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Coordinates: 41°41′12.72″N 73°53′42.68″W / 41.6868667°N 73.8951889°W / 41.6868667; -73.8951889

Vassar College
Motto "Wisdom"
Established 1861
Type Private coeducational
Endowment $756 million [1]
President Catharine Bond Hill (2006-)
Undergraduates 2,475
Location Poughkeepsie, New York, USA
Campus Urban, suburban, park; 1,250 acres (4 km²)
Colors Maroon[2] and Gray          
Mascot Brewer
Vassar College logotype.png

Vassar College is a private, coeducational, liberal arts college situated in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York, USA. Founded as a women's college in 1861, it became coeducational in 1969.[3] Today, Vassar is ranked as one of the most selective liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report.[4]



Main Building, built in 1861 by renowned architect James Renwick, Jr., was the largest building in the world at the time of its construction.

Originally a women's college, Vassar was the first of the Seven Sisters established from inception as a college for women. It was founded by its namesake, brewer Matthew Vassar, in 1861 in the Hudson Valley, about 70 mi (115 km) north of New York City. The first person appointed to the Vassar faculty was the astronomer Maria Mitchell, in 1865. Vassar adopted coeducation in 1969 after Vassar's trustees declined an offer to move to New Haven and merge with Yale University. However, immediately following World War II, Vassar accepted a very small number of male students on the G.I. Bill. Because Vassar's charter prohibited male matriculants, the graduates were given diplomas via the University of the State of New York. These were reissued under the Vassar title after the school formally became co-ed.[5]

Vassar's campus, also an arboretum,[6] is 1,000 acres (4 km²) marked by period and modern buildings. The great majority of students live on campus. The renovated library has unusually large holdings for a college of its size. It includes special collections of Albert Einstein, Mary McCarthy, and Elizabeth Bishop.

In its early years, Vassar was associated with the social elite of the Protestant establishment. E. Digby Baltzell writes that "upper-class WASP families ... educated their children at ... colleges such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Vassar, and Smith among other elite colleges."[7] Before becoming President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a Trustee.[8]

In recent freshman classes, minority students have comprised up to 27% of matriculants. International students from over 45 countries comprise 8% of the student body. In May 2007, falling in with its commitment to diverse and equitable education, Vassar returned to a need-blind admissions policy wherein students are admitted by their academic and personal qualities, without regard to financial status.

Roughly 2,400 students attend Vassar. About 60% come from public high schools, and 40% come from private schools (both independent and religious). The overall female-to-male ratio is about 60:40, slightly above the standard for a liberal arts college. More than 85% of graduates pursue advanced study within five years of graduation. They are taught by more than 270 faculty members, virtually all of whom hold terminal degrees in their fields.

Vassar president Frances D. Fergusson served for two decades. She retired in the spring of 2006, and was replaced on July 1 by Catharine Bond Hill, former provost at Williams College.

The Miscellany News has been the weekly paper of the college since 1866, making it one of the oldest college weeklies in the United States. It is available for free most Thursdays when school is in session. In 2008-09, it became one of the college newspapers in the country to begin updating its Web site daily.[citation needed]


Rockefeller Hall, built in 1897, is home to the departments of Political Science, Philosophy, and Math.

Vassar confers the A.B. degree in more than 50 majors, including the Independent Major, in which a student may design a major, as well as various interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary fields of study. Students also participate in such programs as the Self-Instructional Language Program (SILP) which offers courses in Hindi, Irish/Gaelic, Korean, Portuguese, Swahili, Swedish, Turkish, and Yiddish. Vassar has a flexible curriculum intended to promote breadth in studies. While each field of study has specific requirements for majors, the only universal requirements for graduation are proficiency in a foreign language, a quantitative course, and a freshman writing course. Students are also strongly encouraged to study abroad, which they typically do during one or two semesters of their junior year. Students (usually juniors) may apply for a year or a semester away either in the U.S. or abroad. Vassar sponsors programs in China, England, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Spain and Russia; students may also join preapproved programs offered by other colleges. Students may also apply for approved programs at various U.S. institutions, including the historically Black colleges and members of the Twelve College Exchange.

All classes are taught by members of the faculty, and there are no graduate students or teachers' assistants. The most popular majors are English, biology, political science, psychology, and economics. Vassar also offers a variety of correlate sequences, or minors, for intensive study in many disciplines.


Barron's has placed Vassar in its "most competitive" category for admissions. It is ranked among the top liberal arts colleges by U.S.News & World Report [9]. The Princeton Review gave Vassar a selectivity rating of 97 out of 100 in its 2006 edition [10] . Vassar was also ranked 19th out of all colleges and universities in the United States in a Forbes ranking, above colleges such as Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, University of Chicago, and University of Pennsylvania.[11] The class of 2013 was the most selective in the college’s history [12]. In 2009 Vassar College was named among the ten best private liberal arts college values in the United States by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. Vassar was prior named the Time Magazine/Princeton Review “College of the Year” in 1999.


Vassar's Thompson Library

Vassar is home to one of the largest undergraduate library collections in the U.S. The library collection today - which actually encompasses eight libraries at Vassar - contains over 1.6 million volumes and 7,500 serial, periodical and newspaper titles, as well as an extensive collection of microfilm and microfiche. Vassar has been a Federal depository library for selected U.S. Government documents since 1943 and currently receives approximately 25% of the titles available through the Federal Depository Program. Since 1988, Vassar has been a New York State Reference Center, part of the New York Depository Program. The library also selectively purchases United Nations documents.[13]


The men's varsity basketball team is among the college's most successful.

Vassar competes in Division III of the NCAA, as a member of the Liberty League.

Vassar College currently offers the following varsity athletics: basketball, baseball, cross-country, fencing, field hockey (women only), golf (women only), lacrosse, rowing, soccer, squash, swimming/diving, tennis, volleyball, track, and rugby. Club sports include Ultimate (Men's and Women's), Equestrian Team (competes in IHSA), Polo Team (USPA), Cycling Team (Competes in ECCC), and Co-ed USFSA Synchronized Skating Team.

Basketball plays in Vassar's new Athletics and Fitness Center. Volleyball plays in Kenyon Hall, reopened in 2006. Soccer, Baseball, Field Hockey and Lacrosse all play at the Prentiss Fields, which have been completely renovated in 2007 to feature a lighted turf, four grass fields, a baseball field and a track surrounding the turf. Also in 2007, a varsity weight room was opened in the basement of Kenyon Hall, exclusively for the training of varsity athletes.

On April of 28th and 29th, the Vassar Cycling Team hosted the Eastern Conference Championships in Collegiate Cycling in Poughkeepsie and New Paltz, NY. The competition included a 98-mile (158 km) road race over the Gunks in New Paltz as well as a Criterium in Poughkeepsie just blocks from the school's campus.

In a controversial move, the Vassar Athletics Department decided to revoke the Varsity status of the Men's and Women's Rowing team on November 5, 2009, choosing instead to investigate the option of a club team [1].


Central tower of the Thompson Memorial Library, built in 1905.

The Vassar campus has several buildings of architectural interest. Main Building,[14][15] formerly housed the entire college, including classrooms, dormitories, museum, library, and dining halls. The building was designed by Smithsonian architect James Renwick Jr. and was completed in 1865. It was preceded on campus by the original observatory. Both buildings are National Historic Landmarks.

Many beautiful old brick buildings are scattered throughout the campus, but there are also several modern and contemporary structures of architectural interest. Ferry House, a student cooperative, was designed by Marcel Breuer in 1951. Noyes House was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen. A good example of an attempt to use passive solar design can be seen in the Mudd Chemistry Building by Perry Dean Rogers. More recently, New Haven architect César Pelli was asked to design the Lehman Loeb Art Center, which was completed in the early 1990s. In 2003, Pelli also worked on the renovation of Main Building Lobby and the conversion of the Avery Hall theater into the $25 million Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film, which preserved the original 1860s facade but was an entirely new structure.

Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

Vassar College was the first college in the United States to be founded with a full-scale museum as part of its original plan. The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center is currently one of the largest college or university museums in the world, with over 18,000 works of art.

The art collection at Vassar dates to the founding of the College, when Matthew Vassar provided an extensive collection of Hudson River School paintings to be displayed in the Main Building. Referred to as the Magoon Collection, it continues to be one of the best in the nation for Hudson River School paintings. The Frances Lehman Loeb Gallery displays a selection of Vassar's 18,000 articles of art in the building designed by Cesar Pelli (see Architecture). Today, the gallery's collection displays art from the ancient world up through contemporary works. The collection includes work by European masters such Brueghel, Doré, Picasso, Balthus, Bacon, Vuillard, Cézanne, Braque and Bonnard, as well as examples from leading twentieth-century American painters Jackson Pollock, Agnes Martin, Mark Rothko, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O'Keeffe, Charles Sheeler, and Ben Shahn. The Loeb's works on paper represent a major collection in the United States, with prints by Rembrandt (including important impressions of the "Hundred Guilder Print" and the "Three Trees") and Dürer as well as photographs by Cindy Sherman, Diane Arbus, and others. Students at the college can act as liaisons between the art center and the wider college community through work on the Student Committee of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, to which incoming freshman can apply.

Extra-curricular organizations

  • The Vassar Student Association (VSA) includes all students as its members, and is headed by the VSA Council. As the legislative body of the student government, the Council certifies and provides funds to all student organizations on campus. The VSA Executive Board oversees the VSA system and advocates on behalf of students. Students elected via the VSA election process take active roles in governance by participating on College committees.
  • The Miscellany News, founded in 1866, is the oldest publication of Vassar College, and one of the oldest college weekly newspapers in the United States. Widely known as 'The Misc' among students, the paper comes out each Thursday. The paper has twice won the coveted Pacemaker Award given by the Columbia University School of Journalism.
  • The Vassar Night Owls, founded in 1942, is the oldest continuing female a cappella group in the US. They arrange, rehearse, perform and record concerts at Vassar, other colleges, the US and abroad. The Night Owls were invited to sing at both of Pres. Clinton’s inaugurations, and have been featured on Comedy Central. Membership is by audition.
  • Matthew's Minstrels, founded in 1978, was Vassar's first co-ed a cappella group. The Minstrels repertoire includes a large variety of songs, including from doo-wop of the 1950s, pop songs from the 80s, and today's chart topping hits. In 1990, Matthew's Mintsrels were featured on MTV's Head of the Charles weekend special.
  • Philaletheis is the oldest theater group on campus, which was founded in 1865 as a literary society. It has now become a completely student run theater group. Others include Unbound, Woodshed, Idlewild (an all-female ensemble), and two Shakespeare-specific troupes. Performances are done all over campus including in the Susan Stein Shiva Theater, which is an all student run black box theater. The college also hosts the Powerhouse Summer Theater workshop series.
  • ViCE (Vassar College Entertainment) books outside entertainers for on-campus performances, with the College Campus Activities staff acting as facilitators. In recent years, ViCE has brought acts like Wyclef Jean, M.I.A., Vampire Weekend, TV on the Radio, Girl Talk, and Broken Social Scene to campus.
  • AirCappella is an all-whistling a cappella group. Since its conception in 2005, AirCappella has played outside the College, having represented Vassar at the 2007 and 2009 International Whistlers Convention in Louisburg, North Carolina. Advil pharmaceutical hired the group to whistle "Eye of the Tiger" at their annual sales meeting in Atlanta in January 2008.[citation needed]
  • Vassar Filmmakers, one of the newest extra-curricular organizations, offers film and video equipment to any film or non-film major with a proposed idea and brings guest lectures by filmmakers such as Eugene Jarecki, Albert Maysles and J.J. Murphy.
  • Vassar Quidditch: Vassar College also boasts a successful quidditch team, the Butterbeer Brewers. Established in 2007, the Brewers won second place at the 2008 US College Quidditch Cup held at Middlebury College. Quidditch practices are open to any member of the Vassar community and often receive a mixture of confusion and admiration from bystanders.

After Vassar

70% of Vassar graduates plan to pursue advanced study within 5 years of graduation. Of the seniors who applied to medical school, 85% were accepted. Of the seniors who applied to law school, 88% were accepted. Vassar offers a database of 3,000 volunteer alumni where students may seek career advice and opportunities.[16]


Davison, one of Vassar's nine residence houses, was renovated during the 2008-2009 school year. The dorm went offline for that year and its residents were absorbed into the college's remaining residence houses.[17] This is the second dorm to be renovated as part of the school's master plan to renovate all dorms, following Jewett a few years earlier. Lathrop is scheduled to be renovated during the 2010-2011 school year.

The interior and exterior of the Van Ingen Art Library was renovated from June 2008 - May 2009 in an effort to restore its original design and appearance. This was the library's first major renovation since its construction in 1937.[18]

The school's bookstore, currently located on campus and operated by Barnes and Noble, will be moved during the 2009-2010 school year to an off-campus location.[19] The expanded bookstore is expected to carry a wider range of merchandise and will serve as a venue for appropriate entertainment. There are also preliminary plans for a new science building. Mudd, the chemistry building, may be demolished to make room for the new construction.[20]

Notable faculty and alumni

Notable Vassar alumni include poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (1917), computer pioneer Grace Hopper (1928), poet Elizabeth Bishop (1934), actress Meryl Streep (1971), actress Lisa Kudrow (1985), actress Anne Hathaway, actor Justin Long, What Not to Wear host Stacy London, Flickr founder Caterina Fake (1991), writer-director Noah Baumbach (1991), and Survivor: Africa winner Ethan Zohn (1996).

Presidents of Vassar College

Name Dates
Milo P. Jewett 1861–1864
John H. Raymond 1864–1878
Samuel L. Caldwell 1878–1885
James Monroe Taylor 1886–1914
Henry Noble MacCracken 1915–1946
Sarah Gibson Blanding 1946–1964
Alan Simpson 1964–1977
Virginia B. Smith 1977–1986
Frances D. Fergusson 1986–2006
Catharine "Cappy" Bond Hill 2006—




  1. ^ "2009 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments". Retrieved 2010-02-09. 
  2. ^ "Vassar College Traditions - Vassar College Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2008-02-15. 
  3. ^ "Vassar Firsts". Retrieved 2006-05-19. 
  4. ^ "Liberal Arts Rankings". 
  5. ^ "Vassar's Vets: Forgotten Grads". Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  6. ^ "Frances Daley Fergusson: Creating a campus that inspires". Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  7. ^ Baltzell, E. Digby (1994). Judgment and Sensibility: Religion and Stratification. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 1-56000-048-1. , p. 8
  8. ^ "Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Local Trustee". Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  9. ^ National Liberal Arts Colleges: Top Schools, US News & World Report, Retrieved July 1, 2009.
  10. ^ The Princeton Review, 2006
  11. ^ "America's Best Colleges". Retrieved 2009-08-11. 
  12. ^ "Vassar welcomes class of 2012,". 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-10. 
  13. ^ "Vassar College Libraries". Retrieved 2007-10-18. 
  14. ^ "National Historic Landmarks Program". Retrieved 2009-06-12. 
  15. ^ "Vassar College Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2009-06-12. 
  16. ^ "Vassar College After Vassar". Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  17. ^ Herts, Julianne (2008-02-28). "Res Life: No singles for sophomores". The Miscellany News. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  18. ^ Farkas, Brian (2008-03-27). "Renovations to make Art Library a work of art, history". The Miscellany News. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  19. ^ Vassar College (2007-12-17). "Vassar College will reinvent and expand its bookstore into a neighborhood business, with a move across from campus to a Raymond Avenue storefront". Press release. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  20. ^ "VSA Council Minutes - February 3, 2008" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-03-28. 

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

VASSAR COLLEGE, a non-sectarian institution for the higher education of women, about 2 m. E. of Poughkeepsie, New York, U.S.A. It was incorporated in 1861 as Vassar Female College (which was changed to Vassar College in 1867), and was named in honour of its founder,' Matthew Vassar, who transferred to a board of trustees of his own selection about $400,000 (increased by his will to twice that amount) and the tract of about 200 acres of land upon which the college was built. Building began in June 1861, and the institution was opened on the 10th of September 1865, with John Howard Raymond 2 (1814-1878) as president, and Hannah W. Lyman (1816-1871) as lady principal; it had a faculty of eight professors and twenty instructors and teachers, and an enrolment of 353 pupils. The first graduating class was that of 1867, and comprised four members, to whom were given temporary certificates stating that they were "entitled to be admitted to the First Degree of Liberal Arts," as the propriety of awarding the degree of "bachelor" to ' Matthew Vassar (1791-1868) was born at East Dereham, Tuddenham parish, Norfolk, England, on the 29th of April 1791, son of a Baptist who emigrated to the United States in 1796, settled 3 m. E. of Poughkeepsie in 1797 and in 1801 established a brewery there. The brewery was burned in 1811, and Matthew took up the business and in 1812 established an "ale and oyster saloon" and a brewery, from which he became wealthy. He was a prominent member of the Baptist church. He got the idea of founding a college for women from his niece, Lydia Booth, a school teacher. He died on the 23rd of June 1868 while reading his farewell report to the Board of Trustees. His nephew, Matthew Vassar, Jun. (1809-1881), was born in Poughkeepsie, became manager of his uncle's brewery, was a member of the Board of Trustees of Vassar College, and its treasurer until his death, gave in all about $500,000 to the institution, and with his brother, John Guy Vassar (1811-1888), also one of the trustees and a benefactor of the college, gave to the college the Vassar Brothers' Laboratory.

Raymond graduated at Union College in 1832; studied law and then (at Hamilton, N.Y.) theology in 1839-49 taught rhetoric and English literature at Madison (now Colgate) University, at Hamilton, 'N.Y.; was professor of belles-lettres at Rochester University in 1850-56; and organized the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in 1856-65.

women was questioned at that time; in 1868 these certificates were replaced by diplomas bestowing the degree of A.B. The present equipment includes more than twenty buildings, and the campus has an area of about 400 acres. The college confers the baccalaureate degree in arts (A.B.) upon the completion of the regular course of four years, and a second degree in arts (A.M.) upon Bachelors of Arts of Vassar or any approved college who have completed (by examination and thesis) a course of advanced non-professional study. In 1909-10 there were about ninety professors and instructors and 1040 students. The college had in 1909 total productive funds of about $1,360,000, yielding an income of about $600,000. James Monroe Taylor (b. 1848), a graduate of the university of Rochester and of Rochester Theological Seminary, became president of the college in 1886.

See Benson J. Lossing's Vassar College and its Founder (New York, 1867) and Frances A. Wood's Earliest Years at Vassar (Poughkeepsie, N.Y., 1909).

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