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College Spotlight : Vassar College

Jan 03, 2023

This college turned down Yale’s offer to merge. Instead, Vassar opened its doors to men in 1969. #tipstales&truthsforteens #drcynthiacolon @Vassar

For full disclosure and as you will discover in my book – I worked at Vassar College for four years in Residence Life and the Admission Office. Many of the tales in the book are inspired by real life adventures at Vassar. I have said many times that Vassar is one of the most beautiful campuses I have been to – and I have been to likely 100 campuses over the last 20 + years. It was true when I had only been to 5 and it remains a true statement today. 

I am excited to share with you my three favorite things about Vassar.

First – Vassar’s founder had a desire to be an independent college 

Matthew Vassar was a self made man who made his fortune by brewing beer. With no children, he set out to create a college equal to Harvard and Yale, for women. And with his vision of an elite women’s college, the doors were opened to just over 350 women in 1865. Nearly 100 years later, the prestigious college was offered, like a hand in marriage, to merge with Yale. Decision makers turned down the proposal, but instead opened its doors to men in 1969.  

I love this story because it shows that instead of merging – there was a strong belief for the need to have an elite college different than other Ivy League institutions. 

When I was there – the experience was far from my own. A small college of under 3000 students, nearly 2 hours from the closest major city, and no football or greek life. This city girl could not wrap her head around why a high school senior would choose this place. 

The truth was this: A small college without the ease of escaping to an enticing city for excitement – meant that students were creative, used their imagination, and took advantage of everything ON CAMPUS – everyday – every weekend. I cannot tell you how many times I regret how much I did not take advantage of in college. A small, liberal arts college almost forces you to engage with the community, no need for football, these are your teammates not just for four years, but for life. 

Second – real relationships between students and professors

Faculty members lived in Residence, known as “House Fellows” 

House Fellows were responsible for Programming; anything from study breaks, to card nights, to poetry reading in their home.  They are part of the community, engaged in conversation and eat in the main dining hall known as ACDC (All Campus Dining Center).

Students are often tapped to babysit – acting as a big brother or sister. 

One former student had this to say about her Vassar experience:

“I loved that I really did get to know my professors. I still keep in touch with a handful of them and on more than one occasion I help with the content of the syllabi.” This is a testament to not just the relationship but the high regard professors have for their students, who are in essence, adults with incredible minds and ideas. 

Third – Traditions Rule The Day 

Vassar is a Co-Ed institution, but its roots as an elite women’s college remained for more than 100 years before the acceptance of men. With that said, the tradition of 3pm Tea in the Rose Parlor still happens today, five days per week. 

But it is the oldest tradition at Vassar that is truly a beauty to behold.  It is known as the Vassar College Daisy Chain. I found the history in Vassar Encyclopedia: 

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 laurel, the Daisy Chain, at Commencement. A similar group of sophomore men are chosen as well, to act as Commencement ushers. The 

"daisies," as these young men and women are known, are an active campus group, assisting the senior class with Commencement week activities. The chain itself is carried on the day of Commencement by the female "daisies" dressed in identical white dresses, functioning as a flower-lined corridor to guide the graduates to the ceremony. The men, in blue blazers, white pants, and purple daisy-print ties, hand out programs and help guide relatives and other Commencement guests to their seats. To serve as a "daisy" is a great honor, for daisies are responsible for carrying on a Vassar tradition that extends back to the late 1800s.

WOW – so many great memories of a place where I enjoyed golfing on the $2 golf course, reading in the Shakespeare garden, and watching alumna Meryl Streep speak in the Chapel. 

You can learn more about Vassar at  - I promise it is worth a look. 

Thank you for stopping here to learn more about Vassar, please share this blog and/or the original video with friends. 

And remember, wherever you are - Have a Happy and Sunny Day!