Stories

Reunion 2024: The Highlights

Photos by Buck Lewis, Karl Rabe, Stockton Photo, Inc.

On 2024 Reunion weekend—spanning Thursday, May 30, through Sunday, June 2—nearly 1,300 alums (and about 400 guests) returned to campus for a full weekend of fun. This reunion focused on classes that end in 4s and 9s, though 1948 and 1949 prefer to return together. The weekend was jam-packed with activity.

People standing and seated around a table with food wearing tropical print shirts and leis.
The 50th Reunion class—1974—donned their “island wear” for a tropical-themed dinner in the Bridge Building. Photo by Karl Rabe.

The class of 1974 enjoyed extra time at their alma mater, arriving on Thursday to celebrate their 50th Reunion year. Throughout the weekend, the class attended a variety of fun events, starting with a Welcome Back Buffet dinner on Joss Beach. The next night, they donned island attire for their Tropical Breezes dinner in the Bridge for Laboratory Sciences, and watched the Friday night fireworks display from the balcony overlooking Sunset Lake.

As part of the forum Reflections on Coeducation at Vassar, the class of 1974 looked back on Vassar’s decision to go coed a year before they matriculated. Classmates shared personal reflections of that time, and two popular professors—Glen Johnson, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, and Anne Constantinople, Professor Emerita of Psychology—put the era in context. The decision had come at a moment when important shifts were occurring in American higher education, they noted. It was also in an era in which students began to pressure colleges to expand their curricula to include the teaching of African American and non-Western narratives, as well as women’s history.

Two people wearing straw hats sitting in a golf cart looking on.
Phyllis Hayter Townsend and Mary Nunn Morrow, both ’48, were the eldest alums to return for Reunion. They received a special shout-out from President Bradley during the Hour with the President. Photo by Karl Rabe.

Alums from all classes were invited to learn about “today’s Vassar” during an Hour with the President on Saturday morning. President Elizabeth H. Bradley addressed critiques of higher education—from the high cost of tuition to the ways in which colleges and universities have dealt with campus protests. “Despite the turbulent environment current for higher education nationally, at Vassar, we have much momentum for the future,” Bradley said. She shared the “pride points” that stoked her optimism: Record applications for admission, a continuance of Vassar’s need-blind application process, greater access for low-income and first-generation students, wonderful post-Vassar outcomes, impressive new professors, winning athletics teams, and more.

There was the festive annual Reunion parade, in which alums proceeded by golf cart or on foot to Celebrate Vassar, held in Noyes Circle. The atmosphere was celebratory and the remarks were received warmly by the audience. Towards the end of the event, the proceedings were briefly interrupted by alum protesters calling for divestment related to the war in Gaza. After a pause, the remarks resumed and then wrapped. 

Two smiling people looking at art work on the wall of a gallery.
Among the many tours offered were tours of the Loeb Art Center. Photo by Karl Rabe.

Attendees enjoyed tours of the museum and lectures on everything from the promises and pitfalls of AI to the 96-year-old Wimpfheimer Nursery School. Paula Williams Madison and the Honorable Richard Roberts, both from the class of 1974, hosted a screening of Madison’s documentary Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China, which chronicles her journey to find her extended family in her maternal grandfather’s homeland, China. Alum authors showcased their work in the Vassar Store. Two forums offered sneak peeks at programming for the Vassar Institute for the Liberal Arts, which will open this fall, alongside the Salt Line restaurant and the Heartwood, a 50-room inn.

One person clasping hands and smiling at another person with their back to the camera.
50th Reunion Committee Co-chair Fritz Friedman and Paula Williams Madison, both ’74, catch up on the Davison steps. Photo by Buck Lewis.

Alums had the opportunity to connect on a more personal level at class-specific dinners, as well as affinity receptions, such as those for African American Alumnae/i of Vassar College (AAAVC), LGBTQI alums, and former Vassar athletes. The class of 1969 gathered for their dedication of two benches in the Shakespeare Garden on Friday night.

Alums reconnected not just with each other, but with the beauty of the campus through tours of Vassar’s Arboretum and Preserve. Some even took a break for a peaceful walk around the labyrinth at Pratt House, the new home of Vassar’s Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and Contemplative Practices.

A line of smiling people holding sheet music and singing.
Former members of the a cappella group the Night Owls came together to perform for Reunioneers on Saturday evening. Photo by Stockton Photo, Inc.

At a luncheon at Alumnae House, the Alumnae/i Association of Vassar College (AAVC) honored Stephanie Hyacinth ’84 with its Outstanding Service to Vassar Award. AAVC President Monica Vachher ’77 noted that the awardee has served in several Vassar Vassar campaigns, as everything from campaign co-chair to committee member. She has also served on the Vassar Board of Trustees and on the Board of Directors of the AAVC. Despite these lofty positions, Vachher said, no job has been too small for Hyacinth. “She never gets wrapped up in the sturm und drang—she just sort of does the right thing.”

Before introducing Hyacinth, Vachher shared the news that the Reunion classes had raised roughly $32 million over a five-year period to support the College and its students. The funds will be considered part of the Fearlessly Consequential campaign on which Hyacinth serves as campaign co-chair.

Three people smiling and standing side by side. The person in the middle is holding an award.
Stephanie Hyacinth ’84, center, accepts the Outstanding Service to Vassar Award from Amy Pullman ’71, head of the AAVC Alum Recognition Committee and AAVC President Monica Vachher ’77. Photo by Stockton Photo, Inc.

This Reunion was one to remember not just for Hyacinth, who celebrated her 40th Reunion, but for members of classes from 1948/49 to 2019. Connecting with old friends, meeting new ones, and reencountering the beauty of the campus did many a world of good.

Firework bursting over a lake with onlookers gathered on the shore.

You’ll find a gallery with more than 400 images from Reunion on Flickr and here's a reel of Reunion highlights and a video about what Reunion-year alums miss about Vassar.

Posted
June 6, 2024
Alums