IV. June 30, 1863
GENTLEMEN: Through a gracious Providence we are now permitted to meet once more for consultation in reference to the -important enterprise which has been confided to your care.
I desire to be deeply thankful to the Giver and Preserver of life that, in the enjoyment of tolerable bodily health and strength, and in the possession of my mental powers not materially impaired, I am allowed to extend to you a cordial welcome to the honors and responsibilities of this occasion, and to the hospitalities which we may be able to offer.
During the past year our enterprise has gone steadily forward. The report of the Treasurer will show our funds to be in good condition. Some of our securities have advanced above par and the proceeds of others have been sold by our Treasurer on good and advantageous terms and invested in long loans on bond and mortgage.
Since our last meeting, the College edifice has been inclosed, and the builder has occupied the winter and spring in laying the floors, furring and lathing, and putting in the gas-pipes. The plastering is now proceeding in the hands of a responsible and energetic contractor.
During the year, two of the workmen employed in the building met with a sudden and violent death by accidental falls; but no blame could be attached to any person for the fatal casualties. The Founder appropriated a liberal gratuity to the families of the deceased.
The President returned from Europe in December last, and will lay before you the result of his observations. Some highly favorable opportunities having occurred for the purchase of books for the library, the books were obtained under the authority granted at the meeting of the Board in February, 1862.
Under the advice of the President, when in Rome, last September, the Executive Committee contracted for copies of four pictures from the old masters, to be made by Miss Emma C. Church, an American artist from New York City. Two of these are their way to this country, and a third is probably completed. The high rate of exchange which now prevails has much increased the expense of these pictures; but it is a great satisfaction to know that the first contribution to our Art-Gallery will reflect the very soul of Raphael and others of the world's acknowledged masters.
For several months past the subject of an astronomical observatory has engaged my attention. It was ascertained that Henry Fritz, the celebrated telescope-maker of New-York, had on hand an object-glass 12 3/8 inches in diameter, which could be bought, cash' down, for $2000 less than the customary price. Through a third party, the College not being known in the transaction; the bargain was closed, the Treasurer secured the prize, and the glass is now in the safe of the Founder. When mounted, this glass will give us a telescope 12 3/8 inches aperture and 17 feet in length. It is exceeded in size only by the great Equatorial of Cambridge Observatory.
The most important subjects to be acted on at this meeting will be presented for your consideration in the report on the organization of the College. For the two years past, the President has given his earnest attention to the matter; and, for the last six months, his whole time and thoughts have been employed in elaborating and maturing the details. The plan which will be submitted to you has received the sanction of several of the most distinguished educators of our country. The President has conferred freely with the Founder on every feature of the system; and while I can not claim any knowledge and decline all responsibility in relation to matters purely literary and professional, yet, so far as I am capable of judging, the great principles contained in the report met my cordial approval. But I shall leave the final decision of these questions to your superior wisdom.
The correspondence, both of the Founder and the President, this last year, has been very extensive, and evinces universal interest in our enterprise. From the number of applications already received and from the numerous inquiries addressed to us from all the Free States, it is reasonable to conclude that our halls will be thronged with students at the first opening of the College.
With regard to the work done on the College this spring and summer, it has not been as extensive as we expected. The scarcity of hands and high price of materials have greatly retarded its prosecution, (although I would not state this to be the only and exclusive reason,) which, if continued, may prolong the completion of the building beyond the period stipulated in the contract with Mr. Harloe. For these reasons, we do not believe it to be good policy to enter into engagements for furniture or to incur any expenditure whatever, until such time as we can see a prospect of opening the College within a given period. My wishes have been to finish the edifice, inclose and layout the walks and drives, plant the shrubbery and trees, but to incur no further outlay of capital at present.
And now, gentlemen, as you are my chosen associates in carrying forward this great work, I beg you to be frank and free to speak and express your unbiased judgment upon all matters connected with the enterprise, as it is only by a candid and open expression of our several views that we can hope to perfect our plans and remove from the public mind all doubts concerning this new feature or epoch of female education. Therefore I beg leave to repeat the expressions of my confidence in your interest, your wisdom, and your energy, by God's blessing, to bring it to a happy consummation. I also renew to you the promise of my constant and earnest cooperation as far as my feeble health will permit; and I pledge myself to do all in my power to secure the success of the Institution while I live, and to perpetuate its blessings to my country and to the world for long generations after I have slept with my fathers.
Vassar's Communications to the Board of Trustees