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Vassar Encyclopedia

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

An Overview of Vassar Traditions

In her inaugural speech, president Sarah Gibson Blanding (1946-1964) observed that one time-honored Vassar tradition is “the tradition of changing with the changing times.” Very few of the original college traditions are still practiced today, and none are practiced in the same manner. Founder’s Day, for example, the oldest Vassar tradition, was first celebrated in […]

Class Trees

A visitor driving through Vassar’s Main Gate today is likely to be as awed by the magnificence of the landscape as by the grandeur of Main Building, but this wasn’t always the case. The largest building in the country when it was completed in 1865, Main was set on an open, treeless plain, the site […]

Convocation

In 1865, President John H. Raymond gave a sermon in honor of the college’s opening. Such services continued to be held every September until 1914. Then, at the suggestion of Lucy Maynard Salmon, a convocation ceremony, with a procession of the faculty in academic regalia, was organized to formally open each academic year. The ceremony […]

Daisy Chain

Perhaps the most famous of Vassar traditions, the annual Daisy Chain is also one of the oldest. Every year, a group of sophomore women, chosen for their leadership skills, class spirit, and eagerness to volunteer their time, are chosen by a committee of the senior class council to carry a 150-foot chain of daisies and […]

Founder’s Day

There’s a day in the springtimeAs the campus knows wellWhen the book is laid upon the shelfAnd silent’s the bell.– from a Founder’s Day “Traditional” On April 29, 1866, around four in the afternoon, President John H. Raymond arrived at Matthew Vassar’s Springside residence, and invited him for a leisurely ride to the college. En […]

Senior Parlor

In the parlor at the turn of the century More then 60 years ago one of the most anticipated social events of the fall semester was the opening of a room in the south wing on the third floor of Main Building. Sophomores sang and performed for their sister class, the seniors, while enjoying what […]

Vassar Proms

Hannah Lyman, the first Lady Principal of Vassar, doubted that dancing was in accord with Christian principles and before she was hired, challenged President Raymond about the propriety of students dancing. As recorded in his Life and Letters1, while President Raymond was forming his initial college administration in January 1865 and considering the candidacy of […]