X. June 25, 1867
RESPECTED FRIENDS: The second collegiate year of our institution has passed, with all its attending and varied circumstances, among which are some worthy of our special and devout consideration and of gratitude to Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, for his great goodness and protection over us, from our first business organization in 1860. No serious sickness or a death, to my knowledge, has occurred in our large circle during the past two years, nor any changes in the official membership or other matters save in the legal title of the College. By an act of the Legislature last winter, the middle word, "Female," was stricken out. Our institution is now and will henceforth be known and distinguished as the
We are indebted chiefly to Mrs. Sarah J. Hale, of Philadelphia, for the suggestion of this change of title. I would now advise that the middle marble slab on the front of the College, containing the word "Female," be removed and the place filled with brick.
Since our last annual meeting, new additions and improvements have been made on the college grounds. A building for a riding-school and gymnasium has been erected, and is admitted by good judges to be the best fitted and best arranged establishment of the kind in this country. Its length is 156 feet, its width 130 feet, its roof is covered with double X tin and slate, and its walls are of brick with blue-stone trimmings. It contains a music-hall 30 by 52 feet, a gymnasium-hall 81 by 30 feet, a bowling-alley 82 by 30 feet, and apartments for the accommodation of several families; also carpenter and joiner's shops, stalls for stabling 20 to 25 horses, and closets, etc., etc.
Baron Von Seldeneck has charge of the riding-school department, and Miss E. M. Powell, a lady of distinguished merit, of gymnastic exercises, who, by a letter I hold in my hand, which I will read directly, recommends to your consideration some improvements or arrangements in the apparatus of the rooms.
Among other physical exercises claiming consideration, dancing has been presented to our Executive Committee for their consideration, and been urged by many citizens. The attention in the Christian community has been awakened by recent writings pro and con on these questions. The latest is an "Essay delivered at the International Convention of the Young Men's Christian Associations," held in Albany last June, by the Rev. Marvin R. Vincent, pastor of the First Presbyterian. Church of Troy, and a reply thereto by the Rev. E. K. Keys, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Poughkeepsie, on the "Incompatibility of Amusements with Christian Life." Both are ably written papers. I present copies of them for your examination. Years ago I made up my judgment on these great questions in the religious point of view, and came to a decision favorable to amusements. I never practiced public dancing in my life, and yet in view of its being a healthful and graceful exercise, I heartily approved of it, and now recommend its being taught in the College to all pupils whose parents or guardians desire it. The gross cost of the gymnasium building, with its appurtenances, is some $46,000. Notwithstanding this large expenditure, its income from pupils engaged in these physical exercises will more than pay the interest on its cost.
I would now recommend some additional finish to the central front of the main college edifice, to break the long plain sweep of the heavy cornice. Also the putting up lightning-rods and the erection of a few sheds for protection of coal from storms. I would also advise the construction of a dam for a pond at the junction of the streams of Casper's Kill and the waters of "Millcove Brook," so graphically described by Mr. Lossing in his history of "Vassar College and its Founder," for the purpose of erecting bathing-houses, and the planting of willow shade-trees to screen the building from public view.
The first year of our college workings was rather experimental, and in common with all new schemes and enterprises were partially indefinite. Subsequent experience has fully demonstrated that, in the main, we were right; and now that all doubts of its future working with success have been removed, our bark may once more venture in confidence upon the educational sea on which we have been voyaging. With regard to the interior official management of the College, it is not my special province or duty to speak. These matters will be laid before you by the proper: heads of the several departments. Such as pertain to the exterior management perhaps it would be well to consider and examine more in detail. First, considerable expenditure has occurred and must continue to occur in this branch of the college management; but whether there is not room for retrenchment and yet progressive improvements, is for you, gentlemen, to consider and direct. I make these suggestions in order that some permanent system of operations may be adopted to guide our Superintendent. I fear the interest of the College has suffered for want of system. It is for you, gentlemen, to appoint a committee to determine on a plan of improvement, and place it in the hands of our agent to work it out; and I would suggest whether it would not be wise for that agent to live in the College, in order that he might have a constant eye and supervision over its internal and external affairs, which properly pertain to his duties. The lack of his personal presence can not be fully estimated. As the old proverb is true, "that the eye of the master is worth two of his servants," much would be saved, as it often happens that wrongdoings by unskillful operatives make it necessary for work to be done over again. Our Chairman, with his large and long experience, will concur with me.
It has been suggested by the Chairman of the Executive Committee (Doctor Bishop) that an enlargement be made to the dining-hall by adding to it the rear hall at the east end of the dining-room. Also, that some additional lodging-rooms for fifty more pupils be prepared, taking the rooms now occupied by the servants, and to finish off part of the basement for the lodging-rooms of the latter. But I must question the policy of these suggestions, especially as cheaper and better accommodations can be obtained by the erection of a building fifteen or twenty feet from the rear of the College, connected by a covered passage, a draught' or sketch of which I expected Mr. Wood, the architect, to have furnished me to accompany these suggestions. Such a building would contain twenty to thirty sleeping-rooms for our domestics, and thus they would be always near their work and retired from the College proper. By this arrangement we could then accommodate fifty more pupils, and then raise our terms of tuition, etc., etc., to $500 a year. The more I reflect on this subject, the more lam satisfied of its policy-that is, to do things better than the best, if possible, and charge accordingly; at least, I made my money by this rule. Almost the whole community are expecting an advance of our terms next fall. This would enable us to take some beneficiary students. A number of visitors this past year have asked whether we were not intending to raise our terms. They are below the average prices of other seminaries of learning in this city, and much below those in the city of New-York and elsewhere.
As physical health is more or less indebted to physical resolution and vigor, I recommend progression in this department by the erection of a few simple swings on cross frame-works located on the lawns. While we are expending so liberally for the mind, I would urge that some useful additional arrangements should be made for the well-being of the body. I would, therefore, suggest the erection of a building for special training in the knowledge of the culinary art, where pupils, with the consent of their parents or guardians, may be instructed how to make a pudding, boil an egg, cook a potato, prepare a dinner, and, in fine, arrange in a proper manner the affairs of a household. Simple as these suggestions may appear, they are the fruits of long thought and reflection. There is nothing more needed than order and fitness of things in domestic economy; for without such provisions all is discord and confusion, like Hogarth's burlesque perspectives.
I would now call your attention to the suggestion and recommendation of the Executive Committee, that a full history of our College and its Founder ought to be written. This has, through my instrumentality and expense, been done, and handsomely done, by your associate trustee, Benson J. Lossing, Esq., at a cost of some $8000 for 2000 copies, or $4 per copy, and I now present each of you, gentlemen, with a copy, with the compliments of the Founder. The importance of this history can only be appreciated by the magnitude, character, and duration of your institution. Without it, posterity might seek in vain for its early history after our bodies lie crumbling in the grave.
In connection with the same idea, a statue of the Founder has been suggested. The delicacy of the subject admonishes me to keep silence, and I would not now bring it to your notice but to redeem my promise to a young lady artist of our city, who has already executed an exceedingly fine bust of myself in marble, and now proposes to construct a model in clay for a bronze statue, seven feet high, at her own cost and risk, for which, if it is not approved by a committee of your own selection, no charge will be made; if approved, the terms to be settled between them and her. But, as intimated above, the delicacy of the subject forbids my urging it upon your consideration. Still, should you decide favorably, the Founder will advance the means to pay for the same and its erection. This artist's name is Mrs. Laura S. Hofmann. It is contemplated to erect the statue within the circle' fronting the main entrance of the College. I had the promise from Mr. Wood, on Saturday of last week, of a rough drawing, in this connection, of a proposed front colonnade, or what the French call porte-cochere, but in this I was disappointed. The colonnade would be both an ornament and a comfort to visitors in stormy or hot weather.
While making these improvements, I would ad vise the painting of the farm-buildings, mill, and dwelling-house; whitewashing the ice-house; also putting up lightning-rods on them, and on the gymnasium and riding-school buildings, and the erection of a few sheds for the college fuel. Also the bridging of the upper end of the lake or mill-pond, by a light, suspension, wire footpath, crossing directly in range with the eastern boundary line of our grounds, and opposite the Gate Lodge, coming out at "Wheeler" farm-house on plank-road. This would save, in a walk to the city, a quarter of a mile.
Since our last annual meeting we have had evidence, in this and other countries, of the popularity of this institution. Letters from distinguished individuals in science, literature, and art have been received, bearing favorable testimony; and I would here call your attention to one, an amateur ornithologist living in this vicinity, a comparative stranger to most of the Board, who has, out of his beneficent heart, donated to the institution a collection of birds, etc., with all the glass cases, of not less value than $5000. That gentleman's name is J. P. Giraud, Jr., and I recommend the Board to pass suitable resolutions of thanks, and place them in his hands and on the records of the institution. Referring again to the financial affairs of our College, I recommend the setting apart of a fund for the express purpose of paying the contingent expenses of repairs to the College buildings and grounds, the interest of which fund only to be used. And in closing these remarks I would here say, that I do not expect all the suggestions herein made to be literally executed at once, but by degrees, as circumstances may from time to time warrant; yet I do hope the net income of the College may be such as to justify their being done soon. Even then my purposes and plans will not all be completed. Progress is my watchword.
Referring again to the office department of our College, I would recommend the appointment of a sub-clerk as an assistant to our Treasurer, who feels his duties to be too arduous and confining, and I will name for that position our book-keeper, Mr. Schou. Long experience has taught me, in business pursuits, always to have more than one string to your bow, which is economy in the long run.
Our Treasurer (M. Vassar, Jr.) will lay before you a report on the financial condition of the College, its prospects, etc. Our Secretary and Superintendent (Mr. Swan) will inform you, in his statement, of the general condition of the material outside matters of the College. The figures are embraced in the accounts, which are kept by our Clerk and his assistants in the most satisfactory manner.
I close my suggestions and statements with a request that this paper be filed with my former ones in the archives of the College. I only add that I would recommend that our Annual Meetings hereafter be held in Commencement-week.
Now, gentlemen, having given you a brief statement of the generalities of the outside matters of our College, I wish I could close my remarks here; but some Occurrences have transpired within the past year among your faculty which I deeply regret, and would not now allude to them, had they not been forced upon my consideration. I allude to the resignation of Professor Knapp, an event as sudden as it was unexpected; and perhaps just one of those cases incident to college experience, which are not easily prevented or provided for. It seems that some disagreement has occurred between Professor Knapp, the President, and Lady Principal, as to the extent of their respective official prerogatives, which has been the occasion of some misunderstanding, and, consequently, unpleasant feelings. While Professor Knapp has discharged his duty with remarkable ability, zeal, and industry, securing the favor and love of all his classes, there seems to have been some element of discord which has cramped and retarded his efforts. Of this he complains; and he has, in consequence, tendered his resignation to your Executive Committee. This, gentlemen, is a delicate and difficult subject to be dealt with; but is one which must be met with discretion and promptness, as the remedy now applied will be a precedent for the guidance of us and our successors in all after time. I hope the Board will give it all the consideration which the subject demands after obtaining from the parties all the facts in the case, and do all in your power to remove the causes for his resignation, and retain him if possible.
One word more before I close this address. I have to request of this Board of Trustees, that they respectively furnish the College, at their own expense, a half-length portrait of themselves, which I shall regard as a compliment to me, and respond to it by a written note, and have them hung up in the Gallery of Fine Arts in the College, that future generations may know who were the dignified friends I called to my assistance when I commenced this great educational work for WOMAN.
Vassar's Communications to the Board of Trustees