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Vassar Encyclopedia

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

A Sad Recollection from 1868

Unable in June 1933 to attend the Vassar reunions, Anna Baker Brooks, a member in 1868 of the college’s second graduating class, wrote from her home in California about a sad incident. Her letter, under the title “From the Sixty-Fifth Reunion Class, a Letter,” appeared in Vassar Quarterly.

2218 Fourth Avenue
Sacramento, California.

To the Associate Alumnae of Vassar College:

The first class of Vassar in 1867 planted an ivy in the south corner outside of Main Hall. Our class of ’68 scorned the lowly ivy and voted for a sturdy oak, which we planted a short distance from Main on the north side of the drive. I learned some years later our original tree did not live; but was replaced by the college gardener by a second one.

Upon the morning of our class day, we had a rehearsal by the side of the excavation for our tree. With Bella Carter, I went to the Library to procure the spade with which Mr. Matthew Vassar turned the first sod for Vassar College. When we entered, the trustees were holding a business meeting and with a word of apology, we went to the drawer where the spade was kept. Mr. Vassar left his position behind the desk where he was presiding and asked us what we were doing. I replied that we had come for his spade and explained for what purpose it was to be used, viz.: the planting of our oak. He expressed himself as both pleased and honored by our selection and with a few words wished us success and returned to his desk. We held our rehearsal and upon returning to the college with the spade, were met at the entrance by the overwhelming news of Mr. Vassar’s sudden death. It seems he only pronounced the opening sentence of his address when he was fatally stricken with paralysis. Without doubt, we two girls were the last students to converse with our honored Founder.

We went through with our Class Day and Commencement ceremonies, but with a devastating sense of bereavement and loss.

Annie Baker Brooks,[1] ‘68

[1] Of the original twenty-five members of the class of 1868, Mrs. Brooks and Miss Martha Warner are the two surviving members.

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  1. “From the Sixty-Fifth Reunion Class, A Letter,” Vassar Quarterly, vol. XVIII, no. 3, July 1, 1933

CJ, 2016