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Vassar Encyclopedia

An online work in progress under the direction of Vassar's College Historian

Sarah Gibson Blanding

Sarah Gibson Blanding, Vassar’s sixth president and first female president, was a spirited figure who strongly advocated the professional, political, and academic place of women in the world. Her matter-of-fact views were sometimes controversially conservative; she once said: “The Vassar post is such a challenging job. I’m no feminist, but I’ve always had faith in […]

Samuel L. Caldwell

When President John Raymond died in the summer of 1878, Samuel L. Caldwell was asked to step in from the Board of Trustees to become the third president of Vassar. Caldwell was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts in 1820. After graduating from Waterville College (now Colby College) in 1839, Caldwell became the director of an academy […]

Frances Daly Fergusson

Frances Daly Fergusson became the ninth president of Vassar College on July 1, 1986. Her inauguration coincided with the 125th anniversary of Vassar’s founding. During her term as president, Ms. Fergusson has inspired philanthropy unprecedented in the history of the college. She has been a passionate advocate for education, and particularly liberal education, both here and abroad, […]

Milo P. Jewett

Milo Parker Jewett, Vassar’s first president, left an indelible mark on the college’s history by departing from the institution he helped construct before it opened. The meeting of Matthew Vassar, a wealthy and forward-thinking business man, and Milo Jewett, a conscientious clergyman and dedicated educator, was a fortunate one that laid the foundations for Vassar […]

Henry Noble MacCracken

Internationalist, pacifist, educator, scholar, thespian: Henry Noble MacCracken, as Vassar’s first secular president, was a modernizing force who led Vassar into the 20th century. MacCracken made it his personal mission as president to make Vassar students “citizens of the world, beginning with Poughkeepsie.”

John H. Raymond

John H. Raymond, as the second president of Vassar, led the young college through its formative years and was largely responsible for the formation of Vassar’s system of education. Born in New York City in 1814, Raymond received a classical education. A long and significant relationship with education, in which he was a student, teacher, […]

Alan Simpson

Alan Simpson

Succeeding Sarah Blanding in 1964 to become Vassar’s seventh president, Alan Simpson led the college through far-reaching changes, most notably its transition to a coeducational institution in 1969. Simpson once said, “Our problem is to plot an imaginative path between harlotry, humbug, and huckstering on the one hand and encrusted conservatism on the other.” He […]

Virginia B. Smith

Eight years after Vassar became coeducational, Virginia B. Smith became its eighth president. Smith brought to Vassar the expertise she had garnered from her previous careers as a lawyer, economist, and educational policy maker, strengthening Vassar’s administrative networks and leading the greatest funding drive in the college’s history. Virginia Beatrice Smith was born in Seattle, […]

James Monroe Taylor

James Monroe Taylor’s tenure as Vassar’s fourth president saw the college expand; the student body more than tripled in size to about 1000, many new buildings were erected, and the curriculum was dramatically altered. During his twenty-eight year presidency, Taylor raised Vassar’s reputation and its standard for academic work and held unwavering loyalty and support […]