Historian Hannah Holborn Gray from the University of Chicago gave the Phi Beta Kappa Lecture, on, "Humanism and Religion Before the Reformation." Noting that early humanism was "not necessarily devoted to Christian ethics but to religion," Professor Gray asserted that it was "a set of values, not a school of thought," leading to "no single set of conclusions."  She drew on the lives and experiences of four humanists—Petrarch, Lorenzo Valla, Erasmus and Thomas More—to examine her thesis, uncovering sufficient differences in their influences, approaches and ends to, in the end, define their "humanism" as "a range of religious questions."  She held that this "lack of unity," reported Linda Malone '75 in The Miscellany News, "caused the humanists to become an 'educated élite' swept under by the wave of the Reformation."

Dean-elect of the College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University, Dr. Gray returned to Vassar the following spring to deliver the commencement address.