This is Vassar: The newsletter for Vassar College Alumnae/i and Families

Photo credit: Todd Shapera ’79

An Unusual Bequest

When Beth Hughes was given a Vassar College graduation pin that had belonged to a friend’s mother, Ethel Marie Burr, class of 1909, she knew she had a unique treasure on her hands. The tiny pin is shaped like an owl wearing the numbers “09” over its eyes like spectacles, with the initials “E.M.B.” on its back. (Hughes, a history teacher, had also been given Burr’s Vassarion, which she liked to show to her students.) As the hundredth anniversary of Burr’s Vassar graduation approached, Hughes wanted to do something special with the pin — perhaps to somehow present it to a member of this new century’s Vassar ’09ers?

She contacted Executive Director of Campus Activities Teresa Quinn, who then alerted Director of Alumnae/i Relations for Programs Cathy Lunn of Hughes’s unique bequest. Lunn searched the members of the class of 2009 for someone with Burr’s initials — and found just one match: Elizabeth Marta Bock.

Lunn met with Bock, an art history and political science double major, and gave her Burr’s yearbook so she could see Ethel’s photograph. At that meeting, Lunn says, “I knew I had found the right person” for the pin — regardless of the serendipitously matching monogram. “She told me that she came to Vassar because of the history,” Lunn says, “and now she will have a part of it.”

Bock, as a senior, happened to work in Vassar’s special collections library, where she was able to look up Burr’s biographical file, hoping to learn more about her. Ethel Marie Burr — the great-grandniece of Aaron Burr — “seemed like a very fascinating woman, who read and traveled a great deal,” she says.

Bock was presented the pin at Commencement. AAVC President Meg Venecek Johnson ’84 mentioned the pin and its history in her remarks that day, after noting that graduation was the moment when the class of 2009 became not just the “beneficiaries of Vassar traditions,” but also “the guardians of those very same traditions.” She asked Bock to take “good care” of the pin — it is, she said, “due back before the class of 2109 walks across this stage.”

Bock plans to attend law school next year at the University of Michigan.

June 2009

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