XI. June 23, 1868


TO THE HONORABLE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF "VASSAR COLLEGE," ASSEMBLED AT THE INSTITUTION JUNE 23, 1868.

MR. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN: Some three years have now elapsed since the first opening of our College for the admission of pupils, the workings, doings, and fruits of which it is unnecessary for me to particularize, as the reports of our President, Treasurer, Secretary, and Registrar will be submitted you for examination, and afford you all the necessary information, especially that of the Treasurer, from which you will learn the condition of our funds, and then be able to decide upon future expenditures. I will therefore confine my remarks chiefly to two topics, namely, the running yearly expenses of the College, and its receipts and incomes, and ask your patient indulgence and attention for the purpose of understanding our true financial condition, and ascertaining whether the College, as a whole, is sustaining itself, or in other words, paying its way; and if not, what are the remedies, and what changes can be made to increase its income. For it seems necessary that unless the College can command an increased business patronage, and at advanced prices for tuition, or the running expenses reduced, a further loan on our property must inevitably occur. The present indebtedness is some $ 25,000, say $75,000 by bond and mortgage and about $35,000 balance of floating debt. Yet, considering the times through which we have passed, and the inexperience in female educational enterprises, that debt is not very extraordinary or alarming, being only about one fifth of the valuation of our property. But the day will soon come when new outlays will be needed for furniture and repairs, etc.; and therefore, one of two things must happen, either a reduction of our out-goes or an increase of our incomes, as it is self evident that the College, as a whole, is not, thus far, self-sustaining. It is now left to your judgment and discretion to apply the remedies.

From past experience and observation, it is very certain that an institution like Vassar College cannot be long successfully conducted on the principle of pure voluntary services, however ably and liberally conferred in the beginning. Experience has proved that continued monotony renders these services in time inconvenient and often irksome, resulting in the non-attendance at the meetings of the Board, and, as a consequence, a want of information of its internal workings. I would therefore recommend the appointment of a middle-man-a paid officer, in or out of the official members of the College, whose special duty it should be to fill up such business delinquencies and deficiencies, and to superintend all other business matters which the official committees can not or do not discharge, subject, of course, to their instruction. His duty should also be to attend to all matters of a literary character, namely to invite public lecturers, report their addresses, or so much of them as the Executive Committee might approve and direct to be published in such journals of the day as they may select. Also to invite the different clergymen of Poughkeepsie to preach in the College Chapel, with permission to publish such discourses or portions thereof, and to pay, if necessary, a reasonable compensation for such sermons or addresses as may be calculated to promote the interest and reputation of the College. Some such general officer might also be appointed the Librarian, and attend to all matters not delegated to other officials, and to be known as the Reporter of the College.

I would next in order call your attention to the Astronomical Department, and ask whether that is self-sustaining, or doing the amount of work at first anticipated; if not, how it can be invigorated and made more useful; and whether the present incumbent (Miss Mitchell) could not aid in other departments of instruction without inconvenience. If not, I am nevertheless persuaded that her services had better be retained. Her reputation as an astronomer alone is worth to our College all you pay her and her father. Besides, the College has already had some large draughts on its literary capital, and any further disbursements in that line may materially affect its interest, as we have no surplus intellectual popularity to spare. Besides, it is worthy of consideration whether the application of the words would not apply to us, "He that is not for us is against us." I would also remark that whereas our Treasurer has often intimated his wish to be relieved from a part, at least, of so close attention to the labors of his office, now gratuitously bestowed, the Executive Committee, considering the reasonableness of his request, immediately provided for his relief by the appointment of a treasurer pro tem - John N. Schou - as his assistant. And now I do hope that he will reconsider his determination to resign, especially in view of his uncle the Founder's advanced age and physical inability to render any material aid to our institution.

I would further call your attention to the consideration and policy of taking pupils applying for admission to the College from the city and vicinity of Poughkeepsie, living with their parents or boarding with their friends, to be taken from the College and returned to their respective homes daily by the college conveyance. I would once more refer you to the subject to which I have heretofore alluded, namely, the erection of a low glass structure for a hot-bed or house, east of and midway of the main college building, for the purpose of the culture of exotic and other plants, and the finest specimens of florals, for the purpose of instruction to such of the pupils requiring the same in the study of botany. A simple glass structure, ordinarily termed a bot-bed, could be erected at comparatively small expense, and kept at a proper temperature by the waste heat of the tunnel leading from the steam and gas-houses to the College, which, I am authorized to say, can be leased to responsible parties at ten per cent on its cost. The young ladies of the College are expending much money and time going to and from the College, to procure from gardeners and florists these decorative and instructive specimens in the floral kingdom, costing, at least, $1500 a year.' I would therefore recommend the erection, during the present summer, of this hot-house.

While speaking on the subject of improvements, we are reminded of the gratifying evidence of a benevolent interest being manifested in our Cabinets of Natural History, especially in that of Ornithology. The room set apart to receive the gifts by our friend and benefactor, Mr. Giraud, is already crowded, while his liberality seems unabated; therefore it would be well to take into early consideration how, and in what manner, other apartments for Cabinets of Zoology and Ornithology may be constructed. And here I would suggest that, instead of erecting a separate building for them, whether it would not be better to take one wing of the College for this purpose; now occupied by the professors, and make or convert their apartments into cabinet-halls, lecture-rooms, etc., and build two independent professors houses on the new college avenue proposed to be opened, opposite the Gate-Lodge. I accompany these suggestions with a draught of such avenue and a sketch of the cottages, which you will please examine.

Although I may be somewhat deviating from my purpose suggested at the opening of these remarks, I will nevertheless briefly call your attention to one more subject which I regard quite important, and which has occasioned me much thought and anxiety. You remember, gentlemen, that at the commencement of the College enterprise I addressed to you several reasons why I located and selected its site so distant from the city; and one of the reasons I mentioned at the time was, for its retirement and quietude. But this quietude is now likely to be disturbed, unless some action is taken by you soon to prevent it. I refer to the continuation of the new avenue, now in process of opening by other parties through the north side of the college grounds, west of the Filkins road, and which avenue is far advanced, and the parties are only waiting the legal sanction of the Town Commissioners to continue it in a straight line eastward, crossing the Filkins road aforesaid, with the ultimate intention of running it to Manchester. This project would cut off a portion of our lands, and particularly the high hill or rock bluff, where I purposed making other improvements for the use of the College. Should their road be laid through on the south side of the hill, or rocky bluff, it would defeat this object. However, gentlemen, this is a matter for your consideration, and I leave it in your hands.

I renew, gentlemen, my wishes heretofore intimated and expressed, about the erection of a building upon some convenient part of the college grounds for the purpose of instructing pupils attending College, whose parents or their guardians desire and approve of the same, in a thorough knowledge of domestic economy, and that provisions be made in the edifice, with all the modern apparatus, for the full instruction of that science, so that the pupils may not only be prepared theoretically, but practically, and thus be qualified to guard against imposition so often practiced upon novice housekeepers by servants in their employ, I consider, gentlemen, this knowledge one of the most important for our pupils to possess, and its usefulness will be so verified and regarded in due time. I therefore repeat my earnest wishes, that a suitable structure may be erected, or other arrangements made, as part of the curriculum of the College for such of the pupils whose parents may desire it.

There is one more topic to which I desire to call your attention, and upon which I would offer a few suggestions. That is, to establish a regular system of education for women, peculiarly adapted to the fitness or wants of woman's life, similar to those in the universities for young men. I would suggest the appointment of a committee of ladies, whose duty it should be to organize and define the course of education for women. I have thought the suggestion might be best acted upon by inviting experienced, well-known lady educators, outside of the College, to cooperate with the experience which our Faculty must have attained by this time, and thus establish a regular course for the future, which would be known as having emanated from Vassar College. I do but repeat my wishes, expressed in 1865, that this may be truly a Woman's College. But, gentlemen, I do not pretend to understand much about education, and I only offer these brief remarks as suggestions for your more careful consideration, and hope you will give them such attention as you may think the subject demands for your future, but not present, action; for it is quite certain, that if we only follow on in the old beaten paths, we will make no progress, We do no more than others have done before us, we are only copyists, and not progressionists. My motto is progress.

Lastly, gentlemen, I would suggest for your early consideration the expediency of establishing a more frequent and regular communication to and from the College than at present exists, and with lighter carriages, similar to those running on the Hyde Park road, and to be entirely under your own control. Such an arrangement can be economically made with Baron Von Seldeneck, he having horses and some light conveyances, stabling, etc., already, and would be a great convenience and saving to all visiting or going to the College. The Baron - will report to you more particularly about details, etc.

And now, gentlemen, in closing these remarks, I would humbly and solemnly implore the Divine Goodness to continue his smiles and favor on your institution, and bestow upon all hearts connected therewith his love and blessings, having peculiarly protected us by his providence through all our college trials for three consecutive years, without a single death in our Board or serious illness or death of one of our pupils within its walls. Wishing you, gentlemen, a continuance of health and happiness, I bid you a cordial and final farewell, thanking you kindly for your official attentions and services, not expecting, from my advanced years and increasing infirmities, to meet with you officially again, and imploring the Divine Goodness to guide and direct you aright in all your counsels and social business relations,

Yours truly, etc., etc.,

M. VASSAR.