Comprehensive Campaign Launch Remarks

Thank you so much for joining us here today or online watching the launch of our comprehensive campaign in front of the monumental and historic Main building. Today we celebrate the Vassar community—it has always been fearless and has always made a difference. The role of the College has never been more important than it is right now.

We live in a such a divisive and fragile moment in history, marked by low levels of trust—in our politicians, in our institutions, in our sources of news, and in our communities. And the global problems we face—such as climate change, persistent inequities of all kinds, and very real threats to democracy—are pressing and complex.

Truly, the sense of urgency is palpable.

In this moment, we need to bring together and empower people who come from diverse backgrounds, who are not afraid to question the status quo and to do so with humility, listening and learning from others (including voices that often have not been heard), who are creative problem solvers, who use multidisciplinary approaches and are comfortable in many worlds, who know what it means to “go to the source” to gather reliable facts, and who can work across differences in engaged, pluralistic ways.

It is a tall order. But this is exactly what Vassar does and what this campaign is about.

The campaign is called Fearlessly Consequential: A Campaign for our Collective Future. It builds on our history and it fits our future: “Fearlessly Consequential.” Matthew Vassar founded the College on the eve of the Civil War. He was not deterred! And he took risks—he designed the College to include athletics (even though the medical profession at the time cautioned that exercise might compromise women’s fertility; Matthew Vassar understood this was not true and went against the grain). He also insisted on having an art gallery, as he believed that art was integral to a well-rounded education. The spirit of fearlessness continued as Vassar students and faculty led marches for women’s suffrage in the early 20th century. Vassar was one of the first colleges to embrace multidisciplinary studies as core to the curriculum, one of the first liberal arts colleges to offer Computer Science Studies, one of the first to have a Black Studies program, the first leading women’s college to go co-ed. Vassar was early in establishing a need blind admission policy, which Vassar stuck with through a deep recession. And in more recent times, we have endorsed carbon neutrality by 2030, earlier than most of our peers, and we got through COVID-19 setting the standard for higher education in a pandemic. Fearlessly Consequential: that is who we are.

And then the second, equally important part, “A campaign for our collective future.”

This is not just about Vassar; it is about being part of something bigger than ourselves. This is about being an integral part of making a better collective future by educating young adults—young adults who can foster a world in which people from all economic and social backgrounds are included, who know how to resolve disagreements, and who are inspired and feel equipped to address the global challenges ahead of us.

The campaign includes many investments and I will highlight a few:

  • Investments in financial aid, so we can continue to take the most qualified students regardless of their ability to pay, as well as
  • Investments in our faculty and curriculum, including a Center for Multidisciplinary Study to help address multifaceted problems like the climate emergency, forced migration, and economic inequity.
  • Support for our engaged pluralism efforts that have contributed to our first generation and low-income students graduating at the same rate as other students, as well as a
  • Center for Admission and Career Education to launch students to have the influence they want in the world.
  • We also plan to create a new Sport and Recreation facility amplifying Matthew Vassar’s original inspiration to include athletics and a commitment to wellness in higher education.

Vassar has emerged from the pandemic with strength. Our applications are up, our faculty are as robust and diverse as ever, 93% of our graduates are employed or in graduate school or a competitive fellowship within six months of graduation, and we have raised $210M toward the campaign goal of $500M, despite the months and months of pandemic. I am delighted to say that we are in an excellent position to launch this public campaign, which will strengthen our campus and further elevate Vassar as a leading example of the value of a liberal arts education.

We are all part of Vassar’s legacy and vital to its future. We are fearlessly consequential, and this is our time.

Thank you so much for your partnership and support.