Vassar Today


By Lindsay Dawson ’05

Last summer, athletes from around the world converged in Athens, Greece, to celebrate the city’s storied athletic history and compete as their predecessors once did, thousands of years ago. As accomplished as those athletes may be, they haven’t met the Poughkeepsie contingent. This spring break, the Vassar men’s soccer team will follow in the footsteps of recent Olympians and cross the Atlantic to play in Athens. Unlike their Olympic counterparts, though, they will have the unique opportunity to study Greek culture with Vassar professors and alumnae/i. Andy Jennings, the team’s coach, said, “The trip will interweave Greek classics, mythology, and art, and exemplifies exactly what athletics should be at a place like Vassar.”

The groundbreaking visit was made possible by an anonymous alumnus who will contribute, over 20 years, enough money for an annual international trip by a Vassar team—and the players will not have to pay any expenses themselves. According to Jennifer Sachs Dahnert, director of development for principal and leadership gifts, “This is the first seven-figure gift to be made by a male Vassar graduate, and it could have a profound impact on our ability to recruit athletes.” At the donor’s request, the trip will be shared on a three-year rotation between the men’s soccer, men’s and women’s squash, and men’s and women’s rugby teams.

This year, the soccer team will be hosted by Yannis Vardinoyannis ’84, a former Vassar player whose family owns the Greek club team Panathinaikos. President Frances Fergusson and a small group of alumnae/i, who will be participating in an athletics study tour, will join the athletes for part of their break. Although alumnae/i will have the opportunity to watch Vassar compete with teams like the American College of Athens, the trip isn’t all about soccer. Jennings noted that “the trip doesn’t just pay lip service to academics—it is an integral part of the experience.” Along with training sessions and sightseeing excursions, the students will study the historic and cultural context of their journey with fellow traveler and Vassar Professor of Classics Rachel Kitzinger. Before the team departs Poughkeepsie, Kitzinger will meet with the team and assign a reading list to guide the players’ study of all things Greek. Over one weekend, the athletes and study group will meet up with alumnae/i from throughout Greece and Europe for Vassar in Athens, a rigorous schedule of lectures and programs. Staying true to the Ancient Greek ideal of perfection of body and mind, Vassar’s soccer players are not just athletes, but scholar-athletes.