Re: "Hall of Presidents"

I love the historical issue about presidents and especially the photographs and commentary about Frances Fergusson [Spring 2006], a stellar college executive, and Sarah Blanding who was a “freshman” with me.

But I do have one observation, a sort of glaring omission. In order to give the very first president, Milo P. Jewett, who originated the idea of a women’s college to make Matthew Vassar’s name more famous than the “pyramids” and who served before the college was built, a more important status, the second paragraph starts, “Jewett’s mother was a descendent of John Adams.” And therein lies the error.

Certainly Jewett’s mother was also a descendent of Abigail Adams, and how much more pride, originality, and celebrity might come Jewett’s way via his antecedent mother rather than just his antecedent father. Abigail Adams was a splendid manager of the home, family, and farm while John was away at constitutional business. She was capable, highly intelligent, literate, and had wit and charm. She preserved his fortune, probably supported him in the style in which he was accustomed, and did everything else he needed done. The statement and omission were obviously an oversight. Perhaps someday when I retire a second time—from The Center for First Amendment Rights, Inc.—I’ll work on the subject of “Founding Mothers,” perhaps with Vassar.

Thanks anyway for an otherwise faultless issue and a most enjoyable one.

Ethel Silver Sorokin ’50
West Hartford, Connecticut

Founder's Day 1946

Congratulations on the latest issue of the Vassar Quarterly in honor of Frances Fergusson [Spring 2006]. The article “Vassar’s Hall of Presidents” makes clear how fortunate Vassar has been, and continues to be, in the vision and abilities of its presidents, and also of those who choose them.

But as to Founder’s Day, which this article says resumed in 1968 “for the first time since World War II,” I would like to correct the record. On May 4 of C-term, 1946, when I was a freshman, I wrote home to my family: “Here it is, 7 a.m. of a beautiful Founder’s Day. We don’t have any classes, and breakfast is from 8:30, but unfortunately I have early message center anyway [part of the co-op plan]. At 9 we go to serenade Prexy, and at 9:30 we have a Hare and Hounds chase with the faculty. Mr. Post of the Pol. Sc. Dept., who is fully 6'5" tall, is the hare, and all the rest of us are the hounds. In spite of which, they didn’t find him last year (my later italics). The faculty show tonight promises to be very good from the little bits I’ve seen.”

My letter also mentions a baseball game in the afternoon between the faculty and the newly arrived male students, the veterans. But alas, I never reported after the great day nor do I remember who won the game. So Founder’s Day must have been celebrated in 1945 as well as in 1946. I remember finding it all very quaint, as in antiquated, quite appropriate for my mother’s class of 1919 but in sophisticated 1946? But however Founder’s Day is celebrated, how grateful we must be to Matthew Vassar and to all of Vassar’s fine presidents, and long may the tradition of Founder’s Day continue.

Anne Von Maltzahn ’48
Halifax, Nova Scotia

More on Fran

Just a note to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the latest issue of the VQ, the articles by Fran and about Fran. The scrapbook of photos was remarkable. “Fran Reflects” was a delightful “memoir,” and looking at the photos of her 20 years ago and then today shows how she has grown younger with her 20 years on the job. I’ve stayed in touch with Fran over the years through the Atrium School in Watertown, Massachusetts, which I founded. We now count among our faculty six Vassar graduates, and many from our student body have attended Vassar.

Ginny Lewisohn Kahn ’49
Cambridge, Massachusetts


What a wonderful and fitting tribute to Fran’s tenure at Vassar in the Spring 2006 issue of theVassar Quarterly! Fran has made a lasting and incredibly positive impact on Vassar—its buildings and grounds, academic programs, community relations, and the student body itself—only some of the many aspects of Vassar that she has touched with such positive effect.

Elizabeth Cushman Titus Putnam ’55
Shaftsbury, Vermont

Editor's Note: President Fergusson

Editor’s Note: To read other messages about President Fergusson or to share your own visitwww.aavc.vassar.edu..