.” 

John Murphy and Ruby Furnock posing at the Loeb
The Strauses endowed the Philip and Lynn Straus Curator of Prints and Drawings position, currently held by John Murphy, left. He is pictured with Ruby Funfrock ’24, the summer 2023 Ford Scholar/Pindyck Fellow at the Loeb.

Kwan Man Cheng

“I think of the Vassar motto: Go to the source,” Murphy added. “In the classroom, we experience most art history vicariously through slides. One of the great things about prints is—and maybe this was something that Lynn was drawn to about them, because they exist in multiples, a collection like Vassar’s can have works by Rembrandt, Doré, Kushner, and Munch—it gives students the opportunity to go to the source and look at the object itself as it was conceived by the artist in its own time and understand the subtleties and choices.” 

Taking a deeper look into the artwork bequeathed to the Loeb Art Center, Funfrock has grown curious as to the connoisseurship of the Strauses.

“These German Expressionists were deeply emotional,” Funfrock said. “They convey very raw, intense emotions, and they were giving them to each other as gifts. So I’m curious why the Strauses were drawn to these artists and powerful themes.”

Murphy, who had the opportunity alongside Thurber to explore the Straus home, had a similar sentiment.

“Going through their house, especially the German Expressionist works, they are very raw, they’re provocative, they’re challenging, and so for the Strauses to create a partnership in collecting these pieces over time, they were clearly adventurous and open-minded collectors,” Murphy said. “I wonder if what they were responding to was maybe that emotional intensity. It seemed like Lynn was interested in human nature, especially early childhood education, and the Expressionists were really fascinated by children’s art and responding to the things that were less polished or trained or academic.”

Part of Funfrock’s summer work was to help conceptualize ideas of what a display dedicated to the Straus gift could look like in the future. 

“For me, working with Lynn’s collection suggests how important education was to her, having direct experiences of things and not vicarious experiences,” Murphy said. “That’s all come to light for me through Ruby’s amazing work. She has completely enriched our understanding of this aspect of the collection. There’s no way we could have moved forward with any future plans related to this bequest without her diligence, care, and thoughtfulness. I’m really grateful.” 

When asked what she would want to say to Lynn given the opportunity, Funfrock said, “First and foremost, ‘Thank you.’ If it wasn’t for her generosity, I wouldn’t be here.” 

Philip Jr. thinks his mother would be truly excited that Vassar’s students are able to have these hands-on experiences with her collection. 

“I think she would love to see students getting involved in art, and discovering how much they can learn about art and how much they can learn about themselves by looking at art,” he said. “That’s why she gave it, and she would be thrilled to see students getting that experience.” —Heather Mattioli

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The Loeb Art Center

Showcases Works from the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art’s Collection

A collection of works by African American artists from the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art kicked off a national tour on September 30 with an opening at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. The exhibition, titled Silver Linings, highlights the works of masters, pioneers, and trailblazers who anchor the Spelman collection. The nearly 40 works represent a variety of media and techniques including painting, drawing, sculpture, mixed-media collage, prints, and photographs.

Vassar is the first stop on a five-city tour for the exhibition, which aims to elevate the work of emerging African American artists.

“Spelman’s art collection has long been regarded as a hidden gem, and we have lent individual works of art for many years,” said Dr. Liz Andrews, Executive Director of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, who attended the opening at the Loeb. “We are excited to share a selection of works by artists who shape our collection with audiences around the United States for the first time. Our hope is that this tour will raise awareness of the work we are doing in Atlanta to uplift Black women artists.”

Mary-Kay Lombino, the Loeb’s Deputy Director and the Emily Hargroves Fisher ’57 and Richard B. Fisher Curator, said hosting the exhibition was part of the celebration of the museum’s 30th anniversary and the College’s 160th anniversary of its art collection. “Our anniversary year has been a time to look back at our accomplishments and also to look to other collections at small liberal arts colleges around the country for inspiration on what the future might look like for the Loeb,” Lombino said. “The Spelman collection is inspiring to us for their commitment to Black artists, in particular women. It aligns with our goal to continue to collect in that area and gives us an opportunity to share with our audiences artists’ work that we do not yet own but hope to acquire someday soon.”

In her welcoming remarks, President Elizabeth H. Bradley noted the common legacies Vassar and Spelman share as establishments that were founded as educational institutions for women in the 19th century.

Loeb Director T. Barton Thurber recalled his excitement upon viewing the Silver Linings exhibit on the Spelman campus in Atlanta, GA, in March of 2022. “I was taken by the works, with how compelling they were,” Thurber said. A short time later, he arranged for Lombino to visit the museum and to map plans for bringing the show to Vassar.

Tenesha Carter Johnson posing in front of an African American artist made quilt
Tenesha Carter Johnson, a senior at Spelman College and Loeb Summer Curatorial Intern, curated a related exhibition featuring quilts by African American artists.
During a panel discussion following the opening, Cheryl Finley, Director of the Atlanta University Center for Art History and Curatorial Studies and Visiting Professor of Art at Spelman, traced the history of Spelman’s art community and its acquisitions of important works by African American artists. Karen Comer Lowe, Curator in Residence at the Spelman College of Museum of Fine Art, described some of the key pieces of art in the Silver Linings exhibition, including one by renowned sculptor Elizabeth Catlett. Lowe said Spelman was noted for featuring the works of artists “just before their careers blew up.”

Silver Linings will remain on display at the Loeb until January 28, 2024. Over the next two years, it will travel to the Boise Art Museum, the University of Michigan Museum of Art, the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, TN, before returning to Spelman.

The five-stop tour is sponsored by the Art Bridges Foundation, a private organization that supports programs that expand access to American art in all regions across the nation. Hanna Leatherman, Art Bridges Partnership Development Manager, said it was fitting that Vassar had been chosen as the first stop on the Silver Linings tour. “It’s great to see these two historic institutions working together like this,” Leatherman said. “They have parallel histories, and it’s great to be able to help build that partnership.”

In addition to the exceptional works from the Spelman collection, the Loeb mounted satellite exhibitions from its own collection to provide context and amplify the Spelman works. Interwoven Histories: Prints by the Gee’s Bend Quilting Collective curated by Tenesha Carter Johnson, a senior at Spelman College and Loeb Summer Curatorial Intern, presents a selection of prints made by members of the quilting collective from Boykin (otherwise known as “Gee’s Bend”), Alabama. The prints utilize the intricate and unique quilt-making designs and techniques taught through generations of women, many of whom are direct descendants of enslaved people. The Loeb acquired the three prints on view, as well as three others, in 2019 to mark the 50th anniversary of Vassar’s Africana Studies Program.

Carter Johnson, who introduced members of the panel, thanked the Loeb staff and others at Vassar for supporting her work during her internship. She said her experience in helping to curate the two shows had reaffirmed her intention to become a curator after she graduates from Spelman. “Thank you, Vassar, for embracing me in this space. My heart is filled to be a part of this celebration,” she said.

Amanda Potter, Putnam Assistant Director of Learning and Community Engagement at the Loeb, said plans were underway to create some community-based programming highlighting Silver Linings. Potter said the works in the exhibition would be an integral part of a series of art classes held on Saturdays in the Poughkeepsie City School District called “Saturday Morning Lights.” Silver Linings was also a focus of the Loeb’s Family Day on November 18.

Andrews said she was glad to learn that the exhibition would be actively shared with members of the local community. “I love that the Loeb has been partnering with the city school district, encouraging people to come to the museum and to feel that they belong here,” she said. “I truly hope Vassar’s students, faculty, and members of the community find something inspirational in these works of art.” —Larry Hertz

All photos, Karl Rabe
Liz Andrews, Karen Comer Lowe, Cheryl Finley sitting in chairs in mid-discussion
Panelists—Spelman Museum Executive Director Liz Andrews and Curator in Residence Karen Comer Lowe along with Cheryl Finley, Director of the Atlanta University Center Art History + Curatorial Studies Collective—discussed the aim of the exhibition: to elevate the work of African American artists just coming into prominence.

a Trace

How Vassar faculty members, including the late Associate Professor of Art Andrew Tallon, and alums have aided in the conservation and restoration of the Gothic cathedral Notre-Dame of Paris

t has been five years since Associate Professor of Art Andrew Tallon, the charismatic teacher and historian of medieval architecture, passed away, but his pathbreaking research lives on. The 3D laser scan of Notre-Dame of Paris that Tallon produced in 2010 has already been instrumental in the reconstruction of the Gothic cathedral, damaged in a catastrophic fire that broke out on April 15, 2019.

On the unseasonably warm evening of October 25, 2023, two of the three architects responsible for rebuilding the cathedral, Philippe Villeneuve, Architect-in-Chief of Historic Monuments in charge of Notre-Dame, and fellow restoration architect Pascal Prunet, delivered a Claflin Lecture at Vassar’s Martel Theater, speaking about their efforts to shore up, conserve, and restore the cathedral since the fire. Their visit to Vassar was made possible by The Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris in honor of Andrew Tallon. The third architect, Rémi Fromont, remained in Paris, where he is overseeing the final stages of the reconstruction of the roof and spire. This phase of the project is scheduled to conclude on December 8, 2023, when the new rooster Villeneuve designed will be installed atop the spire.

“[Tallon’s] scan enabled us to reconstruct the vaults without any hesitation from a dimensional or formal standpoint, and it also granted us total freedom to understand how [the cathedral] was made, to be able to rebuild it in a thoughtful, intellectual, and intelligent way,” Villeneuve said during the recent visit to Vassar.

Tallon arrived at Vassar in 2007. Over the next three years, as part of a major grant he and Columbia art history professor Stephen Murray secured from the Mellon Foundation to develop an innovative website called Mapping Gothic France, Tallon selected two Vassar students annually to conduct summer fieldwork with him, Murray, and Murray’s doctoral students. The Vassar students Tallon selected were chosen through a competitive application process to participate in the digital humanities project and were responsible for taking 360-degree panoramic photographs of the scores of Romanesque and Gothic buildings the team visited in regions throughout France. Jessica Lentner ’09 and Kappy Mintie ’09 photographed sites in Champagne in 2008; Sofia Gans ’09 and Alexandra Thom ’09 focused on Normandy in 2009; and Ani Kodjabasheva ’12 and I [Lindsay Cook] concentrated on Burgundy in 2010.

Pascal Prunet, Philippe Villeneuve, and Andre Finot posing for picture during their campus visit
Pascal Prunet, restoration architect; Philippe Villeneuve, Architect-in-Chief of Historic Monuments in charge of Notre-Dame; and André Finot, spokesperson for the cathedral, during their campus visit.
Kelly Marsh
That year, Tallon also scanned Notre-Dame. The primary reason he wanted to produce the laser survey was to study the cathedral’s structure, especially its flying buttresses, which had been rebuilt over the centuries. During Tallon’s lifetime, the 3D ambulat scan was put to multiple uses, including to produce a new ground plan of Notre-Dame and a series of illustrations presenting hypothetical reconstructions of historical states of the cathedral for a monograph he co-authored with Sorbonne art history professor Dany Sandron, first published in French in 2013. The book’s illustrations and captions were adapted for a trilingual display sponsored by Vassar’s President’s International Advisory Council, on view in the cathedral’s ambulatory from 2014 until the 2019 fire. It was viewed by more than 30 million visitors. An English-language edition of Tallon and Sandron’s book subsequently appeared as Notre Dame Cathedral: Nine Centuries of History, trans. Lindsay Cook (Penn State University Press, 2020).

Laser scanning Notre-Dame, photographing it for Mapping Gothic France, and viewing its stonework from the upper terraces led Tallon to worry about the building’s structural integrity. André Finot, the cathedral’s spokesperson, came to Notre-Dame from a career in the advertising industry. Not long after his arrival, Tallon invited him to climb the cathedral to warn him about the state of the building. Finot remembered Tallon telling him, “You see all these stones? This building is in danger—you need to do something. You should create a foundation, and everybody will help, because everybody loves Notre-Dame. Have a good day!”

Professor Tallon scanning Washington National Cathedral
Professor Tallon specialized in the architecture of Gothic and Romanesque cathedrals. Here, he scans the Washington National Cathedral in 2014.

WNC 2014-Craig W. Stapert

It may have sounded simple, but complicating matters was the fact that, by law, the City of Paris owns the land on which Notre-Dame sits, the French state owns the building itself, and the Catholic Church is responsible for maintaining the cathedral. With so many stakeholders involved, “nobody wanted to pay for anything,” Finot recalled. In his view, what ultimately moved the needle was a letter Tallon addressed to Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, then Archbishop of Paris, pleading with him to support the creation of what would eventually become the nonprofit Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris. Vassar alums championed this initiative both before and since the organization was officially founded in 2017, among them Nora Ann Wallace ’73 and Lorna Bade Goodman ’63, P’88, GP’22.

When fire ripped through Notre-Dame’s roof on April 15, 2019, the restoration Tallon had helped set in motion was well underway. That very morning work began on one of the flying buttresses he had feared might fail. It was a lucky break that earlier that same week, sixteen of the copper statues adorning the spire were removed for conservation treatment and were not there when the fire broke out. They represent the twelve apostles and the four evangelists, integral to the spire restoration architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc designed in the late 1850s. The carpentry supporting these figures was inspired, in part, by the base of the medieval spire, which still lingered under the roof in the mid-19th century, as University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Art History Professor Lynn T. Courtenay ’65 demonstrated in a noteworthy 1989 journal article.

The fire melted the lead roof tiles, destroyed the timber framework of both the 19th-century spire and the 13th-century nave and choir roofs, and weakened the stones its flames licked—but it could not claim the apostle and evangelist statues. They have since been restored, and, at the time of writing, they are all on view at the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine, the cultural heritage museum in Paris. Among these towering copper figures is St. Andrew, dedicated both to Cardinal André Vingt-Trois and to the memory of Andrew Tallon. When he visits the museum and sees the restored statue with Tallon’s name written on the plaque, Finot said, he feels “thankful for what [Tallon] did for Notre-Dame.”

Laser analysis rendering of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame
The late Professor Andrew Tallon’s detailed laser analysis of the cathedral’s exterior.

Courtesy of Marie Tallon

The three architects bring a wealth of experience from their time restoring historic monuments in various regions of France, including some where wars and revolutions have left their mark, allowing for a modicum of creative freedom. The task is different, however, “when you work on icons,” according to Prunet. “At Notre-Dame, we are doing an enormous amount of work, but we are not doing creative work; we are putting things back together again,” he continued. “What we’re doing isn’t very personal,” Villeneuve added. Tallon’s laser scan has enabled the architects to allow Notre-Dame to “speak for itself,” according to Villeneuve.

Tallon had sent a copy of his point cloud (collection of data points plotted in 3D space) to Villeneuve’s predecessor, Benjamin Mouton, before the latter retired in 2013, and after the 2019 fire, Marie Tallon saw to it that Villeneuve, Prunet, and Fromont had access to her late husband’s work. During their lecture and in a follow-up interview conducted the next day, Villeneuve and Prunet said that Tallon’s scan—which Prunet called an “exact trace” of the state of the building at the time it was scanned—has been used in numerous ways since the fire. For example, it aided design of the wooden centering custom-made to cradle each unique flying buttress and rib vault and to rebuild the damaged vaults and the sole transverse arch destroyed when the tip of the spire separated from its base and fell westward, becoming a projectile that crashed into the nave.

“Andrew Tallon’s point cloud, well, it’s a bit like listening to a Mahler symphony,” said Prunet, alluding to the scan’s sublime scale and complexity. Extending the musical metaphor, Prunet continued, “It’s a recording,” but one that “needs to be decrypted.” —Lindsay S. Cook ’10

Lindsay S. Cook ’10 earned her PhD from Columbia University. She was Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Vassar from 2018-2020, and she is currently Assistant Teaching Professor of Architectural History in the Department of Art History at the Pennsylvania State University.
Vassar Travel Programs We Are traveling again in 2024
Collage of pictures from travels across the world from the eifel tower, Elephants and snorkeling
Paris Mia Mask Professor of Film on the Mary Riepma Ross 32 Chair June 8-16
Namibia Abigail Baird 91 Professor of Psychological Science on the Arnhold Family Chair June 9-20
The Galapagos Islands Jill Schneiderman Professor of Earth Science July 6-13
Please contact Susan Quade, Senior Associate Director of Special Events and the Vassar Travel Program, at suquade@vassar.edu or 845-437-5453 go.vassar.edu/travelprogram
Brewer Pride
Tennis players in mid game on tennis court

Richard L. Cretella Tennis Center Opens with Dedication Remarks, Open Play

The dedication and official opening of the Richard L. Cretella Tennis Center kicked off a new era for Vassar’s men’s and women’s tennis teams. The new facility was made possible thanks to the Richard Cretella Trust, administered by Cretella’s sister Virginia Mars ’51, P’82, GP’04,’07; Mindy Mayer P’92, in memory of her son Eric M. Smith ’92, a member of the men’s tennis team for four years and who now has a court named after him; Chrysoula Dosiou P’22 and Andreas Stavropoulos P’22, who named a court after their daughter Melina Stavropoulos ’22; Georgia Carrington ’58; and Peter Frey ’82.

“I can confidently say that Vassar now has one of the very best outdoor tennis facilities among our peer schools in the northeast,” Michelle Walsh, Director of Athletics and Physical Education at Vassar, said. “That makes such a big difference because it helps us to recruit outstanding scholar-athletes to the campus—students who excel in the classroom, on the court, and who contribute in so many different ways to our campus community.”

The Richard L. Cretella Tennis Center, built on the former Ballentine Field, has eight tennis courts made with “post-tension” concrete underneath that is made to last at least 20 years, new spectator seating, and storage for team equipment. A new scoreboard will also be installed soon. The courts are conveniently located directly adjacent to Walker Field House, providing the teams with access to locker rooms, indoor courts, and sports-medicine facilities.

Virginia Mars giving speech
The new facility was made possible thanks to the Richard Cretella Trust, administered by Cretella’s sister Virginia Mars ʼ51, Pʼ82, GPʼ04,ʼ07, pictured, along with several other donors.
Before the center, the teams had to take a roughly 15-minute walk from Walker Field House to the courts along Raymond Avenue, away from the locker rooms as well as the training and sports-medicine facilities. Now, the teams have a two-minute walk from the field house and its amenities.

“On behalf of both the men’s and the women’s tennis teams, we are so incredibly grateful for this amazing state-of-the-art tennis facility,” Tina McDermott, head men’s tennis coach, said. “We’re just so very proud to practice and compete here. We want to thank the donors again for their support and generosity.”

Mars, encouraged by her daughters, created annuity trusts in both of her brothers’ names. When her older brother, Albert W. Cretella Jr., passed, a scholarship was created in his name. After Richard Cretella’s passing in October 2022, Mars and her daughters had a need for the trust to fund something for the College and the College had a need for new tennis courts. This was perfect, as Cretella was an avid tennis player, passing his knowledge and love for the game on to his children and his sister.

Male and female tennis players high fiving during open play
Members of the women’s and men’s tennis teams enjoyed open play on the day of the Dedication.
Melina Stavropoulos smiling in front of sign on court named after her
Donors Crysoula Dosiou Pʼ22 and Andreas Stavropoulos Pʼ22 named a court after their daughter Melina Stavropoulos ʼ22, pictured.
“To me, it’s very fitting that a tennis center should be named for him because he would be one of the first ones to be pleased that that was what the money was used for,” Mars said. “The tennis courts needed to be moved and they needed to be where the sports center, the old one, is and a new one will hopefully be built.”

Upon seeing the courts for the first time, Mars said, “It’s wonderful, beautiful, impressive. How many settings do you get like this for tennis?”

The teams and coaches are celebrating the new courts, too.

“It’s the best facility by far I’ve ever had the opportunity to work on in my 26 years,” women’s head coach Marty Perry said. “From day one, the team is playing better. It’s a huge help to the success of the programs and for recruiting.”

“The first day we practiced on the courts, our coach [Perry] was saying we were a different team,” Macey Dowd ’25, a member of the women’s team, said. “They’re a good source for recruiting.”

“It’s a big step up from the old courts,” men’s team member Jay Wong ’24 added. “We’ve had a breakthrough and this gives us bigger potential to recruit and to host tournaments.”

Members of both teams said the new courts will provide a much better spectator experience and give the coaches better access to the players during practice.

“It’s my last year and I’m going to enjoy every moment of it,” Benjamin Almquist ’24, a member of the men’s tennis team, said. “It’s beautiful. It really enhances the practice and match experience.”

As the Walker Field House shows its age, the new tennis courts, according to President Bradley, are “our first, and most recent step, toward strengthening the vision for Vassar Athletics broadly.

“Having those courts really starts us on our way to the larger replacement that we need,” Bradley continued. “So, so much more to look forward to in the program.” —Heather Mattioli

Updating Vassar’s sports and recreation center and programs is a key component of the Fearlessly Consequential campaign. Learn more about the campaign and the College’s greatest needs by visiting: campaign.vassar.edu.
All photos, Kelly Marsh

Vassar Celebrates 100 Years of Alumnae House

Vassar Celebrates 100 Years of Alumnae House

his coming year marks 100 years since the opening of Alumnae House, when Blanche Ferry Hooker, class of 1894, and Queene Ferry Coonley, class of 1896, made a historic $300,000 gift to the College, establishing a home for AAVC and a place to celebrate “the work of the mind” that is the “principal bond in alumnal relations.” In the century since, Alumnae House has become a hub for maintaining our bond as alums, and it remains a forever home for every alum looking to revisit their Vassar days, celebrate life milestones, and give back to the intellectual life of the college and alum community through their participation. We welcome you back and ask you to reflect on what AH@100 means to you as you peruse this special issue of VQ.

To mark 100 years since its opening, we’re planning several special events. The campus and alum community will come together to re-dedicate Alumnae House and inaugurate its second century on April 4, 2024. Alums also will celebrate the Centennial during Reunion 2024. We’ll look back on its history—as a guest house, an intellectual venue, a wedding venue, a pub, a quarantine zone, and as the home of the AAVC. Most importantly, we’ll come together to discuss and imagine the future we want to create in the spaces where we gather and dwell, as an ever-changing and widely expansive, smart, critical, creative, and compassionate body of alums. 

With this in mind, I also want to take a moment to pause and reflect on the meaning of this historic anniversary. Looking back to 1924 means thinking about the era of women’s suffrage, the exclusionary 1924 Immigration Act, the post-influenza-pandemic decade, a time when gender, civil rights, and what it means to be American were being reshaped. It was at once an era of progress and regression. A 100-year milestone should always be a reminder that there remains work to be done in the world and that we need one another more than ever. 

Older photograph of three quarter view of Vassar from down the road
Celebrating Alumnae House must also mean acknowledging how our community continues to be enriched by the College’s leadership in and commitment to expanding access to the liberal arts and higher education. By celebrating Alumnae House, we also celebrate the vibrance and diversity of the nearly 42,000 living alums who continue to inspire us—we rely on them, learn from them, and form bonds with them. I ask you to imagine what revolutionary leaders in culture, politics, science, and arts we might hold dear as part of our community in this coming century, with its existential challenges, as we face a planet in continued flux. 
Headshot of James Estrada with arms crossed and smiling
James Estrada ’13 is Guest Editor of this special section, Chair of the Alumnae House Committee, and an AAVC Board Director.
Anyone who has set foot in Alumnae House knows it is a place of deep care, a place of welcoming with a tradition of hospitality on Vassar’s campus. Being at Alumnae House and appreciating its character is also a reminder of the important role of gift giving, and the contributions of alums whose donations of fine art, furnishings, china, linens, and decor brought Alumnae House the name “House of a Thousand Treasures.” We see this tradition continue in campaigns like Fearlessly Consequential: A Campaign for Our Collective Future, in major groundbreaking gifts dedicated to mental health and financial aid, and in the millions of dollars of individual contributions made thus far. 

I also see this tradition of giving back to one another come to life every year during Sophomore Career Connections, when the rooms of Alumnae House are filled with alums who come back to talk to students about what they’ve done in the worlds of the arts, the sciences, law, social change, education, business, and other sectors. 

By next summer, Alumnae House will have new neighbors, the Vassar Institute for Liberal Arts and the Heartwood Inn, along with a gorgeous winding landscape that welcomes Vassar, Poughkeepsie, and the world to our beloved Tudor Castle on the hill. I wonder what first-year students might think of Alumnae House when they visit for their first taste of a Vassar Devil on some sweltering August orientation afternoon in 2061. —James Estrada ’13

Vassar Archives and Special Collections / Courtesy of the subject

Laying the Groundwork

By Heather Mattioli
The foundation of the Alumnae House rises from “Rock Lot.”

Vassar Archives and Special Collections

Atop the hill once known as “Rock Lot” next to the Vassar campus sits the Tudor-style manor known as Alumnae House. Over its 100-year history, the House—for alums and created by alums— has welcomed guests from around the world and hosted alum, community, and student events. The House has also served as a home base for Vassar graduates needing a cozy place to stay and as headquarters for the Alumnae/i Association of Vassar College, better known as the AAVC (originally the Associate Alumnae), whose mission is to connect alums with one another spanning the decades and the globe.

In 1914, sisters Blanche Ferry Hooker, class of 1894, and Queene Ferry Coonley, class of 1896, dedicated supporters of the College, met with then-Vassar President James Monroe Taylor to discuss a place where alums could come together, pledging $300,000 in funding to bring their vision to fruition.

The original plan for the house, according to the August 1924 issue of the Quarterly, was to satisfy the demand for continuing education at Vassar. “It has always been the hope of the donors of the House and of the directors of the Associate Alumnae that Alumnae House would be more than merely a club where returning alumnae might be sheltered,” wrote Harriet Sawyer. “The beauty of detail throughout the House has been designed with an educational purpose, and the idea underlying all the life in the house is educational. It is the hope of all concerned that Alumnae House may be the scene of stimulating conferences and inspiring courses of study, where alumnae from all parts of the country may meet, confer, and discuss.”

The idea of constructing a building would get closer to reality in 1915, when Henry Noble MacCracken became Vassar’s new president, but goals for the project would change to developing faculty housing with a wing for alums. The hope was that the building would be completed in time for the Associate Alumnae’s 50th anniversary in June 1921, but plans had to be put on hold because of World War I and its aftermath. Due to wartime shortages and the post-war economy, plans for the building would continue to change. In the end, the decision was made to build two separate buildings, one for alums and a second for women faculty members (Williams House), thus significantly increasing the price of the project.

Old school portrait of Queene Ferry Coonley, class of 1896
Old school portrait of Blanche Ferry Hooker, class of 1894
Sisters Queene Ferry Coonley, class of 1896, and Blanche Ferry Hooker, class of 1894, dedicated supporters of the College, provided initial funding for the construction of Alumnae House.

Vassar Archives and Special Collections

The prices of labor and building materials were on the rise. Instead of housing 17 as originally planned, Alumnae House would need to host 65 people, and, since it would be devoted solely to alum interests, funds were also needed for the maintenance of the House. Hooker and Coonley increased the amount of their already generous gift to make up the difference, and the Associate Alumnae covered the remaining costs. As the College had supplied the land upon which the building stood, it also offered to help cover some fixed expenses for the first three years. With funds sufficiently secured, the Associate Alumnae took full financial and administrative responsibility for Alumnae House. Vassar broke ground for the new building in June of 1921.

According to The Campus Guide: Vassar College by architecture professors Karen Van Lengen ’73 and Lisa Reilly ’78, the donors had chosen architects Richard and Joseph Howland Hunt to design and construct the house in a half-timbered Tudor style typical of Vassar buildings from this period. The design for the original landscape was by the Olmstead brothers—sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, who co-designed Central Park. “Their careful shaping of the rocky hill in front of the house gave the building a sense of place overlooking the college grounds while also buffering it from the noise of Raymond Avenue,” the guide declared.

On the rainy afternoon of June 8, 1924, nine years after the idea’s inception, Alumnae House would be officially dedicated and blessed. [Read more about the medieval-style ceremony.]

The House started to come to life. Faculty members, including Margaret Washburn, Laura Wylie, and Lucy Maynard Salmon, held a series of conferences attended by alums, students, and other educators throughout 1924. In its first year, Alumnae House hosted 2,250 guests, according to The Book of Alumnae House. They included alums and friends, young men who were visiting students, parents, and visitors from other countries, including New Zealand, Sweden, and England.

Today, the house continues to hold the promise of comfort and intellectual engagement. Along with Vassar’s new Institute for the Liberal Arts, being erected just down the hill, the House will form what is being called “West Campus.”

Elizabeth Coonley dressed in medieval dress presented the Scroll of Gifts
Vassar Archives and Special Collections

A Medieval

By Kimberly Schaye
The dramatic ceremony that formally dedicated Alumnae House and all of its treasures to Vassar was one for the ages—the Middle Ages, that is. The year was 1924, but no short skirts were swinging or jazz music playing on Sunday, June 8. Instead, robed figures proceeded grandly to the sound of heraldic trumpets by torchlight.

Like many details of the Alumnae House interior, the dedication ceremony was conceived by Violet Oakley—the artist who created the centerpiece of the living room, The Great Wonder triptych. As with the triptych itself, Oakley worked with Louise Meigs, class of 1891, who headed the Alumnae House Opening Committee and who had commissioned The Great Wonder to honor her deceased Vassar roommate, Hester Oakley Ward, class of 1891, Violet Oakley’s sister.

The ceremony began in the living room with the singing of a Shakespearean house blessing:

Strew good luck,
friends, on every sacred room,
That it may stand till the perpetual doom,
In state as wholesome as in state ’tis fit.
Worthy the owners and the owners it.
Then through an aisle marked off by brightly costumed guards came the procession led by four “Gloria Trumpeters” and two torchbearers who lit the fireplace and the candelabras standing before the closed triptych. A “Chronicler,” Sydney Thompson, class of 1912, read a poem written for the occasion by Carolyn Wilson Link, class of 1917. Adelaide Hooker, class of 1925 and daughter of major Alumnae House donor Blanche Ferry Hooker, class of 1894, placed the decorative Deed of Gift for the House at the feet of a berobed President Henry Noble MacCracken. Elizabeth Coonley, class of 1924, the daughter of the other major donor, Queene Ferry Coonley, class of 1896, presented the Scroll of Gifts. Finally, Louise Meigs’s daughter Hester Oakley Meigs, class of 1927, presented two keys—one symbolic of the outer door of the House and another that she used to unlock the closed triptych.

As Violet Oakley described it in a letter she wrote shortly after the occasion, “Little Hester … reached up and unlocked the great, gold Doors—unfolding them reverently, and stepping down and back with her arms still unconsciously outstretched—coming to Earth, as it were, as a bird quietly descends.”

The audience gasped.

The ceremony concluded with a dedication song written by Elizabeth Coonley and Adelaide Hooker:

This day have fires been lighted
That never burned before.
And halls are thronged to-day that shall
Be silent nevermore.
Then come, good people, gather ye,
And dedicate this house to be,
For shelter and for unity,
From now for ever more.
The writer covering the event for the Vassar Alumnae Magazine found herself somewhat at a loss to capture it all, writing, “The spirit that has gone into the building and equipment of Alumnae House was so perfectly and so beautifully expressed in the dedication ceremony … that those of us who were present find ourselves longing for some way of reproducing that ceremony in its entirety—music, color, design, and words—for the sake of the many who could not attend. That is impossible.” In other words, you just had to be there!

 House of
A Thousand Treasures

By Kimberly Schaye
The Great Wonder: A Vision of the Apocalypse by Violet Oakley
Violet Oakley’s famous triptych, The Great Wonder, the focal point of the living room.

house is not a home until it is furnished. Well aware of this, the two sisters who provided the funds to begin construction on Alumnae House put out the call to fellow alumnae for help outfitting the new building. And help they did: Gifts large and small began pouring in, ranging from grand items to small necessities. This began a tradition of gifting items and funds to the House that continues to this day. In fact, the vast majority of furnishings and artwork that have graced Alumnae House over time have been donated or purchased by alums, not the College.

Alums donated trees and other plant materials for the grounds. They sent books they had written for the Alumnae House Library. Queen Ferry Coonley, one of the original benefactors, provided curtains and weaving for eight bedrooms.

Two silver vases and a dress belonging to Princess Ōyama (Sutematsu Yamakawa), class of 1892, were displayed in a room dedicated in her memory by the class. A watercolor of Matthew Vassar’s brewery, originally displayed in the pub, is a gift of Martha H. MacLeish, class of 1878; it was painted by her daughter, Ishbel, class of 1920. As part of the house’s 75th anniversary celebration in 1999, Martha Lingua-Wheless ’78 coordinated an Anniversary Quilt with over a dozen alums, which is still displayed on the second floor. And the list goes on!

The most iconic gift to the House, of course, is The Great Wonder: A Vision of the Apocalypse by Violet Oakley, a triptych painted by an artist personally connected to Vassar that was unveiled amidst great fanfare at the house’s formal dedication on June 8, 1924.

The Great Wonder and Great Influence of Violet Oakley

The triptych grew out of a visit made by alum Louise Meigs, class of 1891, to the studio of Violet Oakley—then America’s only successful woman mural painter. Meigs, the former roommate of Oakley’s late sister, Hester Oakley Ward, sought to commission a work for the College that would “express a noble idea of womanhood and be an inspiration to everyone who came [there]”; she was captivated by studies Oakley had made related to a passage from the Book of Revelation known as “The Woman Clothed with the Sun.” The passage describes a vision of the apostle John, who sees “a great and wondrous sign” appearing in heaven: “a woman clothed with the sun” who lifts the child she has just borne up to God, saving him from an evil dragon below. The triptych eventually was designated as a gift to Alumnae House from the class of 1891 as a memorial to Hester, who had died of scarlet fever in 1905.

In a pamphlet handed out at the dedication ceremony, Oakley explained the message of empowerment she wanted women to take from the artwork’s central image:

In the triptych The Great Wonder … the central [composition] unveils the high idea of Woman and the offspring of her own labours. … May it serve to lift up Every-Woman who contemplates it with inner vision and ponders its message with profound judgement; nerving her to bring to light—without fear—the child of her inmost yearning …; letting it be caught up from her own strong hands to even higher planes of truth …
Oakley had a great influence on the look of the House, including designing the images on the ceiling, which former students painted.
But Oakley’s vision for Alumnae House did not stop with the massive artwork that still serves as the living room’s focal point; she created an entire setting for the triptych, from the Italian Trecento-style furniture that surrounded it to the hand-painted, beamed ceiling above it—finished at noon on the day before the house was dedicated. With funds from the Alumnae House Furnishing Committee, Oakley went on a European shopping spree—buying three carved choir stalls in England, an iron lectern in Spain, and a set of candlesticks in Italy, among other items.

Oakley’s original furnishings can still be found throughout the house. However, much of it has been moved to other rooms, as successive house decorators prioritized creature comfort over artistic statement.

Pub Murals by Anne Cleveland

Also still visible on two floors of Alumnae House are a series of murals illustrator Anne Cleveland ’37 painted for the house’s Pub in 1946. Depicting scenes of Vassar life with wit and whimsy, Cleveland’s art is as down to earth as Oakley’s is lofty. In perhaps the best loved of these, grinning students in the Daisy Chain file past frowning graduates, who clearly don’t want to leave their beloved alma mater.

As they were being painted, Liz DeLong ’47 offered a perfect tongue-in-cheek description in the June 5, 1946, issue of the

Two walls preserve for posterity and the anthropologists the unique posture of the female student at study. … On the other end of the wall, the secret, “behind the door” habits of bookworms are revealed to the public eye. The cross-legged style, upheld by the trustworthy floor, is the current vogue, with the “keep-your feet-above-your-head-so-the-blood-will-stay-in-your cerebrum” theory as a close second.
Mural by Anne Cleveland of female figures going in different directions
One of the most beloved of Anne Cleveland’s murals graces the Pub walls.
As finals approach, these poses can still be observed on campus!

Restoration and Modernization

More recently, gifts have taken care of enhancements to the building. In 1972, the classes of 1907 and 1912 provided seed money to install the first electric elevator. In 1999, a group of alums known as the Triptych Society contributed gifts of $10,000 or greater toward the $5 million renovation of Alumnae House, which included central air conditioning and ADA compliance. Most recently two sisters—one an alum and the other a Vassar parent—donated funds to renovate and update all 13 private guest rooms in Alumnae House. [See here.]

These gifts all help to maintain the feeling so many have when visiting: that Alumnae House truly is a home away from home.

Karl Rabe / Philadelphia Museum of Art / John Abbott

A House Full of Life!

By Elizabeth Randolph
There’s the bricks-and-mortar story of Alumnae House—and then there’s the life fostered within: bonds made and strengthened over burgers at the Pub; during overnight stays in the House’s comfy guest rooms; at memorable senior class celebrations; by way of intellectually stimulating lectures and panels; and through celebrations—marriages and other ceremonies—honoring transitions in life.
Older photo of three woman in the pub
Two students in sitting in wood booth at the pub
Michael Kimmel ’72 and Rachel Simmons ’96 sitting together in mid conversation
Socializing in the pub throughout the ages. Directly above: Michael Kimmel ’72 and Rachel Simmons ’96 discuss the emerging crisis of teen mental health as part of the From the Pub series in 2013.

John Abbott / Evan Abramson ’00

The Pub

In 1937, the private dining room adjacent to the main dining room became a sandwich shop—it was an attempt to generate revenue within the space—but it would transition to a full-service restaurant, The Pub, in 1939. With its cozy booths and tasty food, it quickly became a beloved hangout for students, employees, and members of the local community.

In the March 1950 issue of the Vassar Quarterly, Eloise Sydenstricker Morton ’50, who worked as a cashier in the establishment while a student, reflected that, at its inception, “Nobody dreamed how much it would supplement and at times replace the formal dining room service. Nobody suspected that 300 starving souls might appear for a Sunday breakfast, or that 100 faculty and townspeople would be served luncheon every day, indoors and out, or that 10 dozen hamburgers could be ordered and grilled in a single evening. Nobody realized how students would take the Pub to their hearts and call it their own.”

Although the establishment had to cease operations as a full-service restaurant in 2009, it remains a gathering place for members of the Vassar community, hosting catered meetings, holiday celebrations, and other happenings, such as monthly Faculty Pub Nights—a chance for educators to relax and compare notes while enjoying drinks and nibbles. The Pub was even used as a location for taping the series From the Pub, which featured alums conversing on a variety of timely topics.

Vintage photo of students socializing in the pub


The House is a popular place for weddings. Martha Gouse Barry ’86, who has managed Alumnae House operations since 2007, says, “We average about five weddings a year—that’s 70 weddings in my time!” Alums and community members alike often have their rehearsal dinners, receptions, and post-wedding dinners there, as well.

Matt Soper and Samantha Trautman Soper, both ’91, first met as regular patrons of Matthew’s Mug, and became closer in their senior year, when Samantha served as the statistician for the soccer team (Matt was Co-Captain). But it wouldn’t be until Reunion, five years later, that they would recognize their romantic potential. Vassar was so much a part of their story that getting married on campus seemed a no-brainer. They were married in the Chapel 25 years ago and chose to hold the reception and dinner at Alumnae House—a place Matt describes as warm, familiar, and timeless. About 30 alums joined them to celebrate their union—many of their guests stayed overnight at the inn.

The House provided a place of solace for Keith St. John ’81 and his husband Bill Garber when they married 15 years ago, three years before same-sex marriage would be legalized in New York. There were a lot of challenges to overcome. The Episcopal Diocese of Albany, where they live, didn’t allow same-sex marriages on its property or allow its clergy to perform the service. They traveled across the border to Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage was legal and recognized by New York to get married legally, then drove to Poughkeepsie the next day to the “much-adored” Alumnae House, located outside of the Albany jurisdiction. St. John says it was the perfect setting for the wedding he wanted. “Aside from being steeped in history and a part of the College and campus I had grown to love during my years at Vassar,” he says, “I was attracted to the warmth, beauty, and charm of Alumnae House—it was emblematic of the style and sophistication I had hoped would characterize the entire event.”

Comforting Accommodations in Times of Need

Yes, the Alumnae House has spent most of its existence as an inn, but there have been times when it has offered a bit of solace to those in dire need of housing.

In October 1943, during World War II, Vassar President MacCracken sought permission to house 35 freshmen in Alumnae House, due to an underestimation of the incoming class size. The alumnae association obliged. The House re-opened to regular house guests again in 1945.

Throughout the first phase of the COVID pandemic, Alumnae House served as a place where students who had tested positive were able to isolate until they could return to campus. Aside from having a cushy place to land, students were fed meals and also treated to care packages arranged by local alums and House Manager Martha Barry.

Matt Soper and Samantha Trautman Soper just married standing near railing of balcony
Keith St. John and husband Bill Garber getting married
Alumnae House is a popular place for weddings and receptions. Matt Soper and Samantha Trautman Soper, both ’91, top, got married in the Chapel but hosted guests at a reception and dinner at the House. Keith St. John ’84 and husband Bill Garber exchanged vows there.

Courtesy of the subjetcs

All Things AAVC

The Alumnae Association of Vassar College (AAVC) has had a special relationship with the House—it’s where the executive directors of AAVC have had their offices and where the AAVC staff (now Alumnae/i Engagement) have always worked. Most of the administrative functions of the AAVC were absorbed into the structure of the College after an agreement between the entities in 2010.

Alumnae House has been a home base for AAVC Board functions, too. Each year the AAVC honors outstanding alums, faculty members, and staff who exemplify ideals of service, excellence in their fields, and that certain je ne sais quoi we call the “Vassar spirit.” The Alumnae House Dining Room has often been where the honorees are feted.

The House also provides a comfortable and inviting space for AAVC Board meetings. Brian Farkas ’10, a current Vice President of the AAVC Board, notes the extra special importance the House takes on not only when tackling board business, but also in the “off times” after meetings:

Sherrilyn Ifill surrounded by Sharon Davidson and Steve Hankins receiving the 2019 Spirit of Vassar Award
Previous class diners in mid conversation at a dinner in the dining room
From top: In the Alumnae House dining room, Sherrilyn Ifill ’84 received the 2019 Spirit of Vassar Award from Sharon Davidson Chang ’84, P’19, and Steve Hankins ’85, P’13, ’17. The nostalgia-inspiring dining room often hosts dinners for landmark classes during Reunion.

Karl Rabe

The best part of the board meetings comes around 10:00 p.m. After dinner is done, the Vassar administrators head home. Twenty spirited alums, spanning seven decades, are left all alone. Where do these nerdy Vassar people go? The library, of course! The Alumnae House Library is a small, elegant, Victorian, wood-paneled gem hidden away in the back of the House. Its hodgepodge of furniture includes soft couches and stiff chairs, all of it probably manufactured sometime between 1861 and 1961. The bookshelves are lined with a century of Vassarions on the left and 1980s trash-fiction on the right. For no particular reason, there are a few dozen copies of National Geographic on the top shelf. None of the lamps match, though no one seems to notice. There are nights the board stays there until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. discussing just about everything, assisted by wine and M&Ms. We talk about our Vassar friend groups, our families, and our careers. We also talk about our dreams for the College. Where can we lead this place over its next century? Where will it lead us? These conversations unfold under a portrait of Henry Noble MacCracken, Vassar’s fifth and longest-serving president, and among the most ambitious in our history. There’s something very Vassar about it all. The Alumnae House Library is a metaphor for Vassar itself—tiny and enormous, safe and subversive, curated and random, totally sheltered and Fearlessly Consequential.


Graduating doesn’t mean alums need to miss out on spending time at Alumnae House. During Reunion weekends, Alumnae House holds a special treat for members of Vassar’s “vintage” classes, who stay and dine at the House.

Community Events

The Alumnae House often hosts catered events organized by members of the local community. Alumnae House Manager Martha Barry says, “We probably do one or two bar and bat mitzvahs per year, numerous bridal and baby showers, engagement and anniversary parties, baby christenings, memorial services, receptions, and holiday parties for the public.” There are also regular occasion spaces for such events as the Vassar Haiti Project, Poughkeepsie Yacht Club fund-raisers, and Murder Mystery Dinners.
Groups of students enjoying champagne
Old black and white photograph of students smiling and laughing outside the doors
Archives and Special Collections
Close up of vanilla ice cream and chocolate cake or brownie desert
Revelry throughout the ages, including a recent Senior Reception, top. Students are first introduced to Alumnae House during Orientation, when they are encouraged to get a taste of their first Vassar Devil!

Logan Walker ‘27

student engagement

First-year students begin to get acquainted with the House as early as Orientation, when the College issues a “Traditions Checklist.” Students experience and “check off” Vassar traditions such as Convocation and Primal Scream for a chance to win prizes. One tradition involves a visit to the House, where students get their first chance to taste the College’s famous dessert—the Vassar Devil!

Since 2008, seniors have marked 100 nights before graduation with a party at Alumnae House bearing that name—100 Nights. There’s something about being close to the finish line that encourages revelry. Even closer to graduation, during Senior Week, students have traditionally gathered at Alumnae House for their Senior Receptions to celebrate the upcoming milestone. Who remembers posing for their senior class picture on those Vassar-famous steps?

Between their first year at the College and the last, students get the opportunity to visit the House for all manner of receptions, recitals, lectures, workshops, and panels.

Three students taking a selfie at a 100 nights party
Students celebrate the run up to graduation at a 100 Nights party. Below: During Senior Receptions, graduating classes have traditionally posed for group shots on the Alumnae House steps!

Karl Rabe

Students gathered outside alumnae house with Class of 2017 green banner


By Elizabeth Randolph
Sally Dayton Clement ’71, P’09 sits in one of the rooms renovated thanks to a joint donation by her and her sister
Sally Dayton Clement ’71, P’09 sits in one of the rooms renovated thanks to a joint donation by her and her sister, Elly Dayton Grace P’03.
It brings to mind the symmetry of bookends that two sisters—Blanche Ferry Hooker, class of 1894, and Queene Ferry Coonley, class of 1896—gifted funds to build Alumnae House. Now, a century after its dedication, two other sisters have made a significant gift to renovate all 13 private rooms at the House, ensuring it will remain a comfortable, attractive, and welcoming home for alums and other guests to come.

Sally Dayton Clement ’71, P’09, a clinical social worker and psychoanalyst based in New York City and Millbrook, NY, and Ellen “Elly” Dayton Grace P’03, a multidisciplinary artist who resides in Minneapolis, MN, come from a long line of generous citizens invested in supporting their communities.

Their mother, Mary Lee Lowe Dayton ’46, had been active in civic affairs and the feminist movement and worked to support such women’s organizations as Planned Parenthood. She established a fund now known as the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, which focuses on community-based programs that “ensure safety, opportunity, and pathways to economic security for women, girls, gender-expansive people, and families across Minnesota.”

Their father, Wallace C. Dayton, had been keenly interested in environmental conservation; he led and supported such organizations as The Nature Conservancy and the National Audubon Society.


The philanthropic tradition really inspires me, and I’m sure Elly, also. Our parents had a model for being involved in organizations they cared about both in terms of money and time.
Vassar had made an indelible impression on Mary Lee, and she gave back in many ways, including serving as a trustee from 1993–1997. Alumnae House also had a special place in her heart. She, along with 35 other students, lived in there as first-year students due to a housing shortage on campus during WWII.

In the early 2000s, Sally, then a new Vassar Trustee, told Mary Lee the College had raised most of the money to renovate Alumnae House, but was still looking for funds to install air conditioning. Mary Lee asked, “Why aren’t they asking us for money?” She thought those who had adopted Alumnae House as their dorm for one “cozy” year would be happy to support the renovation of the building. She certainly stepped up, donating the funds to make the house a comfortable place to stay year-round.

In a tribute published in VQ after Mary Lee’s death, her Alumnae House roommate, Katherine Winton Evans ’46, noted that Mary Lee—whom the Minneapolis Star Tribune had dubbed “a civic lioness”—had also funded a renovation of the Wimpfheimer Nursery School, where she’d spent a good deal of time as a child study major (Mary Lee later worked as a kindergarten teacher). But Katherine noted that Alumnae House would remain one of Mary Lee’s “favorite cubs.”

The tradition of giving continues with the sisters. When asked what their mother would say if she were alive, Sally says, “She would be very happy to see that Elly and I are giving a gift to a place as meaningful to her as Alumnae House. The philanthropic tradition really inspires me, and I’m sure Elly, also. Our parents had a model for being involved in organizations they cared about both in terms of money and time.”

Elly Dayton Grace selfie
The late Mary Lee Lowe Dayton, the late Nicky Benz Carpenter and Barbara Manfrey Vogelstein pose for a picture at a campaign celebration in Minneapolis
Elly Dayton Grace P’03, above left. Above, right: Their mother, the late Mary Lee Lowe Dayton ’46, an avid supporter of the College, left, at a campaign celebration in Minneapolis. She is shown with the late Nicky Benz Carpenter ’57 and Barbara Manfrey Vogelstein ’76.
In addition to her joint gift, Sally has spent plenty of hours in volunteer roles at the College—she served an unusual 12 years as a trustee, after having served three years as a “Young Trustee,” a short-lived designation in the 1970s. (Her son Winston Clement ’09, following in her footsteps, now serves as a trustee.) Sally is currently Co-Chair of the Pyramid Society, a group of former trustees that continues to support the College and each other in innumerable ways. Those experiences have definitely kept her more connected and engaged with Vassar, she says.

It doesn’t hurt that she owes a debt of gratitude to Vassar for helping her meet her husband, Stephen. “My classmate Margot [Clement Clark] invited me home to Buffalo Easter weekend freshman year because she felt sorry for me. I had no place to go that long holiday weekend,” says Sally, who hails from Minnesota. “It was then I met her big brother.”

For her part, Elly says, “It’s kind of sweet that I get to combine this gift with my sister.” Though she is not an alum, she has seen how Vassar has benefited her daughter Katy Sturgis ’03. “My daughter has so many good memories of Vassar. She still has very close ties to the friends she made there, strong connections,” she says. “So it definitely inspires me to support the school.”

As Vassar’s new Inn is constructed down the hill, a stone’s throw from the House, Sally is convinced that the venerable building will remain relevant for those who call Vassar their alma mater. “Alumnae House is a reflection of Vassar’s history and longevity. It’s an old-fashioned building that is beautiful and charming,” she says. “That reflects the College’s roots. And the two buildings side-by-side really show Vassar is anchored in the present, too.”

Beyond Vassar
Elisabeth Bentley and Cannon Hersey with Koko Kondo
In Hiroshima, Elisabeth Bentley and Cannon Hersey met with Koko Kondo, who was a baby when Hiroshima was decimated. She is the daughter of Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto, one of the survivors John Hersey interviewed for his groundbreaking New Yorker article.

Courtesy of the subjects

Alums bring John Hersey’s Hiroshima to the Big Screen

When the U.S. military dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945, the American public was immediately aware that these new weapons were more powerful than any previously used. Days later, headlines focused on the Japanese surrender that marked the long-awaited end to the war and the loss of American lives. But with both the U.S. and Japanese governments carefully controlling access, the full extent of the devastation to these bombed cities was not well understood for almost a year.

John Hersey’s Hiroshima, an account of the experience of six hibakusha, or survivors of the blast, published in the August 31, 1946, issue of The New Yorker, was the first widely available document to tell Americans what really happened on the ground. The piece—which comprised the entire issue of the magazine—described not only the mass casualties that occurred, but the effect on individual civilians, many of whom were severely wounded or developed disabling, sometimes fatal, radiation sickness.

Hersey’s trip to the decimated city seven months after the bombing and the article that grew out of it is now the subject of a new independent feature film—currently in development—conceived by producer and visual artist Cannon Hersey ’99, John Hersey’s grandson. Joining him on the project, which is scheduled to begin shooting next June, are producer Donald Rosenfeld ’85, screenwriter Elisabeth Bentley, who attended Vassar as a freshman, and archivist/operations manager Jason Jhung ’98.

Hiroshima has been called the best piece of journalism in the 20th century, one that would shape perceptions about nuclear proliferation for generations to come,” Cannon Hersey says. The piece made his grandfather, who had already distinguished himself as a war correspondent, a household name.

“He was a witness when everyone else was reluctant [to speak],” Rosenfeld adds. “And he told a bolder story than anyone [had] imagined.”

Jason Jhung selfie
The film’s media resources manager Jason Jhung ’98.

Courtesy of the subject

The sustained control of detailed information about the terrible impact of the bomb, even after the publication of Hiroshima, inspired the working title for the film, What Divides Us.

One challenge facing the filmmakers was Hersey’s approach to journalism and his personal reserve. He didn’t talk about his experience in Hiroshima with this family, and he gave very few interviews. “He chose to let the words on the page speak for themselves,” Cannon Hersey says.

Fortunately, John Hersey’s papers have been archived at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale, providing the filmmakers with a trove of information. It was there that Bentley made a fortuitous discovery, a 230-page unpublished memoir by Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto, a Methodist minister and one of the hibakusha Hersey interviewed.

“While John Hersey wrote himself out of the story, Tanimoto describes his experience [vividly], what he thought, what he saw, and what he felt. He was a unique voice in Japan,” Bentley says. Her treatment focuses on the two weeks Hersey and Tanimoto spent together, using their relationship as a lens through which she tells the larger story.

Research has also offered new insight into the role of Hersey’s wife, Francis Ann Cannon, who was not only an intellectual partner to the journalist, but had family connections that helped pave the way for his entrée to Japan.

After the war ended, Tanimoto, already considered suspect by some Japanese for following a Western religion, was criticized by many for speaking out about the horrors he had witnessed. Hersey’s work, though widely acclaimed, was countered by those advancing the official government position: that the bombings were necessary to save additional lives.

Both Cannon Hersey and Rosenfeld view their project as a way of bringing global attention to the ongoing threat of nuclear warfare and the growing movement to end the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Building on their commitment to bringing an international perspective to the issue, the American team is partnering with a Japanese production company on the film.

Oppenheimer told the first part of the story. We’re going to tell the next chapter,” Rosenfeld says, noting that the success of this past summer’s film about the building of the atomic bomb has created an audience that is ready to learn more.

Donald Rosenfeld headshot
Producer Donald Rosenfeld ’85.

Samuel Stuart Photography

What Divides Us is far from Cannon Hersey’s first foray into covering his grandfather’s experience. While balancing his work as an organizer of large-scale international cultural platforms, he has made almost 30 trips to Hiroshima shooting documentaries that have aired on Japanese public television. To manage this footage and the many other resources that have come to light for the current project, Hersey asked Jhung, a former classmate with experience in managing media assets, to help. (The two had played baseball together at Vassar, where Jhung was team captain.)

“There’s a lot of material that still hasn’t been catalogued,” Jhung says. “My focus is on finding the best way to structure information and make it accessible.” He’s also looking forward to sharing media and resources with the Japanese team.

After writing Hiroshima, which was subsequently published as a bestselling book, John Hersey didn’t return to Japan for almost 40 years. In 1985, he added a chapter describing the fates of the six survivors. He would also write an essay about the internment of Japanese-Americans in Manzanar that accompanied a book of photographs taken by Ansel Adams.

“For the rest of his life my grandfather spoke out about racism, the right to vote, and the social issues of his time, including the Vietnam War,” Cannon Hersey says. John Hersey also continued publishing both nonfiction and novels and taught writing at the university level. As a teacher “he was committed to the next generation of storytellers,” says the grandson. “It was not just about his voice, but many voices.” —Nancy Novick

Beyond Vassar
juliany taveras headshot
Courtesy of the subject
Playwright juliany taveras ’16 saw several exciting projects come to fruition in 2023. The second season of the Amazon Original series With Love, on which taveras served as a writer, began streaming in June. And when VQ caught up with the former media studies major in the fall, they were eagerly anticipating the opening of Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, an adaptation of the children’s book by the same name, at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis. The play will eventually travel to the Chicago Children’s Theatre and Rose Theater in Omaha. In fact, taveras has become something of a go-to talent for bringing children’s literature to the stage and screen and is currently adapting the book Julián Is a Mermaid for an animated feature. “It’s just something I’m really drawn to because, as an artist, I’m in conversation with my younger self and thinking about what that child needed, and thinking about what I want to offer back to the world,” they explained. While taveras said they didn’t consciously fit themself into this niche, they remember taking a course on adaptation with their creative writing adviser at Vassar, Adjunct Associate Professor Emerita of English M Mark. “We would look at different work that had been adapted and at this larger idea of how we’re constantly adapting and building off of each other’s work as artists,” they recalled. “I think it’s funny that I’m here doing that in a very direct way!”
Laura Kinter ’13, Executive Director of Awakenings Art, a community studio that provides survivors of sexual violence with trauma-informed, inclusive art-making experiences that encourage healing, was named an Obama Foundation Scholar for 2023–24. The highly competitive program supports rising leaders from around the world in an innovative one-year academic experience. According to the foundation’s site, Kinter “plans to leverage the Scholars program curriculum to work at a systems change level to address the prevalence of sexual assault and aims to foster collective impact by bringing together rape-crisis centers, law firms, therapists, shelters, prevention organizations, and policy advocates to improve the pathway to healing for survivors.” Kinter is considered a rising star in Chicago, IL, NGO leadership. Since she started at Awakenings Art in 2018, she has transitioned the organization from an exhibition space to a restorative center for survivor services offering free art workshops, a cohort program, and more. She is an MBA candidate at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, where she was named a Neubauer Civic Scholar. The scholarship program, which aims to create better business leaders in the social sector, provided a “full ride” for Kinter.
Laura Kinter professional headshot
Ryan Bakerink
Writer MB Caschetta ’88 won a 2023 Memoir Book Prize from Memoir Magazine for A Cheerleader’s Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, a collection of essays she’s written since the 1990s. The book was also the subject of a story in the Advocate, which called it an “enlightening, witty read” and noted that while the topics Caschetta covers can be heavy—her battle with long COVID, her disinheritance by her father, losing friends to AIDS—she often finds moments of humor. “I feel like humor saves me,” she told the magazine.
Deborah Steinberg ’14, Senior Health Policy Attorney at the Legal Action Center, was a finalist for the Excellence in Advocacy Awards presented by Women in Government Relations to honor “everyday advocates who dedicate themselves to representing their issue, cause, or organization in the public policy arena.” Steinberg’s advocacy focus is expanding access to comprehensive and equitable care for substance-use disorder and eliminating discriminatory barriers to treatment.
David B. Allison headshot
Indiana University School of Public Health
David B. Allison ’85, Dean, Distinguished Professor, and Provost Professor at Indiana University–Bloomington School of Public Health was named a 2023 Sigma Xi Fellow. Founded at Cornell University in 1866, Sigma Xi promotes “excellence in scientific investigation and encourages a sense of companionship and cooperation among researchers in all fields of science and engineering” and counts more than 200 winners of the Nobel Prize among its membership. Allison is a staunch advocate for rigor in research methods and the uncompromisingly truthful communication of research findings. He has continually been a principal investigator in NIH-funded grants for more than 25 years and has authored more than 600 scientific publications. His many honors include the National Science Foundation Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (2006). In 2022, he was named a Distinguished Lecturer by Sigma Xi, and received the Hoebel Prize for Creativity (Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior). He received the 2023 Bodil M. Schmidt-Nielsen Distinguished Mentor and Scientist Award, bestowed by the American Physiological Society. Elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2012, he also serves as Co-Chair of the National Academy of Sciences’ Strategic Council for Research Excellence, Integrity, and Trust.
Fiona Shen-Bayh ’11, Assistant Professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, received the 2023 American Political Science Association’s Theodore J. Lowi First Book Award for Undue Process: Persecution and Punishment in Autocratic Courts. The association noted, “This important work on autocratic courts in sub-Saharan Africa during the post-independence era looks at how and why autocrats choose to punish opponents through the judicial process, and the circumstances under which they resort to extrajudicial means.”
Jasmine Brown ’10, a Senior Producer of ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir, and her team won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Live News Program at the 44th Annual News & Documentary Emmys. The awards were presented on September 27 at the Palladium Times Square in New York City. Brown, who previously served as a producer on ABC’s Nightline, is the recipient of numerous other honors including three Edward R. Murrow Awards and a Nieman Fellowship from Harvard University.
Jasmine Brown professional headshot
Nieman Foundation
Hispanic Image magazine cover
Hispanic Image magazine
Finance professional Darys Estrella ’92 was featured on the August 2023 cover of Hispanic Image magazine in a story about realizing the American Dream. In a LinkedIn post, Estrella thanked the magazine for the honor and said, “My goal is to inspire other women to pursue their dreams, to dare to go for more despite fear, to learn to set limits, to invest in themselves and to understand that they are the masters of their own destiny.”
Hallie Ayres ’18, a New York–based researcher and art historian, was chosen as a co-curator of the Shanghai Biennale, which runs through March 31, 2024, at the city’s Power Station of Art Museum. The biennale is one of the most high-profile contemporary art events in Shanghai and the oldest, most established art biennale in China. Ayres serves as Associate Director at e-flux, a web platform that fosters critical discourse in art, architecture, film, and theory, and connects many of the most significant art institutions with audiences around the world through art projects, symposia, and exhibitions. Her writing has been featured in e-flux Criticism and e-flux Journal. She has lectured at the Academy of Fine Arts, Prague, and is a research fellow at the Institute of the Cosmos, where she edited Cosmic Bulletin 2021. Ayers has produced a number of experimental films in the U.S. and Turkey. —Compiled by Kimberly Schaye
Beyond Vassar
Candice Lowe Swift and Himadeep Muppidi, center, listen as designer Aditi Chakraborty explains the pandal she created.
Faculty hosts Candice Lowe Swift and Himadeep Muppidi, center, listen as designer Aditi Chakraborty explains the pandal she created.

Madhabendu Hensh

Gathering of the Vassar Club of South Asia Expands Opportunities for Connection

From Oct 12–15, nine alums, three current students, and two faculty members traveled to Kolkata, India, with the Vassar Club South Asia (VCSA) for a four-day immersive program, “Behind the Scenes of Durga Puja.”

Kolkata’s Durga Puja, an open-air art festival that made the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2021, showcases pandals—elaborate, temporary structures to venerate the goddess Durga. Divides of class, religion, and ethnicity dissolve among crowds visiting pandals scattered across hundreds of Kolkata paras (neighborhoods). The VCSA program proved to be a culturally rich, affordable, intergenerational program, and an open-source model leveraging the Club leadership’s local networks and cultural sites.

Vassar faculty hosts Candice Lowe Swift, Associate Professor of Anthropology, and Himadeep Muppidi, Professor of Political Science, facilitated daily academic modules, conversations with local thought leaders, pandal visits, and culinary experiences.

“As a teacher, it’s like, wow, there’s Zoom, there’s the classroom, and there’s being present,” Muppidi reflected. “You get such a rich sensorial experience; the questions you can raise, and the issues you can talk about, are just so much more complex.”

Academic modules included interactive sessions with Dr. Tapati Guha-Thakurta, author of the dossier that secured Durga Puja’s UNESCO recognition; Debanjan Chakrabarti, Director, British Council East India; Melinda Pavek, U.S. Consul General, Kolkata; Ruby Palchoudhuri, President Emerita, Crafts Council of West Bengal; and a panel of several young artists/designers moderated by Anamika Debnath, Centre Coordinator of the Foundation Program of the National Institute of Fashion Techno-logy, Kolkata.

VCSA collaborated with Sayantan Maitra Boka of massArt, a Kolkata-based NGO, to preview pandals across the city before the main festival began. Pandal designers and neighborhood organizers generously shared insights into design concepts, materials, and themes. Some pandals were completed, while others were still in progress due to the late rains this season, allowing us to see both process and finished product. Our attempt to visit pandals in North Kolkata was thwarted by heavy Puja traffic—an authentic Kolkata experience. Our three-and-a-half-hour bus ride let us connect, reflect on our experiences, and think about urban impacts and the infrastructure challenges Kolkata will face with increased international tourism following UNESCO’s designation—all while we enjoyed some roadside dhaba coffee.

We left Kolkata with more questions than answers, more curiosity than affirmations. Ben Hinerfeld ’92 was visiting India for the first time. “The trip has made the world much larger—but more intimate—for me,” he shared. American Studies major Lavanya Manickam ’25 said, “I’m so grateful to all the people we met who shared Kolkata with us. I’ve been wondering—how can we engage in a practice of cultural exchange that truly respects the care and dedication we have for each other?” —Milena Chilla-Markhoff ’92

Milena Chilla-Markhoff is President of the Class of ’92 and Co-Founder of the Vassar Club of South Asia (@vc_southasia) with Anish Kanoria ’18.
Mixed Media

    A History of Boston
    by Daniel Dain ’93
    Peter E. Randall Publisher, 2023

  • Invasive Plants, Guide to Identification and the Impacts and Control of Common North American Species, 3rd Ed.
    by Sylvan Kaufman ’92 and Wallace Kaufman
    Stackpole Books, 2023
  • The Jazz Masters
    by Peter C. Zimmerman ’80/81
    Peter C. Zimmerman and University Press of Mississippi, 2023
  • Stitching Love and Loss: A Gee’s Bend Quilt
    by Professor Lisa Gail Collins
    University of Washington Press, 2023
  • I Love Russia: Reportage from a Lost Country
    by Elena Kostuychenko, translated by Ilona Yazhbin Chavasse ’00
    Penguin Press US, 2023
  • Radical Play: Revolutionizing Children’s Toys in 1960s and 1970s America
    by Rob Goldberg ’01
    Duke University Press, 2023
  • Single at Heart: The Power, Freedom, and Heart-Filling Joy of Single Life
    by Bella DePaulo ’75
    Apollo Publishers, 2023
  • When Bad Things Happen to Privileged People: Race, Gender, and What Makes a Crisis in America
    by Dara Strolovitch ’92
    University of Chicago Press, 2023
  • The Black Joy Project
    by Kleaver Cruz ’11
    Mariner Books, 2023
  • She Devils at the Door
    by Eliza Smith Brown
    Carnegie Mellon Press, 2023
  • She Devils at the Door book cover
  • More Than We Expected: Five Years With a Remarkable Child
    by James Robinson ’97
    Post Hill Press, 2023
  • More than we expected book cover
  • From Christians to Europeans: Pope Pius II and the Concept of the Modern Western Identity
    By Professor Nancy Bisaha
    Routledge Press, 2023
  • From Christians to Europeans book cover

    My Beloved Life
    by Professor Amitava Kumar
    Knopf, 2024

  • My beloved life book cover
  • The Song of Us
    by Kate Fussner ’09
    Harper Collins, 2023
  • The Disappeared: Stories
    by Andrew Porter ’94
    Knopf, 2023
  • Russian Gothic
    by Aleksandr Skorobogatov, translated by Ilona Yazhbin Chavasse ’00
    Old Street UK, 2023
  • Hello Stranger
    by Katherine (Pannill) Center ’94
    St. Martin’s Press/Macmillan, 2023
  • The Goodwill Mission
    by Pari Forood ’81
    Austin Macauley Publishers, 2023

    Displaced Dolls and Oviducts
    by Marigo Stathis ’87
    Finishing Line Press, 2023


    The Undiscovered Viola d’Amore
    by Paul V. Miller ’98
    Centaur Records, 2023

  • Please send all submissions of new publications to vq@vassar.edu with a high-resolution copy of the cover, if you have one.
Vassar Yesterday

When Oppenheimer Came to Campus

In 1958, the “father of the atomic bomb” spoke on campus. We remember his visit, as well as Jean Tatlock ’35, writer, activist, psychiatrist, and his lover, who were both portrayed in this summer’s blockbuster film.
In 1958, the “father of the atomic bomb,” J. Robert Oppenheimer had a message for the Vassar community: There is more information than ever before, and people must be strategic about learning it. It’s a message Vassar students are still exploring.

In October 1958, about a decade and a half after leading the Los Alamos Laboratory in developing the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project, Oppenheimer came to Vassar. Then the Director of the Institute for Advanced Study, he gave a speech in the Chapel and spent the next day visiting classes and meeting with students, faculty members, and science clubs. He also did an interview with The Miscellany News, telling the student newspaper that education was a “roadmap” to knowledge areas, but also that one should not take it too seriously because the roads are always being torn up.

J. Robert Oppenheimer headshot
J. Robert Oppenheimer

U.S. Department of Energy

The visit happened after the Atomic Energy Commission revoked Oppenheimer’s security clearance in 1954 due to alleged Communist associations. The theoretical physicist now spent his time delivering lectures. He published a book of his talks, spoke at Columbia and Harvard, and, in 1958, before coming to Vassar, spent a month or two giving talks at the Sorbonne in Paris, followed by lecturing in Tel Aviv. “Oppenheimer was carving out a new role for himself,” Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin wrote in their 2005 biography American Prometheus, the basis for this summer’s Oppenheimer film. “Once he had been the scientific insider; now he was becoming a distant but charismatic intellectual outsider.”

So when Oppenheimer arrived in Poughkeepsie, the Vassar community must have been eager to hear his thoughts. In his speech, “Knowledge and the Structure of Culture,” he focused on the expansion in human knowledge. “Today it can hardly be doubted that every 10 years or so we know twice as much as we did 10 years before,” he told the audience. Information did not go to everyone or to individuals, but instead to communities of specialists “who are in charge of that particular adventure,” he said. A person can’t know everything and instead must “ignore a great deal which, as an organism, we are perfectly capable of knowing,” he continued, “blotting out a great part of the truth in order that some truth may be perceived.”

He concluded by saying that in uncertain times, science provides order. “In this vast world, with its unceasing change and its immense novelty, without precedent, beyond easy comprehension,” he said, “there are present for us these beautiful, simple, always growing perspectives of order, more than ever before in man’s history.” He received a standing ovation.

Memories of the lecture would remain with students for decades. Katie Webb Johnson ’62, who was just weeks into her freshman year, didn’t know much about Oppenheimer ahead of the talk. “I remember being extremely impressed by him as a speaker,” she says. “But I was struggling to keep up because I was not well versed in those things.” She recalls others in the audience having stronger thoughts about the speaker, given the security-clearance controversy, which even the Misc. alluded to in the lead-up to the lecture. “There was a significant emotional aura, cloud, around his speech,” Johnson remembered—many students in the audience “had opinions.”

Off campus, alums debated the merits of inviting Oppenheimer, too. Writing to VQ, a 1928 alum questioned why Vassar would invite such a poor security risk. “Is loyalty to country in poor repute at Vassar these days?” she asked.

Associate Professor of Physics and Science, Technology, and Society José Perillán, who directs the STS program, has incorporated Oppenheimer’s lecture into a class. He typically has students analyze a 1959 essay by philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn, and this fall he added the Oppenheimer talk, “putting them into conversation,” he says. “It’s just a fascinating point/counterpoint of a historian of science who was trained as a scientist, and this great scientist, Oppenheimer, who’s reflecting on knowledge and the creation of knowledge and our modern scientific enterprise.”

Jean Tatlock headshot
Alum Jean Tatlock met Oppenheimer through friends at Berkley, while she was a graduate student and he was a physics professor. By all accounts, theirs was a tumultuous relationship but, according to Oppenheimer, they almost married twice. She is said to have introduced him to Communist Party organizers.

Library of Congress

Perillán believes Vassar held a special and personal meaning for the theoretical physicist. He points to a line Oppenheimer quoted in his speech from the poet John Donne: “’Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone, all just supply, and all relation.” Jean Tatlock ’35, who had been romantically involved with Oppenheimer, is known to have shared Donne’s poetry with him. “He’s giving the talk at her home institution, one of the places she really cared about, and he quotes a poet that she got him interested in,” Perillán says, noting that Tatlock had died more than a decade before Oppenheimer’s speech. “I find it hard to believe that that’s just a coincidence. He was very methodical and very intentional about what he said.”

Tatlock arrived at Vassar after her father, a literary scholar and professor at another institution, had spoken on campus multiple times. As a student, her social justice concerns were in evidence. Writing for the Misc., Tatlock penned an eyewitness account of a labor strike, and made the local news when she and other students wrote a letter in support of people who were marching for food and shelter. A Poughkeepsie Eagle-News editorial said the letter “will doubtless start new comment about radicalism at Vassar.”

As this summer’s film depicts, Oppenheimer and Tatlock’s relationship was complex. They met through friends at Berkley the year after she graduated from Vassar (she was a graduate student and Oppenheimer was a physics professor). She is said to have introduced him to the Communist Party. He later testified that they almost married twice. He instead married Katherine “Kitty” Harrison in 1940, but he and Tatlock, who would go on to become a psychiatrist, continued to meet. They are last known to have seen each other in 1943, an encounter that alarmed U.S. intelligence due to concerns that Oppenheimer might use Tatlock to pass information to the Soviets. 

The following year, Tatlock, who had battled depression throughout her life, was found dead by an apparent suicide, though Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin in their book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer explored other theories, including assassination.

Oppenheimer addressed their relationship during his security hearing a decade later, telling the panel, “She loved this country and its people and its life.” What he didn’t say was that she may have had trouble being happy in her own. —Max Kutner ’11

Max Kutner has written for Newsweek, The Boston Globe, and Smithsonian.

Letter from the President of the AAVC

Monica Vacher headshot
Dear all,
I write to you at a time of unsettlement and sadness around the world and in our community. We have heard from many of you about the gender pay equity lawsuit and about the horrific situation in Israel/Gaza. Please know that we hear you, that the College is responding to both issues in real time, and that the AAVC is here to support you.

Meanwhile, we remain committed to the other work of the AAVC, including, importantly, the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of Alumnae House in 2024.

The AAVC Board House Committee, led by James Estrada ’13, with Vice Chair Alisa Swire ’84, and working closely with Martha Barry ’86, is immersed in extraordinary preparation for this very special occasion. There are plans afoot for several celebrations during 2024, and we so hope each of you will be able to join at least one of them. We have also embarked upon archival research and brainstorming about how best to honor the history of the House, while charting a path forward that reflects the diversity of our present and leads us into the future. Some of you have shared memories and anecdotes of your experiences at Alumnae House, and we welcome all of you to send a quick note with your story to vq@vassar.edu. Alumnae House continues to be the warm and welcoming space that was founded to provide a home to alums returning to campus, and we hope you find occasion to visit or spend the night in the beautifully redone rooms. Even just sitting in the lobby is a transportive experience!

Our other AAVC committees are embarking on their work, whether it be for nominations, career networking, awards, annual fund, or alum engagement of all varieties. Woven through all of our efforts is a core emphasis on diversity and equity, coupled with inclusion and a sense of belonging. Our DEI committee is focused on embedding these principles into the work of the AAVC, at the board level and beyond, and our October meetings began with a workshop on these fundamental issues.

Please reach out with thoughts, reactions, suggestions, or anything else on your mind. I would love to hear from you.

Wishing you a safe and healthy autumn,

Monica Vacher signature
Monica Vachher ’77
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Alumnae House
161 College Avenue, Poughkeepsie, NY 12603
2023–2024 AAVC Board of Directors
  • Monica Vachher ’77, Illinois
    President and AAVC Trustee
  • Brian Farkas ’10, New York
    Vice President and AAVC Trustee
  • Tyrone Forman ’92, Illinois
    Vice President and AAVC Trustee
  • Anne Green ’93, New Jersey
    Nominating and Governance Committee Chair
  • Katrine “Cage” Ames ’69, New York
  • Gail Becker ’64, New Jersey
  • Maybelle Taylor Bennett ’70, Washington, DC
  • Alexandria Dempsey ’09, California
    Class Engagement Committee Chair
  • Patrick DeYoung ’18, California
    AAVC Trustee
  • AC Dumlao ’13, New York
  • James Estrada ’13, Michigan
    Alumnae House Committee Chair
  • Justin Hergianto ’04, New York
    Communications Advisory Committee Chair
  • Delia Cheung Hom ’00, Massachusetts
    AAVC Trustee
    Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
    Ad Hoc Committee Chair
  • Peggy Ann Nagae ’73, Oregon
  • Katherine “Kat” Mills Polys ’93, Virginia
    Vassar Fund Committee Chair
  • Amy Pullman ’71, Virginia
    Alumnae/i Recognition Committee Chair
  • Chip Reid ’77, Washington, DC
  • Sheryl Smikle ’81, Georgia
  • Andrew Solum ’89, United Kingdom
    Clubs Committee Chair
  • Keith St. John ’81, New York
  • Alisa Swire ’84, New York
  • Carlos Hernandez Tellez ’14, Brazil
    Career Networking Committee Chair
  • Ellie Winter ’18, Rhode Island
    Student and Young Alumnae/i Engagement
    Ad Hoc Committee Chair
  • Lisa Tessler
    Associate Vice President and
    Executive Director of the AAVC
  • Patricia Lamark
    Program Associate, Alumnae/i Engagement
In Memoriam
Milfred Fierce in 1969 standing in support of Vassar students’ role in the Civil Rights and the National Black Student movements and was a guiding force in the transformative Main Building takeover in.
Milfred Fierce headshot
his summer, shortly after the death of Professor Emeritus Norman Hodges, the first tenured Black professor in History and Africana Studies, the Vassar community lost another influential Africana Studies leader—Professor Emeritus Milfred Fierce. Largely considered the “godfather” of Africana Studies (previously Black Studies), Fierce was the first director of Vassar’s Urban Center for Black Studies, established in 1969. His advocacy was central to Vassar creating a major in Black Studies at Vassar long before peer schools did so. Critical to Professor Fierce’s vision for education in Black Studies was its location in the heart of the Black community in the City of Poughkeepsie. Under Professor Fierce’s direction, the Black Studies program at Vassar became a model for subsequent programs across the country. Fierce was supportive of Vassar students’ role in the Civil Rights and the National Black Student movements and was a guiding force in the transformative Main Building takeover in 1969, which led to Black Studies becoming a major and the integration of Black Studies into the Vassar curriculum.
  • 1936

    Ethel Stacy Aldridge
    April 30, 2017
  • 1936

    Candace Collins Benton
    February 8, 2003
  • 1936

    Violet Salmanowitz Klosty
    July 6, 2015
  • 1942

    Jane Tawney Klassen
    November 10, 2013
  • 1944

    Diana Klemin
    July 24, 2023
  • 1944

    Barbara Bitting Frazer Lowe
    March 28, 2023
  • 1944

    Jean Hamilton Mulford
    October 6, 2019
  • 1944

    Sallie Welsh Van Arsdale
    May 26, 2023
  • 1945-4

    Sarah Raymond Rathvon
    May 21, 2021
  • 1945

    Betty Watkins Blair
    March 4, 2008
  • 1945

    M. Anne Fezandie Goodwin
    January 19, 2023
  • 1945

    Ellen Zinsser Green
    August 15, 2023
  • 1945

    Rhoda Levine Marks
    July 23, 2023
  • 1946

    Nanette Chaitt Barcus
    August 7, 2020
  • 1946

    Nancy Peterson Brewster
    February 17, 2016
  • 1946

    Elizabeth Crapo Klemann
    January 21, 2023
  • 1947

    Mary Fite Black
    May 6, 2023
  • 1947

    Alice Colonna
    April 26, 2023
  • 1947

    Mary Handy Parker
    June 19, 2023
  • 1949

    Joan Hoiness Bouchelle
    August 9, 2023
  • 1949

    Lila Gimprich d’Adolf
    October 27, 2022
  • 1950

    Rita Conger Banning
    April 24, 2023
  • 1950

    Mildred Welch Clough
    July 28, 2023
  • 1950

    Elisabeth Petschek de Picciotto
    August 14, 2023
  • 1950

    Janet Herrick Encinas
    June 20, 2023
  • 1950

    Elizabeth Norris Mace
    August 18, 2023
  • 1950

    Barbara Longfellow Moon
    August 26, 2023
  • 1951

    Margot Courtright
    May 26, 2023
  • 1951

    Carol Schweitzer Goldberg
    July 5, 2023
  • 1951

    Janet Frost Ruslavage
    June 24, 2023
  • 1951

    Laura Munisteri Smith
    April 14, 2014
  • 1952

    Melanie Marquet Burrell
    March 3, 2023
  • 1952

    Carol Cossum
    June 24, 2023
  • 1952

    Elaine Gray Loseff
    September 27, 2022
  • 1952

    Vivian Weyerhaeuser Piasecki
    July 10, 2023
  • 1952

    Elizabeth Wentworth Pierpont
    March 18, 2023
  • 1952

    Sarah Bennett Reichart
    July 12, 2023
  • 1952

    Nancy Clapp Roe
    August 6, 2023
  • 1952

    Mary Bemis Rose
    May 15, 2023
  • 1952

    Anne Braitmayer Webb
    August 6, 2021
  • 1952

    Georgia Elmes Welles
    August 3, 2023
  • 1953

    Maya Bravy Hoffman
    February 21, 2023
  • 1954

    Phoebe Ashley Chardon
    July 31, 2023
  • 1954

    Louise Davidson Heyneman
    May 3, 2023
  • 1954

    Lillian Henderson Miller
    July 15, 2023
  • 1954

    Priscilla Graham Vandemark
    May 15, 2023
  • 1955

    Edyth Knapp Baker
    February 24, 2008
  • 1955

    Elizabeth Hamilton Horn
    March 22, 2023
  • 1955

    Audrey Schwartz Horne
    April 28, 2023
  • 1955

    Diane Kirkpatrick
    July 3, 2023
  • 1955

    Matilda Faulkner Maassen
    July 13, 2023
  • 1955

    Sylvia Klionsky Reichman
    November 12, 2019
  • 1956

    Anne Wittmer Mott
    February 17, 2023
  • 1957

    Joan Grunwald Boros
    December 13, 2022
  • 1957

    Diane Kassel Goodman
    December 12, 2020
  • 1957

    Shirley Mills Lee
    August 22, 2023
  • 1957

    Elizabeth Coale Treadway
    June 5, 2023
  • 1958

    Sheila Mettel Freiman
    May 1, 2023
  • 1958

    Sarah Swinford Kinney
    August 24, 2023
  • 1958

    Donna Buck Wampler
    July 8, 2023
  • 1959

    Bettyann Holtzmann Kevles
    August 18, 2023
  • 1959

    Judith Bourne Newbold
    January 20, 2021
  • 1960

    Martha Nichols Brown
    August 13, 2023
  • 1960

    Gretchen Buckelmueller Mieszkowski
    August 26, 2023
  • 1960

    Whitney Simonds
    June 19, 2023
  • 1961

    Stephany Warick Haines
    March 4, 2023
  • 1962

    Eileen Louise Powers Buchanan
    November 21, 2020
  • 1962

    Emily Trowbridge Noyes
    May 7, 2021
  • 1964

    Karen Bowles Cutright
    August 25, 2023
  • 1964

    Andrea Kende Levy
    June 30, 2023
  • 1967

    Pamela Krusen Meyjes
    August 8, 2023
  • 1971

    Mary Catherine Burke Lybeck
    March 27, 2023
  • 1973

    Nicole Duffee
    June 11, 2023
  • 1973

    Dana Kilbourn Fairbank
    July 13, 2023
  • 1974

    B. Ross Drummond
    September 2, 2007
  • 1974

    Virginia Sarah Magladery
    December 21, 2007
  • 1974

    Angela Renee Misher-Poole
    September 15, 1994
  • 1974

    Bruce S. Tranen
    July 21, 2022
  • 1974

    Raymond J Weisman
    February 3, 2021
  • 1975

    Sheila Cain
    April 14, 2020
  • 1977

    Meghan Fawcett Wise
    April 14, 2023
  • 1978

    Howard B. Green
    July 24, 2023
  • 1979

    Robert C. Hester
    February 5, 2020
  • 1982

    Paula Kartluke Belluardo
    February 9, 2022
  • 1982

    Adele Hars
    July 23, 2023
  • 1983

    Jonathan H. Mann
    August 1, 2023
  • 1989

    Gordon P. Davis
    November 5, 2022
  • 1990

    R. Peter Nessen
    September 14, 2023
  • 1990

    Robert A. Reeves
    May 11, 2022
  • 1993

    Junko Nishimura
    May 30, 2021
  • 1993

    Pamela K. Twining
    July 8, 2023
  • 2000

    Victoria Anne Taylor
    January 1, 2023
  • 2015

    Pamela Hall
    September 4, 2016
  • 2018

    Eric B. Fishman
    May 18, 2023
  • Faculty/ Staff

    Anne Iker Gittleman
    Professor Emerita, French and Francophone Studies
    October 24, 2023
Vassar Archives and Special Collections / Karl Rabe
  • Fisher Island Club, FL, Rental

    Exquisite beachfront condo for rent. 10 minutes to South Beach. 3br/3.5ba, fully equipped with golf cart. Available Apr-Dec.

  • –and–
  • Berkshires Vacation Home

    Beautiful home in Berkshires near NY/MA border. Gorgeous views 2 hours and 15 mins from Manhattan. Quick access to five ski areas. 4br/3.5ba, heated
    pool, jacuzzi, sauna, pond, ping pong, bikes, gym equipment. 7 acres close to Hudson, Lenox, Great Barrington, and Stockbridge. Available Dec-May.

    Gabrielle Shapiro ‘79
  • French Provinces: Rent Our Lovely Rustic Farmhouse in Southwestern France

    Midway between Dordogne and Lot rivers. Quiet picturesque farming village near Figeac and St. Céré; 45 minutes to Sarlat, capital of the Dordogne Valley; 70km to Cahors and its vineyards. Well located for those interested in pre-history, medieval history, gastronomy, hiking and canoeing. For information, contact

    Professor Geoffrey Jehle
    845.437.5210, or visit the web page at http://nadal2.objectis.net
  • Condo Rental, French Quarter

    Situated on a quiet and central block in New Orleans’s Vieux Carre, this cozy historic Creole cottage is perfect for a single or a couple looking to explore all the music, food, art, and culture New Orleans has to offer. Start your morning enjoying your chicory coffee in the interior courtyard and end your night sipping a Sazerac under a gas lamp on the front patio. Channel your inner Anne Rice or Tennessee Williams in this excellent writer’s retreat. Slide the 12-foot-tall wood pocket doors closed and curl up in a queen bed after a long day of jazz, gumbo, and cemetery tours. Walking distance to various streetcar lines and buses. Washer/dryer, internet, gas stove, utilities included.

    Eddie Gamarra ‘94
  • Historic House in Greenport on Long Island’s North Fork

    Charming, historic home in maritime village, 5-minute walk to town, all amenities, transportation (LIRR, Hampton Jitney), 3 br/sleeps 5 (2 queen, 1 full), 2 full ba, outdoor shower, cook’s kitchen, gracious dining room, library/study, 2 working fireplaces. Sunroom leads to porch/deck/pergola with water views of Sterling Harbor, lg private yard. Internet/cable TV, all
    utilities incl. Two-week or monthly: June $12k; July $16k; August $17k; August-Labor Day $18k; September $15k. Other times, please inquire. Photos at vrbo.com (#188841).

    Ellen Schnepel ’73
  • For Sale in Catskill Mountains

    Prime mountaintop land situated in the beautiful Catskill Mountains, minutes from several towns and Ski Windham. May be used for private estate, home development, forestry, hunting, agriculture. Easy access. 139 acres with underground springs, pond, and flowing creek. Call, text, or email.

    Susan Aull ‘81
  • Premed Advising Services

    Judy Levine, Vassar alum and former medical-school Director of Admissions provides private, personal premed advising. If you or someone you love is headed to medical school or is thinking about it, professional counseling may be just what’s needed to make it happen. It can be a one-time credential check or full support through the long application process.

    Judy Kirshen Levine
  • Coaching: Academic Accountability

    Vassar alum with a master’s in psychology from Hunter College, CUNY, offers Academic Accountability Coaching (AAC) for undergraduates. AAC provides a weekly one-to-one check-in. The focus is on study skills and time management. Behavioral strategies for conquering procrastination, test anxiety, and anxiety relief are part of the coaching if the need arises. Most importantly, I seek to help each student find a balance between school and all the other things that undergraduates love to do. I’ve taught psychology for eight years and I know that school can be overwhelming. AAC offers an important support for achieving academic, career, and personal success.

    Leila Gastil
  • Career and Job-Search Counseling

    Vassar alum and experienced career counselor will guide you to a satisfying career path and successful job search. Can meet with you in person in Westchester or NYC, and/or by phone and email. No situation is too difficult!

    Nada Beth Glick, MEd, EdD
    914.381.5992 or 914.646.6404
Last Page

Trapped in Niger

an Enchanted yet Beleagured Land

say this with no umbrage to Vassar: Just months before graduating, I was totally oblivious to the existence of the country to which a Peace Corps recruiter was offering to send me. I high-tailed it to the Thompson Library, ferreted out the atlas section, and saw to my surprise that not only was this the name of an actual country but that it took up a significant swath of territory in the Sahara Desert. Its name? Niger.

Fast forward 46 years, to last July. It was my eleventh visit back to this country since my Peace Corps service; once you’ve made friends in a local language, your tongue aches for you to return. In the interim I had lured a woman there from Martinique to see if she could “hack it.”

Niger is a country that has ranked last on the United Nations Human Development Index longer than any other. Long obscured by poverty and perceived irrelevance, the country shot to the fore of global American consciousness when in 2003 President George W. Bush identified it—falsely, as it turned out—as the provenance of uranium for Saddam Hussein’s phantom program of weapons of mass destruction. But it is true that in the decades since 9/11, Niger has been periodically plagued by terrorism, from the random murders of peaceful villagers to the kidnapping of Western tourists for ransom. Through it all, the Nigérien people—like others throughout West Africa—have remained remarkably vibrant, hopeful, and welcoming. That includes those of Senegal, where in 2012 I visited our then grown-up son and met the Acting Peace Corps Director Pamela Martin. We didn’t know it at the time, but Pam and I had been classmates at Vassar. (Sometimes, it takes a coup d’état to connect with a classmate …)

Bill Miles in front of plants and trees with bucket hat on
Courtesy of the subject
Two days before I was to return to the U.S. last summer, disgruntled senior officers of the Presidential Guard—claiming mismanagement and a flawed antiterrorism strategy—deposed the president and assumed power. In the process, they closed Niger’s land borders and air space. All commercial flights were canceled. The U.S. Embassy advised American citizens to shelter in place. The French Embassy—damaged by pro-coup demonstrators—organized an air evacuation of French nationals. We U.S. citizens (including an American anthropologist with whom I was sharing lodging) were advised to keep sheltering in place. The uncertainty, the restricted movement, the threat of invasion from neighboring Nigeria—all these weighed heavily on my colleague and me.

It felt like a variation of another lockdown that we’d all experienced: the one during the COVID-19 pandemic. The restlessness, the apprehension tinged with boredom. When might I be free to travel? When will it end? Only this time, the cause was not viral but political.

Martinique is part of France the way that Hawaii is part of the U.S., so by virtue of my marriage to a French citizen—the one I had lured to Niger thirty-eight years prior—I managed to secure a seat on one of the evacuation flights from Niamey to Paris operated by the French Air and Space Force. Met at Charles de Gaulle Airport by the French Red Cross and two diplomats from the American Embassy in Paris, I was filled both with relief and regret—relief for my escape, but regret for the compatriot and country I had left behind.

A country where I had brought our ten-year-old son to help resolve an inheritance dispute over the family horse (resulting in our co-authored book, My African Horse Problem, in 2008); a land where I crunched on fried grasshoppers with our sixteen-year-old daughter (the same person who resisted eating sea fish transported a thousand miles overland from the nearest coast). A country I knew not during my four years in Poughkeepsie, but which the Peace Corps seared into my soul—as it has done with dozens, if not scores, of other Vassar alums in other enchanting lands. —Bill Miles ’77

Bill Miles is Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University.
Vassar Celebrates 100 Years of Alumnae House
Stay tuned for news about spring and summer celebrations in honor of the Alumnae House Centennial. In the meantime, share your favorite memories of the House. Did you have a particularly relaxing stay at the inn? Did you get married there? Do you have fond memories of the Pub? Do you remember hanging out on the Alumnae House steps with friends during your Senior Reception?
Send your memories and images!


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