Remarks: Groundbreaking for The Dede Thompson Bartlett Center for Admission and Career Education

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

It’s so nice to have you all here. I really want to thank the many people from our larger community who are here to support us: Rebecca Edwards, the Town Supervisor; Didi Barrett, the New York State Assembly member; Lydia Biskup, representing New York State Senator Rob Rolison; Ron Hicks, representing the County Executive; Ann Shershin, our Town Council member for this ward; Lisa Kaul, from the County Legislature; Bob Legacy, the director of the business improvement district in Arlington; and Tony Friscia, chair of our board. Of course, Mary Ann Thompson, the architect and creative force of nature, is here. And I believe her helper, Ben, is here, too—an architect. And then we have Dede Thompson Bartlett and her husband, Jim Bartlett, the donors who really made this all happen.

Several other donors and supporters are here: Carol Ostrow, James Beatty, Brian Farkas, Cage Ames, Bill Braverman and Sarah McLeod, Kathleen and Philip McKnight. And Rachel Adam and Bridget Bartlett, who are the nieces of donors Barbara and Chris Dixon. All of you have made this possible with your donations, your time, and your support. Thank you so much.

This project, from my perspective, is nothing short of transformational.

It’s transformational for our campus, for Vassar as an institution, and for our current students, but also the generations of students to come. I still remember that Zoom call—the fateful Zoom call with Dean Alamo, Tim Kane, Dede, and Jim—and thinking, “Hmm, maybe they’ll want to do something little to help us.” And all of a sudden, Dede says, “No, we want to do something major.” So we said, “Okay, we want to build a building.”

Truly, it was that day that this was born, and your generosity knows no bounds. Thank you so very much.

There are two things this building accomplishes—two signals, really, it gives us. The first is that it is an inclusive, welcoming, and hospitable entrance into the Vassar experience. It lies a little lower than the great Renwick building of Main. It comes in on this side with gorgeous landscaping that makes it seem as if everybody can come to this building. And it puts our best foot forward in a hospitable, green, and absolutely drop-dead gorgeous building.

The second signal it sends is that of a doorway into an enriching career and life—with not only our career education physical presence, but also the new staffing, the new concepts of how to do career education with a real liberal arts approach.

Throughout this—both entrance and then doorway into the future—I know we will inhabit these areas with the classic Vassar sense of inquiry, questioning everything, with creativity, openness to what can happen, and liberal arts that liberate the mind. Opening potential for all of us, our students foremost.

In addition to these two signals, the other part of the building that thrills me and our campus is that it is really an avenue into our larger world. Liberal arts colleges can get quite set and focused and myopic, but this building, in the way it’s designed, embraces the town with two L-shaped arms that are set within a liminal space between the campus quad and the town itself—arms outstretched, that we may, as Vassar, embrace this town and then take a larger world view at such an important time in our future, and ideally, in a way that creates a better collective future for all of us.

I love the building, and I love Dede. So I want to take a moment to introduce Dede properly. It is such a pleasure to introduce you to Dede Thompson Bartlett, for whom this new center is named, and in recognition of the extraordinary $10 million gift that she and Jim made to launch the project. We are deeply grateful to the Bartlett family for their inspiration and their vision.

Dede graduated with honors from Vassar in the class of 1965, and she received her master’s degree from NYU, where she gave this year’s commencement address at the Tandon School of Engineering.

She cochairs the Jim and Dede Bartlett Foundation and is committed to increasing the number of women pursuing degrees in math, computer science, and engineering. She’s established more than 250 summer internships at Vassar College and at Tandon School of Engineering at NYU.

Dede is a pioneer. She’s broken glass ceilings and excelled in corporate systems formerly available only to men, and in spite of the lack of career services—which she reminds us of often!—back at Vassar in the 1960s, and the enormous challenges facing women in the workplace.

As a young college graduate, Dede rose to the highest levels at two Fortune 25 companies. She was the vice president of corporate affairs programs at Altria Group, and earlier she was the vice president and corporate secretary of Philip Morris Companies, Inc. She was also corporate secretary of Mobil Corporation and president of the Mobil Foundation.

In her volunteer life, she was a visiting fellow at the Council of Independent Colleges and is currently on the advisory board of Legal Momentum, the Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund. A past president of the Women’s Forum of New York, Dede received the Women Who Make a Difference Award from the International Women’s Forum.

A former chair of the advisory board of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, she’s been honored for her work in helping survivors of domestic violence. She’s been honored by the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, Lifetime Television, and the National Center of Victims of Crime, the DAR, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Whew! If that’s not enough for one woman’s incredible accomplishments, Dede is also an author. She has written a three-volume family history entitled Discovering My Lost Family: The Unexpected Journey of an American Woman.

Dede is one of Vassar’s most generous donors and has established the Thompson Bartlett Fellows for Science, Mathematics, and Computer Science program and the Thompson Bartlett Fellowships. These fellowships have helped more than 100 new graduates and students enter the work world with real-life experiences and practical skills. Please join me in welcoming Dede Thompson Bartlett.

—Elizabeth H. Bradley, President, Vassar College