Somewhere in Time
So what's happened in the past 150 years? We've welcomed some distinguished visitors, given diplomas to some remarkable people, and marked some notable achievements - and there was that whole co-ed thing. Take a look at the timeline to get a sense of Vassar's history, and its role in the history of America as well.
To navigate the Timeline, drag the scroll bar. You can also jump to a specific decade using the navigation links above. Have fun!
Matthew Vassar, founder of the college, born on April 29 in Norfolk County, England, the son of Ann Bennett and James Vassar, farmers and dissenters.
James Vassar, with wife and children, emigrates to the United States.
James Vassar’s elder son dies when the brewery is destroyed by fire; Matthew Vassar assumes responsibility for the family’s recovery.
Vassar’s niece, Lydia Booth, suggests founding a woman’s college to her uncle.
Walt Whitman publishes Leaves of Grass.
Milo P. Jewett, succeeding Lydia Booth at Cottage Hill Seminary, convinces Vassar to found a women’s college.
James Renwick, Jr., architect of the Smithsonian Institution Building and Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, becomes architect of Vassar’s Main Building.
Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species published in America
Matthew Vassar buys land for his college, at the site of a former fairground.
Abraham Lincoln elected president of the United States
Civil War begins
Vassar Observatory completed
Milo P. Jewett, first president of Vassar, resigns at the Founder’s request; trustee Rev. John Howard Raymond becomes Vassar’s second president.
Lincoln re-elected president
Main Building and Gate Lodge completed
353 students enter Vassar’s first class; comprehensive fee is $350.
Vassar’s college colors chosen: the rose of sunrise breaking through the grey of women’s previous intellectual life
Matthew Vassar dies as he addresses the Board of Trustees.
Maria Mitchell and students travel to Iowa to observe solar eclipse.
First bequest to the college of $30,000 from Jacob P. Giraud, Jr. to found the Natural History Museum
Great Chicago Fire ravages the city
Associate Alumnae of Vassar College is formed.
Western Union telegraph line extended to Vassar
Elevator installed in Main Building
President Raymond dies suddenly; Rev. Samuel Caldwell becomes Vassar’s third president.
Thomas Edison patents the incandescent lamp.
Telephone service established at Vassar
Under pressure from alumnae, President Caldwell resigns; James Monroe Taylor becomes Vassar’s fourth president.
Statue of Liberty unveiled in New York Harbor
Hors d’Oeuvre, the first student yearbook, published by the Class of 1888 (changed the following year to The Vassarion)
Battle of Wounded Knee
Princeton professor Woodrow Wilson visits campus, lectures on “Democracy”
Strong Hall, Vassar’s first dormitory, completed
Thompson Annex to the front of Main Building completed (called “Uncle Fred’s Nose,” it was razed in 1960)
Electric trolley cars replace horse-drawn cars, running from Poughkeepsie to Vassar.
First women’s field day in America held at Vassar
First automobile appeared at Commencement, reported to be a Ford.
Wright Brothers fly first airplane.
Ground broken for Thompson Memorial Library
Commencement is held for the first time in the new Chapel, 176 students receive degrees.
Tuition and residence increases to $400 per annum.
Three huge crates of stained glass cross the Atlantic aboard a steamer and thence by train to Vassar—the Cornaro window.
Electric lighting installed in Main Building, replacing gaslights
Titanic sinks on maiden voyage.
Students’ Building dedicated
World War I begins.
President Taylor retires; Taylor Gate and Taylor Hall are built in his honor.
First Fall Convocation held, at suggestion of Lucy M. Salmon, professor of history.
Vassar’s 50th Anniversary, at that time, counted from 1865 when Main opened.
Henry Noble MacCracken becomes Vassar’s fifth president
Shakespeare Garden planned by English and botany students.
Students are allowed to see their grades for the first time.
World War I ends.
19th Amendment grants women right to vote.
Trustees vote to limit registration to 1,150.
Tuition and residence raised to $1,000.
Edna St. Vincent Millay ’17 wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
First Vassar students participate in junior year abroad.
Stock market crashes; Great Depression begins
Franklin Delano Roosevelt speaks at Commencement.
Tuition and residence raised to $1200.
Smoking permitted anywhere on campus except Library steps
Franklin Roosevelt speaks from the porch of the President’s House to a crowd of 6,000 as part of “Neighbors Day”.
Buses replace trolley cars, running from Poughkeepsie to Vassar.
Faculty request a plan to invite refugee scholars to the college; between 1939-1943 twenty scholars take part in this program.
Enrollment increases to 1,200.
Vassar’s 75th Anniversary, at that time, counted from 1865 when Main opened.
Pearl Harbor attacked
Three-year program approved during national emergency.
Tuition and residence increases to $1,250.
Class of 1945-4, first class to graduate on three-year plan
World War II ends with V-E Day and V-J Day
Forty veterans, Vassar’s first male students, attend C-term.
President MacCracken retires, and Sarah Gibson Blanding takes office, the first woman to be chosen as president of Vassar and its sixth president.
Tuition and residence increases to $1,600.
McCarthy hearings on Un-American Activities begin.
Ferry House co-op, designed by Marcel Breuer, opens.
Picasso paintings, lent by the artist, exhibited in Taylor Hall
Dining room service in residence halls replaced by cafeteria
Elizabeth Bishop ’34 wins the Pulitzer Prize in poetry.
Sputnik I launched by Soviets
Tuition and residence increases to $2,500.
Noyes House, designed by Eero Saarinen, is dedicated.
“Uncle Fred’s Nose,” the 1893 addition to the front of Main Building is demolished.
Vassar celebrates its 100th anniversary.
Former Vassar student Jacqueline Kennedy sends engraving of White House for the Centennial.
President John F. Kennedy assassinated
Civil Rights Act passes.
President Blanding retires, and Alan Simpson becomes Vassar’s seventh president.
The Oysters of Locmariaquer (1965) by Eleanor Clark ’34 wins the National Book Award for arts and letters.
Vassar and Yale undertake joint study on feasibility of relocating Vassar to New Haven.
Trustees decide against merger with Yale.
Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated
Robert F. Kennedy assassinated
Twenty men enroll in Vassar courses on a trial basis, first male students since veterans of World War II
Trustees approve admission of freshman men in fall of 1970.
African-American students take over parts of Main Building protesting administration’s response to the nine demands in their proposal.
Record 2,000-student enrollment
Marian Gray Secundy ’60 elected as Vassar’s first African-American trustee
Lucinda Franks ’68 and her New York Times colleague Thomas Powers share the Pulitzer Prize in journalism.
Five men are arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex.
Vassar Gay Liberation Front founded
WVKR begins full operation.
First coed class graduates.
Vietnam War ends
Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs introduce the Apple computer.
275 acres of the Vassar Farm are designated an ecological preserve.
President Simpson retires, and Virginia B. Smith becomes Vassar’s eighth president.
Commencement speaker William F. Buckley, Jr., withdraws over campus protests about his being invited; retiring Professor of Biology Francis Ranzoni substitutes.
American hostages in Iran freed
Tuition and residence increases to $9360.
“Computing as a Resource” enters the Vassar curriculum.
Meryl Streep ’71 wins second Academy Award and is the speaker at Vassar’s Commencement.
The Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre presents its first Bardavon Gala performance.
Exploring Transfer, Vassar’s summer program for community college students, begins.
President Smith retires, and Frances Daly Fergusson becomes the ninth president of Vassar.
Undergraduate Research Summer Institute (URSI) started
The Berlin Wall falls.
African-American seniors form a Black Commencement Committee to integrate elements of black culture into the annual event.
Jane Smiley ’71 wins the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for her novel, A Thousand Acres.
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center opens.
The general public gains access to the World Wide Web.
Intercultural Center renamed ALANA (African American/Black, Latino, Asian/Asian American, Native American)
Vassar is named “College of the Year” by Time Magazine and the Princeton Review.
Community Works, Vassar’s charitable giving campaign, is launched.
U.S. attacked by Al Qaeda.
Learning and Teaching Center opens (now the Learning, Teaching, and Research Center).
Hurricane Katrina devastates New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Frances Fergusson retires, and Catharine Bond Hill becomes Vassar’s tenth president
Vassar goes wireless.
Need-blind admissions policy reinstituted
The next 150 years will be as exciting as the past 150 have been.