Vassar College

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search
Vassar College
Vassar College Logo
Motto None
Established 1861
School type Private coeducational
President Frances D. Fergusson
Location Poughkeepsie, NY, USA
Campus Urban, suburban, park; 1,250 acres (4 km²)
Enrollment 2,400 undergraduate,
Faculty 250
Mascot Brewer
Annual Fees $39,030 (2004–2005)
Official website
Closeup of the Vassar Main Building
Closeup of the Vassar Main Building

Vassar College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college situated in Poughkeepsie, NY. Formerly a women's college, Vassar is the only fully co-educational member of the Seven Sisters.

The college was founded by its namesake, Matthew Vassar, in 1861 in the scenic Hudson Valley, approximately 70 miles (100 km) north of New York City. The very first person, male or female, appointed to the Vassar faculty was the astronomer Maria Mitchell, in 1865. Vassar is often praised for its beautiful campus, a 1000 acre (4 km²) lot of land marked by period and modern buildings that is also an arboretum. The great majority of students live on campus. Founded as an all-female college, it went co-ed in 1969 after declining an offer to merge with Yale. Since that time, it has maintained its reputation as one of America's outstanding liberal arts colleges, and is especially noted for its tolerant social atmosphere. The newly renovated library has unusually large holdings for a college of its size. It includes special collections of originals of Albert Einstein and Elizabeth Bishop.

Today roughly two thousand four hundred students attend Vassar, including many international students. Approximately 60% come from public high schools, 40% from private schools (both independent and religious). In recent freshman classes, students of color have comprised up to 27% of matriculants. International students from over 45 countries comprise 8% of the student body. They are taught by over two hundred faculty members, virtually all of whom hold terminal degrees in their fields.

President Frances Daly Fergusson has served for nearly two decades, longer than almost any other president of a comparable college. She intends to retire in Spring 2006, and the college is currently searching for a successor.



  • The original colors of the college were pink and grey, intended to symbolize "the rose of sunlight breaking through the gray of women's intellectual life." After Vassar became coeducational, the pink was darkened to maroon because the men's rugby team didn't like their pink uniforms. However, pink is used instead of maroon for the graduation robes.
  • Vassar has a world class art collection. The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center is run as a independent museum and is open to the public.
  • The campus is a registered arboretum. There are over 200 tree species spread over 1000 acres (400,000 m²) of forest land.
  • Except for Strong House, an all-female dormitory, all of the student resident halls at Vassar are co-ed. All dormitory bathrooms are co-ed.
  • Vassar maintains a 60/40 to 65/35 Female/Male ratio amongst its student body, though the current Freshman class of 2009 has a 58/42 ratio.

Famous Alumni

Famous Vassar alumni include poets Edna St. Vincent Millay and Elizabeth Bishop; actresses Frances Sternhagen, Jean Arthur, Meryl Streep, Hope Davis, and Lisa Kudrow, commentator and talk radio host Jay Severin, chemist Ellen Swallow, astronomer Vera Rubin, CEO of Oxygen Media Geraldine Laybourne, film directors Noah Baumbach and John Gatins, anthropologist Ruth Benedict, Pulitzer-winning novelist Jane Smiley, and computer scientist Grace Hopper. Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis attended Vassar, but graduated from George Washington University. In addition, actresses Jane Fonda, Anne Hathaway, Erika Amato, actor Justin Long, and rapper Mike D also attended Vassar. Children of famous entertainers and artists have also attended Vassar, including the children of Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Stephen King, Randy Newman, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Ritter.


A number of women professors taught at Vassar before World War II, including Maria Mitchell in astronomy and Grace Hopper (an alumna, noted above) in mathematics. Other current and former faculty members have included: in music, Karen Holvik, soprano, and composers Ernst Krenek, Richard Wilson, and Annea Lockwood; Michael Joyce and Donald Foster in English; Jamie Meltzer in film; and David Kelley and Mitchell Miller in philosophy.


The Vassar campus boasts several buildings of architectural interest. Main Building 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 is on the registry of national historic landmarks. Many beautiful old brick buildings are scattered throughout the bucolic campus, but there are also several modern and contemporary structures worth noting. Ferry House, a student cooperative, was designed by Marcel Breuer in 1951. Another somewhat controversial design, 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 Loeb Art Center, which was completed in the early 1990s. Pelli also worked on the renovation of Main Building Lobby and the Avery Hall theater into the $25 million Center for Drama and Film, which preserved the original 1860s facade but was an entirely new structure.


  • Horowitz, Helen Lefkowitz. Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women's Colleges from Their Nineteenth-Century Beginnings to the 1930s. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993 (2nd edition).

External links

Seven Sisters Colleges
Barnard | Bryn Mawr | Mount Holyoke | Radcliffe | Smith | Vassar | Wellesley
Personal tools