Charles Loring Elliott, Portrait of Matthew Vassar, 1861

In the News

Vassar College announces details of its 150th anniversary celebration in 2011.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—An international conference, seminars, a fully-staged opera, world premiere dramatic and dance performances, and innovative exhibitions are just a few of the many events that will be highlighted during Vassar College’s sesquicentennial celebrations in 2011.

“These events are the result of an extraordinary contribution by every facet of the of the college community, from students to faculty to staff,” noted John Mihaly, senior director of regional programs and co-chair of the college’s Sesquicentennial. “This truly is a campus-wide celebration!” said the 1974 Vassar graduate.

Fellow Sesquicentennial co-chair Susan Kuretsky, Professor of Art History on the Sarah Gibson Blanding Chair and a 1963 graduate of the college, added: “As we celebrate during both academic semesters of  2011, we’ll also be learning more about the history and evolution of the college which has touched on so many larger developments in American history. We look forward to an edifying  and joyous birthday. Thanks to our Sesquicentennial website (, we can also share it with alumnae/i and friends beyond the campus.”

A highlighted selection of Sesquicentennial events follows. Except as noted, the events are free and open to the public. Please visit the Vassar 150 website for additional information about the Sesquicentennial, including photos spanning 150 years of the college, a memories section for reminiscences about the college, a timeline of selected historical events, and more:

Vassar College Archives and Special Collections exhibition: “The Most Perfect Education of Body, Mind, and Heart”: Vassar and the Liberal Arts
Thompson Memorial Library
January 21 - June 15

On February 26, 1861, Matthew Vassar instructed the first Board of Trustees of Vassar College to ensure that his newly founded institution would provide “the most perfect education of body, mind and heart.” One hundred and fifty years later Vassar College maintains this aspiration. But the founder’s charge raises an important question: What is a perfect education? Since its founding, Vassar has offered students a curriculum rooted in the tradition of the liberal arts education, but what does that encompass? The answers are many, varied, and changing and will be explored in the exhibition, The Most Perfect Education of Body, Mind, and Heart”: Vassar and the Liberal Arts, curated by Rebecca Edwards, Professor of History on the Eloise Ellery chair and Laura Finkel, Special Collections librarian. Presented by the Archives and Special Collections Library, the opening of the exhibition will kick-off the Sesquicentennial celebration on January 21. Opening events will include a viewing and reception in the Thompson Memorial Library on January 21 at 4:30 pm, followed by a lecture delivered by Rachel Kitzinger, professor of classics and dean of planning and academic affairs, at 6:00pm in Taylor Hall, Room 102. The exhibition will include Vassariana and other materials that show the connections between the growth of Vassar College and the development of the liberal arts, and will be on view through June 15. There will also be an audio slide show presentation, which will include three short pieces depicting the personal experiences of students, a staff member, and a professor through a combination of images from the early era of the college with excerpts from original letters, diaries, and reports.

Opera: Æthelred The Unready
Martel Theater, Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film
January 22 and 23

There will be two performances of composer Richard Wilson’s fully-staged opera Æthelred The Unready in the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film’s Martel Theater on January 22 at 8:00pm and January 23 at 3:00pm. Directed by Drew Minter, with Richard Wilson conductor, this short, whimsical work tells the story of a blundering, henpecked Anglo-Saxon king ill-treated by history. Wilson, Professor of Music on the Mary Conover Mellon Chair at Vassar College, noted that the libretto he wrote for Æthelred “does draw on history, presenting three characters who actually existed.” The American Record Guide noted that the opera is: “A droll meditation on failure . . . witty and oddly touching.” The performances will feature Vassar’s entire vocal faculty: Robert Osborne as Æthelred; Rachel Rosales as his nagging wife, Emma; Mary Nessinger as Clio, the muse of history; James Ruff as her boyfriend, William of Malmesbury; and Christine Howlett as the La Musica (the spirit of music) and Clio’s assistant. Also in the cast are Nathan Carlisle as the publicist and Curtis Streetman as the hypnotist. These performances are presented in conjunction with Modfest. Reservations are requested. Tickets will be available at the College Center’s Information Desk in Main Building beginning January 3 or by emailing

The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center exhibition: 150 Years Later: New Photography by Tina Barney, Tim Davis and Katherine Newbegin
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
January 28 - May 27 (Opening reception January 27)

Art should stand “boldly forth as an educational force,” declared founder Matthew Vassar; his college was the country’s first to be founded with a gallery and teaching collection—now the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. Beginning January 20, visitors may view the newly re-opened Art Center with a re-installation of the permanent collection, including galleries dedicated to the founding collection featuring Hudson River School works from the Magoon Collection, acquired by Matthew Vassar. In honor of the Sesquicentennial, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center commissioned three photographers to create new works that highlight different aspects of campus life. The resulting works will be on view in the exhibition 150 Years Later: New Photography by Tina Barney, Tim Davis and Katherine Newbegin. There will be an opening reception on Thursday, January 27, from 5:00 to 9:00pm. The exhibition, curated by Mary-Kay Lombino, the Emily Hargroves Fisher ’57 and Richard B. Fisher Curator and Assistant Director for Strategic Planning at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, will be on view through March 27. 

Dance presentation: Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre’s Bardavon Gala
The Bardavon 1869 Opera House (Poughkeepsie, NY)
February 26 and 27

The Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre’s 29th annual Bardavon Gala will be held on February 26 at 8:00pm and February 27 at 3:00pm at the Bardavon 1869 Opera House in Poughkeepsie, NY. The program will include new works commissioned on the occasion of the Sesquicentennial. Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre (VRDT), directed by John Meehan, is the resident company of the Vassar College Department of Dance. Since 1983, the VRDT has given dance students at Vassar College the opportunity to perform classic dance works from the ballet and modern repertoire as well as new choreography by faculty, guest artists, and the students themselves.  By allowing students the freedom to create, develop, and present their own new dance works under the guidance of recognized artists in the field, VRDT provides a unique dance experience for the company as well as audience members. Admission is charged. Reservations are requested. Tickets are available from the Vassar College Campus Activities Information Desk in Main Building’s College Center or through the Bardavon Box Office:

Drama performance: The Hallie Flanagan Project
Martel Theater, Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film
March 1 - 3

The Vassar College Drama Department’s Experimental Theater will present three performances of an original play by Mattie Brickman, The Hallie Flanagan Project, at 8:00pm on March 1, 2, and 3 in the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film’s Martel Theater. Alumna Jen Wineman ’00 will guest direct this work depicting one of the three founding members of Vassar’s Experimental Theater. In 1926, more than a decade before Hallie Flanagan would face the House Committee on Un-American Activities, she was in Russia, falling in love with new theater, new ideas—and a certain scientistThe Hallie Flanagan Project visits Hallie at the beginning of her career at Vassar and in Russia, as she navigates life, love, and politics, discovering how the things that shape us also come back to haunt us. A dynamic and talented woman and Vassar professor, Flanagan Davis became famous in the 1930’s for her “Living Newspaper” productions. Later she was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to direct the Federal Theater Project as part of the WPA. The Hallie Flanagan Project was commissioned by the Experimental Theatre of Vassar College Drama Department, on the occasion of the Sesquicentennial celebration. Each of the Experimental Theater productions are produced as coursework for students who perform and work on the production crew, so they may learn all aspects of theater. Faculty and staff advise and oversee the experimental process. Reservations are requested as seating is limited. To reserve tickets, please visit the box office in the Hallie Flanagan Davis Powerhouse Theater on the Vassar campus or email (Box office opens on February 1, 2011 for reservations.)

Palmer Gallery exhibition: Sesquicentennial Historic Costume Exhibition
James W. Palmer III Gallery, College Center, Main Building
May - June  

The Sesquicentennial Historic Costume Exhibition, curated by Arden Kirkland, will showcase actual 19th- and 20th-century clothing from the Vassar College Costume Collection (VCCC) and will be on view in the James W. Palmer III Gallery in Main Building’s College Center from May through June (exact dates to be announced). The clothes will help tell the story of Vassar’s history. VCCC comprises a collection of over 500 examples of original historic clothing, dating from the 1850s to the present, which is maintained as a research collection within the costume shop of the Vassar Drama Department. For more information about the Vassar College Costume Collection, visit

Vassar College Archives and Special Collections exhibition: Eleanor and Franklin: The Vassar Years
Thompson Memorial Library
May 15 - September 15

In conjunction with the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, the Vassar College Archives and Special Collections Library will present the exhibition Eleanor and Franklin: The Vassar Years. This exhibition will highlight the association between the Roosevelts and the college, which began in 1923 with correspondence between Franklin and then Vassar President Henry Noble MacCracken and lasted until the death of Eleanor in November 1962. Franklin Roosevelt served as a trustee of the college, active or honorary, from 1923 until his death in 1945. Eleanor was a friend of and frequent visitor to the college. The exhibition will be on view in the Thompson Memorial Library from May 15 through September 15.

Vassar College Archives and Special Collections exhibition: From the Archive: Discovering Elizabeth Bishop
Thompson Memorial Library
August 30 - December 15

On the occasion of the centenary of poet and alumna Elizabeth Bishop ’34, the Vassar College Archives and Special Collections Library will present the exhibition From the Archive: Discovering Elizabeth Bishop, curated by Ronald Patkus, Special Collections Director, on view from August 31 through December 15. Ten eminent Bishop scholars and editors—Joelle Biele, Lorrie Goldensohn, Saskia Hamilton, Bethany Hicok, Brett Millier, Barbara Page, Camille Roman, Alice Quinn, Lloyd Schwartz, and Thomas J. Travisano—will select and highlight items from the archives that they used in researching their recent books about Bishop. The Elizabeth Bishop Papers in the Vassar College Archives and Special Collections Library—the world’s premiere Bishop repository—consist of correspondence, personal papers, working papers, notebooks, diaries, and memorabilia as well as a substantial amount of material by and about her friends and colleagues. Among the collection are over 3,500 pages of drafts of poems and prose, over 200 letters from Marianne Moore written between 1935 and 1969 discussing their work and mutual friends; and over 200 letters from Robert Lowell written between 1947 and 1976 discussing his work and that of Bishop's and her influence on his work, as well as the work of other writers including Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, W.H. Auden, Sylvia Plath, Flannery O'Connor, and Mary McCarthy. 

Vassar College Archives and Special Collections seminar on Elizabeth Bishop
Locations to be announced.
September 24

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky will deliver the keynote speech of an Elizabeth Bishop symposium, held in conjunction with Vassar's Bishop exhibition, on Saturday, September 24. In addition, the symposium events will include a panel discussion in the morning chaired by Thomas J. Travisano (Hartwick College), that will highlight Bishop editors and scholars, while the afternoon panel, chaired by Vassar professor emerita Barbara Page, will highlight teaching the work of Bishop and will feature faculty and students. 

A Day at Vassar
Locations to be announced.
October 15

On Saturday, October 15, you too can attend Vassar. In honor of the Sesquicentennial, the college will offer special classes and programs for members of the Hudson Valley communities during the event: A Day at Vassar. 

Palmer Gallery exhibition: Through the Student Lens: 1865 - 2011
James W. Palmer III Gallery
October 27 - November 19

From October 27, through mid-November, the James W. Palmer III Gallery in Main Building’s College Center will present the photographic exhibition titled Through the Student Lens: 1865 - 2011, curated by Hudson Valley artist Monica Church. Student photographers will chronicle various dimensions of life at Vassar and their work will be exhibited along with photographs by past students, selected from the archives.

Office of Religious and Spiritual Life seminar
Location to be announced
November 4 - 6

A weekend seminar will be presented November 4 - 6 by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. Details to be announced.

Conference: “On Educating the Global Citizen”
By invitation only
November 11 - 13 

The college will host an international conference “On Educating the Global Citizen,” November 11 - 13. While not open to the general public, this conference will bring together students and educators with world leaders. Presentations from the conference will be featured on Vassar’s YouTube channel

Dance performance: Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre
Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater, Kenyon Hall
November 17 - 19

From November 17 through November 19, the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre will perform works commissioned for the Sesquicentennial by faculty, student, and guest choreographers. Reservations are requested for the programs to be held in Kenyon Hall’s Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater. 

Concert: Vassar College Choir, Orchestra, and Women’s Chorus
Skinner Hall of Music
Date to be announced

The Department of Music will present a fall concert that features the Vassar College Choir, Orchestra, and Women’s Chorus performing a commission for the Sesquicentennial by American composer Lee Hoiby. Hoiby’s choral music is performed in churches throughout the United States and Great Britain. Date to be announced.

Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations at Vassar should contact the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available. Directions to the Vassar campus are available at

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Friday, December 3, 2010


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