New Bookstore Location at Raymond and Collegeview

Dear Editors,

I was a little unsettled by the statement made by President Catharine Hill on the President's Page of the Spring 2009 issue of the Quarterly.  She describes “Vassar's role in the ongoing revitalization of the Arlington neighborhood,” and goes on to discuss Vassar's recent purchase of the old Juliet Theater on the corner of Raymond and Collegeview avenues, and the plan to rent the space to Barnes and Noble Bookstore.

As an alumna who was also raised in the City of Poughkeepsie, I am concerned about Vassar's relationship with the surrounding community.  I would like to point out that there is an existing bookstore on Collegeview Avenue—Three Arts, which is run by a local small business owner.  If Barnes and Noble rents the old Juliet space, it will likely run Three Arts out of business.  Furthermore, this will eliminate several full-time union staff positions at Vassar, replacing them with possibly non-unionized Barnes and Noble employees. Vassar is an important employer for the local area.

I know that putting local entrepreneurs out of business in favor of national chains is not Vassar's idea of "revitalizing" the community.  I hope that discussions of the use of the Juliet space will continue to involve the local community in ongoing dialogue with the best interests of all in mind.

Elizabeth Hackett Chuang, M.D. '99
New York, New York

A Reply from President Catharine Hill:

Ms. Chuang’s letter points to an area of concern that has, in fact, guided Vassar’s actions to relocate its bookstore from the very beginning. Our intention and hope are that increased traffic to a new bookstore at the corner of Raymond and Collegeview will contribute to a more vital and economically viable neighborhood for all the businesses in Arlington.  To that end College representatives have met several times with the owner of Three Arts Bookstore to discuss ways in which the college’s efforts can support his business operation.

In its new location the Vassar Bookstore will continue its non-exclusive arrangement for textbook sales; faculty members will be free to order course materials from Three Arts, as many already do, and have stated they will continue to do. Further, Vassar’s bookstore, where possible, will not duplicate merchandise in the areas in which Three Arts specializes. Vassar has proposed that the new bookstore feature a bulletin board or kiosk that will contain general information on other stores in Arlington, including Three Arts.

One other note: Many people may not be aware that Barnes & Noble already partners with Vassar to operate the bookstore on campus—it is not merely a renter. Vassar’s collaboration with Barnes & Noble at the new site was reaffirmed after an open request for proposals from a variety of bookstore operators.  We expect a successful partnership that will benefit the broader community and the college.

Re: "Love and Loss: Living with Alzheimer's Disease," Spring 2009

Thanks to the Quarterly and writer Elizabeth Kaledin for the very moving feature on the Schalks and their battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, it’s a story I know all too well. My mother, Darlene Bishop, was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s in 2000 at the age of only 56. At the time, she was still working full time as a medical social worker, active in her church, with many friends and hobbies. Most tragically to me, the year before her diagnosis, she became a grandmother for the first time to my firstborn children, twin boys. When she died in 2006 (at age 62), she left behind five grandsons ages six and under (three of them mine) whom she hardly got to know and love. Alzheimer’s robbed her of the grandmother experience.

Many parts of the Schalks’ story echo my own family’s experiences: “the small indignities” leading up to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, the post-diagnosis stigma, and the challenges of caregiving. Unlike the Schalks, however, my mother did not have a partner on whom to lean (my parents divorced over twenty years before her diagnosis and she never remarried). Setting up “an intricate system of caregiving” fell to me. I never expected, in my thirties, to be juggling my mother’s caregiving needs with those of my young family. It was overwhelming!

In 2005, while feeling utterly helpless and hopeless watching Alzheimer’s consume my bright, beautiful, and beloved mother, I joined the Alzheimer’s Association as an advocate (I am now on the Board of the Northern California and Northern Nevada Chapter where I chair the Advocacy and Public Policy committee). Like the Schalks, I have traveled to my State Capitol to educate my state elected officials on Alzheimer’s disease and to advocate for crucial services for people with Alzheimer’s, their families, and caregivers. In late March, I headed to Washington, DC for my fourth trip to Capitol Hill to speak with members of Congress about increasing funding for Alzheimer’s research and other important issues. This year, the Alzheimer’s Association’s National Public Policy Office profiled my family’s story on their website:www.alz.org/publicpolicyforum/09/overview.asp.

I am so grateful to the Alzheimer’s Association for helping me to find my voice, for empowering me when I felt powerless, and for providing me with community during a very lonely time. Thank you to Elizabeth Kaledin for referencing the Alzheimer’s Association in her article. They are an incomparable resource to anyone embarking on an Alzheimer’s journey. I only wish I’d discovered them earlier in mine. Thank you also to the Schalks for sharing their story and for raising awareness about this insidious disease. 

Leslie Bishop Franco ’89
Oakland, California

The Achievements of '51

Loved the interview with Phil Griffin ’79, president of MSNBC, in the spring 2009 issue. However, I must offer a small comment/correction on your final question: “Will there ever be a Vassar alum in the White House?” (Of course his answer is “Yeah! Why not?”) You need to remember that there has already been a Vassar alum in the White House. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis ’51 lived there for more than two years.

Speaking of our class, I was delighted by the story on my friend and classmate Frances Sternhagen ’51, the wonderful actress who received this year’s AAVC Award for Distinguished Achievement. I’d like to share with my fellow alums an email I received from Frannie recounting this occasion: “I spent a lovely weekend at Vassar doing a reading about Elizabeth Bishop [’34], and speaking with students in the drama department, and meeting some really good teachers in that department. I received a beautiful award Saturday night from the trustees, and had to deliver a speech. I thought, ‘Help! What?’ — when it came to me my memory of our freshman year: an arts conference. 1947 was a year when there were quite a lot of Marxists in all the colleges, and when a young man from Queens shouted out at the artists that they were ‘elitist’ and that ‘we should bring art down to the people!,’ [Barbara] Bibs Muhs [Walker ’48], who was our student government president, and who used to go around campus in her black gown (so she could wear her pajamas underneath if she had an eight o’clock), stood up and said, ‘Excuse me, but who are “the people”? I am a person — one of “the people,” I think — and I don’t want art brought down to me, I want to reach up to art, I want art to be something I aspire to.’ Huge applause, and the guy from Queens had no more to say. I knew then why I had come to Vassar.”

Marian Heath Mundy-Hooper ’51
Mendham, New Jersey

Artifact Check

I am one of the students in the Vassar Yesterday photograph in the spring issue. I wanted to let you know that the picture’s description is not quite correct in two ways. First, two names have been reversed: I am standing on the left, and Martha Getty Wallender ’41 is on the right. Also, the photograph was not taken in the spring, in advance of our summer archaeological expedition, but rather in the fall, after we had already completed it.

In 1939 the Carnegie Foundation gave Vassar $5,000 for the first scientific archaeology in the Hudson Valley. The project was directed by Dr. Mary Butler, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, a professional archaeologist who had led several expeditions to South America.

We were informed of the plan when we were students in Zoology 154b, Anthropology, and offered an opportunity to join the project. No academic credit was offered, and the pay was $50 for three months, but the training and experience were invaluable. An introductory laboratory class was given which was the digging up of a skeleton that had been buried for teaching practice behind the Vassar Observatory, for this purpose.

We worked at various sites both up and down the Hudson River, including Rogers Island (Catskill),Magdalen Island (Tivoli), Crugers Island (Annandale), and other sites further downstream. We learned professional methods of procedures by laying out grids of squares and then digging vertically down, with soil layers. At each layer the loose soil was carefully brushed aside and photos were taken. Finds included English coins, Dutch clay pipe shards, and many Indian arrowheads. I found a small silver coin about the size of a U.S. dime, with the head of Philip II of Spain. Shortly after, an irregular object protruding from the vertical side of the square dig area proved to be a scraper of slate. This was reported by Dr. Butler later to be from an Eskimo culture, preceding the Indian culture. This was indicated by slate being more primitive than flint.

All the finds were brought back to the New England Building where we were taught to catalogue them by standard museum methods. They were placed in the glass display cases and are visible behind us in this photo. 

Eleanor Livingston ’41
Boulder, Colorado


Close readers of the VQ may have noticed that the spring issue of the magazine erroneously announced Reunion 2004. While in some ways we wish we were making an announcement in the spring of five years ago — the market was bullish; the housing bubble had not yet burst; the phrase “collateralized debt obligation” was one most of us were not yet familiar with — we are also grateful that we’re not about to spend an entire summer watching political advertisements involving windsurfing. The Quarterly regrets the error.

The spring issue also neglected to properly attribute “Serving Locally,” Beth Trickett’s article on Jimmy Kelly ’09. This story was originally published in the winter 2008 issue of What’s Happening at Vassar? We apologize for the omission.