by DeAnna Wynn, Class of 1991
Main Dorm, Afternoon Tea, Greedless, Founder’s Day, catwalk on the roof of Main, Mug lines, Primal Scream, ACDC, Trouble Funk at Sunset Lake, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tribe Called Quest in ACDC, The Rollins Band, Vassar Angels, Vassar Devils, Alumnae House, ICC, Jessie Jackson at the 1991 Baccalaureate Ceremony, serenading, bonfire, Frisbee, skateboards, Beastie Boys, parties at West Point, road trips to Manhattan, Metro-North, The River Café, Cooper House, the TAs & THs, Napoli’s Pizza, Pete’s, the Acropolis, Mythology in New England building, Dante in Rocky, Drama with Dr. Berkeley, dancing in the Aula, the 24-hour room in the library, Town Student’s Lounge, classes at Sunset Lake with Norman Hodges, the purple tree in the Quad, ice cream in the Retreat.
by Karen Roberts Turner, Class of 1986
When I reflect back on my days at Vassar, the snapshots that most immediately come to my mind include the prospectus, “Your Mind Our Matter”, Serenading, Vassar Devils, White Angels (Mrs. M and Mrs. Whalen were the best), the Noyes Bonfire, Primal Scream, the best single rooms in Strong, watching “Dynasty” and ordering Napoli’s Pizza on Friday Night (and it never took “half an hour”), parties in the ICC with the West Pointers, Trouble Funk at Sunset Lake, cookies and cream milkshakes from the Retreat, Daisy Chain, tea in Main, Ntozake Shange, Michael Manley, Jim Lehrer, Garry Trudeau, and Meryl Streep, the bus trip to Broadway to see “Dream Girls,” table cloths and steak in ACDC for Parent’s Weekend, the Mug Dance, Rocky Horror, going to the Harvard-Yale game and the Black Student Union after-party, basketball games at Marist, Biology labs, having to go to the library to use a computer, Students’ Afro-American Society meetings and the uprising caused by The Misc., the beautiful trees in the Quad, raising our voices against Apartheid and to “Free Mandela,” spending Junior Year at Spelman, forming friendships that have lasted a lifetime, and developing a mind strong enough to change the world!
by Shelby Wardlaw, Class of 2010
Rain pelted my umbrella as I watched my parent’s rented minivan drive out of the muddy lot behind Josselyn House. Turning back to face the quad, Vassar’s campus suddenly seemed huge and void, blurred in the downpour like an impressionist watercolor of a dreary, unpeopled landscape. It seems that ever since that first smeary uncertain day, my time here has been a gradual process of peopling and clarifying that first image I had of Vassar College.
Now I see a campus rife with familiar faces, buildings sharpened and defined by experiences. It’s a landscape that I have run across and tripped over and lounged in until the canvas of Vassar now appears so vivid and heavy with painted memory that I know that finally, it’s done.
There is the freedom and giddiness of freshman year, the settling in of sophomore year, that crazy semester I thought it would be a good idea to take five and a half credits; there are the three hour meals at ACDC, the awkwardness, the well-worn friendships, the loneliness; there’s my summer with the Yale-Vassar program in St. Petersburg, the subsequent whirlwind semester in Paris, the new TH, and that second semester of my junior year in which I believe I grew three years in as many months; there’s senior year, with all its many hardships, the many times when I told myself “it’s not so bad”; there’s my a cappella group that I have loved throughout; there’s my thesis that nearly killed me; there’s all the professors that changed my life, intellectually, spiritually, and sometimes accidentally by adding to that store of wisdom that grows as one matures. It’s hard to say if there is anything that I would change about my time here. Everything seems so cumulative, who knows who I might be if I were to go back and change any of it? Now, facing a real world that seems just as blurry and uncertain, I remember my first day at Vassar and realize that college, like many things in life, is what you make of it.
by Shannon Wilton, Class of 2010
As of this writing, I have just turned in my second thesis. Normally students are happy to turn in their senior project; I am ecstatic. Now I can actually grasp the fact that my time at Vassar is ending. People always say that college graduation is a major point in your life. I think they are correct. I have learned so much during my time at Vassar and I will be sorry to leave.
I remember opening my acceptance letter to Vassar and thinking, “That’s where Jackie Onassis went!” I was thrilled to go to a school with a big name, beautiful landscape and amazing traditions. For some reason, I thought Vassar would be the finishing school that it used to be. Was I wrong…
My first few weeks at Vassar sped by. A few key moments stand out: the first time I saw a squirrel take a muffin up a tree, my first Nilda’s, the first sip of chocolate milk at the All Campus Dining Center, the first time I got lost in the basement of the library…As I realized I was finally away from home for good, I remember thinking “Why am I here? I don’t fit in. This is not what I signed up for.” Conservative me was terrified by the stark openness everyone exhibited. As I walked to class in makeup and heels, everywhere I turned I saw crazy outfits, Birkenstocks and sweatpants. Vassar was a long way from home. I was worried that I would lose myself in an effort to be politically correct and to fit in.
Looking back, I feel like I do fit in. Everyone seems to fit in. What I know now that I didn’t then is that it doesn’t matter how different you are. Vassar didn’t change, but I feel at home. I changed, and I changed for the better. Yes, I will always consider myself conservative on Vassar’s campus, but my mind is open to new possibilities. Vassar has taught me to appreciate the differences in new things, people and places. I am still my old self with the same morals, manners and confidence, but I am an improved version. Had I chosen to attend another school, I really do not know if I would be the same person that I am today.
College is supposed to be the most fun time of your life. After the days of cramming for exams, doing projects and reading countless books, I can leave Vassar knowing that I have also gained amazing friendships. Four years away from home would have been horrible without my friends. I only wish that they could all come with me after graduation. I can honestly say that I have learned as much from them as I have from my academic work. Leaving them will be just as difficult as leaving Vassar itself.
So as I accept my diploma, I will be happy that I made it through these past four years and came out a better person. I will be forever grateful for all of the help I received from faculty members and friends. I will be a Vassar College grad. Finally.
by Riley Greene, Class of 2010
The sun setting at 4:30 in the afternoon is really a bummer. That was one of the first things I learned my freshmen year. I didn’t like this place very much at first. It was very cold and very dark, and I couldn’t find anything to eat in ACDC besides chicken wraps and cheeseburgers. I was overwhelmed by new “friends,” people you were suddenly intimately close to-sharing a living space, sharing a bathroom-but who you did not know any real thing about. I felt surrounded and isolated all at once, and it was a feeling I didn’t quite know how to deal with. I wanted friends, and I wanted privacy. I wanted to be left alone, but I wanted someone to knock on my door. This tension I encountered in my new world was one I would learn to balance throughout my Vassar experience, socially, personally, intellectually, etc.; I was in a place where there was seemingly infinite possibilities-what to learn, where to go, who to know, what to play-which is at once thrilling and terrifying. Despite its dark beginnings, however, my Vassar experience has proved to be undoubtedly a thrill.
Those friends I fumbled so awkwardly with at the beginning are now my best teachers and my closest allies. The cockiness of experience that came with sophomore year united us-we knew this place now, and we knew each other. I learned what it meant to have and to be a “good friend.” At Vassar, your friends can be everything; you can grapple with an intellectual question while playing beer pong-a seamless integration of sport, smarts and fun. Vassar students, our friends, taught me the depth of what “being a friend” can, and ideally should, mean. The responsibility, patience, trust and love that are so integral to any relationship came to the fore as we were placed in the hectic social scene that is college and struggled with the subsequent suffocation and ironic isolation. The balance emerged in friendships deeper and stronger than I could have ever imagined on our rainy move-in day freshman year, and will undoubtedly be what stays with me as we all leave this place together.
These friends were also companions-partners on the excellent adventure that is life at Vassar. Time at Vassar offers endless opportunities for exploration. On campus, in Poughkeepsie and across the world, Vassar enabled me to explore, play and learn. What was never in question for me at Vassar is the beauty and wisdom of this physical place. Stomping around this campus for four years lead me into open spaces of play, secret nooks for prayer, sun-filled attic rooms, rooms of intense learning and on and on. Vassar’s campus is one that teaches by its presence, where you realize that the buildings themselves can instruct you as much on space, structure and beauty as any lecture. There are trees here that you can disappear into for a day, discovering a veritable home in their branches. Climbing these trees, finding these attics, filling these spaces with fellow adventurers are some of the strongest and happiest memories I have, and remind me to keep exploring, wherever I go.
Where will I go? That is the next question, the next step. Again I am (we are) faced with something simultaneously terrifying and thrilling. What’s exciting is that we know what to do now. Vassar is a place where we learned how to be in the world, where we learned how to keep on learning. Now, with new confidence, we can recall the awkwardness of freshman year and get through the awkwardness of our next “first day.” We can remember the inflated ego, the wise and foolish sophomore attitude, and carry confidence without forgetting a sense of humility into our endeavors. And, as junior year taught us, we can endeavor whatever we please, make places that seem foreign, whether across the world or across the street, seem like home, knowing that the friendships and place that has supported us so far remains supportive, no matter how removed we may feel. Finally, hopefully, we have learned too to take those moments of pause, to appreciate the trees we walk by everyday, so that at the end, we feel sense of completion, dare I say a bit of wisdom, as we, as seniors, as graduates, pack up our Vassar lives, and look, rain or shine, to the next move-in day.