Vassar’s ‘Game-Changing’ Admission and Career Center Takes a Big Step Forward

Photos Kelly Marsh

World-class. Transformational. Game-changing.

Those were just a few of the adjectives used to describe The Dede Thompson Bartlett Center for Admission and Career Education at a groundbreaking ceremony on June 12 adjacent to the construction site at the north end of Vassar’s campus. The $27.5-million state-of-the-art building, designed by award-winning architect Maryann Thompson P’17, is scheduled to open in the late fall of 2025.

Video by Jim Sulley and Craig Bonheur

Speaking to a crowd of more than 150 members of the Vassar community and local government and business officials, alum Dede Thompson Bartlett ’65, who launched the project with a $10-million donation, called the new Admission and Career Education Center “a dream come true.”

Five people standing outside with shovels and hardhats digging the ceremonial first scoop.
Dede Thompson Bartlett ’65 (center) and her spouse Jim (second from right) join Trustee Chair Anthony Friscia ’78 (far left), President Elizabeth H. Bradley (second from left), and chief architect Maryann Thompson P’17 (right) at the groundbreaking ceremony for The Dede Thompson Bartlett Center for Admission and Career Education.

Wielding the same shovel College founder Matthew Vassar used for the groundbreaking of Main Building in 1861, President Elizabeth H. Bradley joined Bartlett, Bartlett’s spouse Jim, Trustee Chair Anthony Friscia ’78, and Thompson in turning over a mound of soil at the site.

Bradley lauded Bartlett, who was an executive at two Fortune 25 companies, as a “pioneer (who) has broken glass ceilings and excelled in corporate systems formerly only available to men.” A longtime supporter of career education programs at Vassar and New York University, where she received her master’s degree, Bartlett has funded hundreds of internships for students in mathematics, computer science, economics, and engineering.

Person standing at a podium speaking into a microphone. Two people are sitting next to the podium in white folding chairs . In the background is a large red dumptruck.
President Bradley lauds Dede Thompson Bartlett for her vision and her extraordinary generosity in making the Admission and Career Education Center a reality.

Referring to the initial conversations she and her spouse had with Vassar administrators nearly five years ago, Bartlett said she wanted to help “create a world-class facility built on the astounding work” the College had been doing in career education. “This center will house a dynamic career education program that will give our students the skills to meet the existential challenges of the coming decades,” Bartlett said.

A person outside at a podium speaking into a microphone.
Bartlett called the world-class facility “a dream come true.”

The building will also provide expanded facilities for the Office of Admission, Bartlett added, serving as a welcoming space for visitors to campus. “I cannot wait to see the faces of prospective students and their parents as they walk through this building and see the possibilities Vassar offers,” she said.

Person outside at a podium with a microphone in front of them. The person has blonde hair with glasses on their head with their arms open wide.
Chief architect Maryann Thompson P’17 said her goal in designing the center was to ensure it acted as a gateway to the larger community.

Thompson, the architect, said one of her main goals in designing the building was to ensure that it served as a gateway linking the campus to the community. “The courtyards and open space open their arms to the community,” she said, “and this openness also reflects the Vassar education. Dede told me, ‘I want a building that’s full of light,’ and that’s what it is.”

A person standing outside at a podium speaking into a microphone.
Stacy Bingham, Associate Dean of the College for Career Education, said the new facility would ensure Vassar continues to prepare its graduates for success in a rapidly changing world.

At a luncheon at the Alumnae House following the groundbreaking ceremony, the College administrators expressed their gratitude to the donors. “I am immensely grateful to Dede and Jim for their unwavering support of career education and this project,” said Stacy Bingham, Associate Dean of the College for Career Education. “Fortunately, career education at Vassar has come a long way since Dede graduated in 1965. But it has come an especially long way in the last decade, and not a moment too soon. We have long known that Vassar provides an incredible education. Now, with this new home … we have the opportunity to showcase how we prepare our students and graduates with not only a world-class education but also the skills to be successful and essential in our rapidly changing world.”

Person standing at a podium on a stage speaking into a microphone.
Dean of Admission and Financial Services Sonya Smith said the campus’s “new front door” launches a new chapter in the College’s history of excellence.

Sonya Smith, Dean of Admission and Student Financial Services, said she and her staff had been planning for their new facilities almost since she arrived at Vassar in 2019. “This evolved into a fantastic one-two punch of [a facility for] Admission and Career Education together,” Smith said. “It kicks off another great chapter in Vassar history and gives a new front door—a gorgeous, state-of-the-art one—that we open to our guests from around the world. So folks, this is going to be great!”

Three people standing inside a dining room. The person standing in the middle is holding a champaign glass up in a toast.
Jim and Dede Bartlett join architect Maryann Thompson P’17 in toasting the new facility.

President Bradley closed the celebration by asking everyone to raise their champagne glasses and toast the Bartlett Center. “Our future will be full of change,” she said, “but we are fully equipped for it, thanks to the vision of Dede Bartlett. Here’s to the future!”

June 17, 2024
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