LoCascio Replies

Howard Winn’s ’50 first sentence and last paragraph in his comments on Vassar Outlander[Letters, Spring 2008] are his unsubstantiated opinion that the book can be reduced to merely my subjectivity when in fact most of the fictionalized discourse of the Vassar Veterans is in response to actual major themes derived from authentic historic documents, most of which are reproduced in the novel. I do wish that Winn had supported his opinion by specific references to the contents of the book. But since he has not he leaves me nothing specific to which to respond. Last year I received several written reactions to the book, all very positive, from surviving former Vassar Veterans. Typical of their comments are the following excerpts: “Not only did you capture the history of Veterans at Vassar, but it was beautifully written.” “Whatever inspired you to write a book that not only captured the individual and personal year-to-year behavior of the early Vets at Vassar, but also is an official record of those early years? You deserve a great deal of credit, Ralph.” “Ralph, thanks again for writing such a great book…”

Perhaps Winn disagrees with the tone that I was trying to convey. Whether or not that is the case, it is that tone that I think is the most important part of the novel and I would like to elaborate a little further about that. I purposely picked the title Vassar Outlander to convey the tone of the book. The dictionary definition of “outlander” more specifically conveys that tone: “a person who belongs to another region, culture, or group; foreigner, stranger” (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, tenth edition).

In addition to the veterans there was another group at Vassar that I became aware of after Vassar Outlander was written who must have felt the outlander status possibly even more intensely than the veterans, then, as well as for decades after. That group was the female gay student community. I refer the reader to Wolf Girls at Vassar (St. Martin’s Press, 1993, edited by Anne MacKay ’49), a book that helps to capture the isolation, terror, and anxiety generated in those women by a homophobic Blanding administration.

I hope that the impact of Vassar Outlander and this piece will be that one or more readers will be motivated to more systematically research what I found when I did the more informal research as background for the book. There has never been any scholarly research on the overall impact of veterans on female colleges in the post-World War II era! This remains a gaping hole in the area of the history and philosophy of women’s higher education.

While doing research for the book I was impressed by what seemed to be an egalitarian atmosphere on the coed campus. I decided to confirm this by examining current Vassar documents and informal discussions with some students, faculty, and staff. I drew the following conclusion. A student at Vassar today experiences an equalitarian and stimulating social and intellectual environment, whether or not a female or male, gay or straight, veteran or non-veteran.

Ralph LoCascio ’50
Lincoln Park, New Jersey

Have a comment? Email vq@vassar.edu.

Re: "Dynamic Ideas on Population"

I was so pleased to read the article about Laurie Schwab Zabin ’46 in the Spring 2008 Quarterly. As an employee of Planned Parenthood, I am continually frustrated by our country’s teen pregnancy rates, which are some of the highest among developed nations, as well as sexually transmitted infection rates, particularly in teenage girls. Dr. Zabin’s work is so important in reaching at-risk youth with messages of prevention, helping us to stop risky behavior before it starts and empowering women to take control of their reproductive health at an early age.

With the recent Supreme Court decision that threatens the reproductive rights of women all over the country and the 2008 general elections fast approaching, it is more important than ever for us to raise awareness about sexual health. That Dr. Zabin is still working tirelessly on sexual health research at the age of 81 is an amazing feat, particularly in the face of current governmental policies, which preclude funding for family planning research. I am blown away by her dedication and am so proud to be a fellow Vassar alumna.

Laura Katz ’01
Westborough, Massachusetts

Have a comment? Email vq@vassar.edu.

Vassar Inspiration and Education Weekend (VIEW)

September 19–20, 2008

VIEW begins on Friday afternoon for all Vassar volunteers with information sessions for class, club, and admission volunteers as well as reunion planners. Later in the afternoon we’ll hear from a panel of senior Vassar administrators on the “State of the College” and end the evening with our volunteer recognition dinner and presentation of the AAVC Outstanding Service to Vassar award.

All alumnae/i are welcome back home on Saturday for classes and panel presentations, athletic events, student productions, and maybe even an a cappella marathon. Dinner on Saturday evening culminates with remarks by President Catharine Bond Hill. Visit www.aavc.vassar.edu or call 845.437.5445 for more information.

Have a comment? Email vq@vassar.edu.

Alumnae/i Sons and Daughters Admission Program

November 2–3, 2008 & November 23–24, 2008

Open to high school juniors who are sons and daughters of alumnae/i, this program is designed to assist families as they begin the college search process. The Sons and Daughters Program is not a feeder program for Vassar, nor does participation influence the admission process at the college. If you are a member of a class from 1975 to 1984 and live in an East Coast state, from Virginia to the northern border, you will automatically receive registration information in the mail. If you live outside this area, are a member of a class outside the specified range, or would like more information on the program, please visit www.aavc.vassar.edu and click on “Events and Activities.” To be added to the invitation list email Mariah Moody at mamoody@vassar.edu.

Have a comment? Email vq@vassar.edu.

Re: "From the Campaign Trail"

Thank you for your profile of Lee Feinstein’s role in the Hillary Clinton campaign in the “Beyond Vassar” section of your excellent Spring 2008 issue.

Although hardly at the same level, I am serving as what I’ve been calling a “professional volunteer” for the Clinton campaign. This has entailed working locally in Trenton, New Jersey, as well as travelling to various states: I’ve been to Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Indianapolis, Indiana; and all the way to Texas (the farthest away to date). I also make telephone calls every day all across the country — from Wisconsin to Mississippi to Wyoming. I calculate that I have made many hundreds of telephone calls to ascertain political choices, answer burning questions, and give reasons why prospective voters — mostly Democrats, but also Republicans and independents in states where there are crossovers — should choose Hillary rather than Obama as our next president. I spend about two hours every day on these calls.

I have been thoroughly enjoying this role. Given my age, 78, I am always the volunteer to visit assisted-living communities, and I am looked to for my expertise in everything from organizing the kitchen to taking out the trash!

Susan Neuberger Wilson ’51
Princeton, New Jersey