In Memoriam: Anne Legendre Armstrong '49

It is an honor to portray our pioneering classmate, Anne Legendre Armstrong, who died July 30 at 80. Anne was a unique individual, endowed with brilliance, beauty, talent, and strong determination, which she used with considerable grace and humility. Her accomplishments were astonishing. She was the first woman ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, appointed by President Ford to this prestigious diplomatic post in 1976-77. She became foreign affairs and intelligence counselor to Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. It was a position of cabinet rank during the Cold War. Several added her to their VP short lists. For her many years of public service, in 1987 Reagan awarded her the Medal of Freedom, our country’s highest civilian honor.

Anne was the first woman co-chair of the Republican National Committee and first female keynote speaker of either major party at the 1972 nominating convention. The women’s movement was escalating and Anne became an early champion of equal rights. She founded the Office of Women’s Programs at the White House, continuing to press for placement of women in important offices. She set up a mentoring system, enlisting top women officials to train female interns. She even succeeded in having the White House gym open to women two days a week! Fluent in Spanish, Anne was Nixon’s liaison for Hispanic Americans and a member of the cabinet committee stressing opportunities for them.

Anne and her husband, Tobin Armstrong III, whose grandfather was the legendary ranger who captured the outlaw John Wesley Hardin, met on a weekend at classmate Helen Kleberg Groves’s storied King Ranch adjoining the 50,000-acre Armstrong property. Both Armstrongs helped establish a viable two-party system in Texas, working for better government nationally through the Republican Party. Anne was also a mentor to Texas senator Kay Bailey Hutchison for years.

Tobin, the tall, handsome WWII fighter pilot and expert cattle breeder, accompanied his wife to England during her ambassadorship. Neither of their roles there were merely ceremonial. Anne held many trade meetings, welcoming international guests who became friends. She was the first U.S. 
ambassador to visit embattled Northern Ireland. Tobin traveled extensively, representing Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz. They lived at Winfield House, the palatial nineteenth-century mansion in Regent’s Park. Texas hostess Jane Carruth Smith ’49 came there early to assist her longtime friends. Anne also gathered Vassar alumnae for a spring luncheon at the U. S. Embassy on Grosvenor Square. The Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth loaned American art for Winfield House. When appointed ambassador, Anne had responded: “I’ll have to trade ‘pasture stuff’ for designer ball gowns!” The British were charmed by this glamorous couple with a Texas flavor.

Success came early for Anne. She was valedictorian and class president at Foxcroft and Phi Beta Kappa in her junior year at Vassar. The Armstrongs raised five children, and Anne helped run their ranch. Tobin died in 2005 and Anne loyally assumed his unopposed position as a commissioner of Kenedy County, Texas.

Anne served on numerous boards, among them those of General Motors and American Express. She was a trustee for the Smithsonian Institution, a regent of the Texas A&M University System, and a trustees’ chair of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Hers was a life of great distinction.

Jane Howard Guernsey ’49
Irvine, California

Editor's Note: Read more about the Armstrongs...

Re: "The Vassar Vote," Fall 2008

Far be it from me to squelch a young person’s need to express themselves, but a point of information to the student who said, “There needs to be a vibrant radical left which … espouses the anarchist and communist ideals”: Under a communist system, anarchists are either dead or in jail.

I would volunteer: There needs to be a vibrant pursuit of history’s lessons.

Michael Simeone P’07
Pawcatuck, Connecticut

Dewey Defeats Truman

Election Night
Election Night

This picture from page 28 of the recent Quarterly [Vassar Yesterday, Fall 2008] is not “headquarters organized by the… Young Republicans,” rather a picture of some seniors (I happen to be just out of the picture) on election night watching the results come in. The short, dark-haired, pixie-cut, serious-faced young woman on the right is my senior roommate and best friend Rochelle Rudolph (now Cyprus) class of 1961. I recognize several others of my senior class. We are in fact hoping and praying and urging on the results that eventually elected our beloved John Kennedy. The serious but hopeful faces tell the story. The picture was probably taken very late in the evening or early morning. The results came in later.

Louise Mooradkanian Homer ’61
Stow, Massachusetts

I was delighted to see the “Vassar Yesterday” photo of that memorable night that we watched the 1960 election. I’ll never forget it, and you can see how we were riveted to that little TV screen. I’m in the middle right, holding my finger to my chin, in my old blue corduroy bathrobe.

However, you speculated that this might be the Young Republicans headquarters. Far from it! As I remember, us Democrats, who were in a small minority, were huddled in one little quarter of the room! It was one of the living rooms, and we were all watching it together. We stayed up all night, and didn’t find out the results until the next day.

Judith Prager ’61
Somerville, Massachusetts

As the person in the center of the photograph, I can guarantee that this was not a gathering of Young Republicans. I worked and voted for John F. Kennedy.

Anne Susswein '61
San Antonio, Texas