Vassar Today

Vassar bids farewell to five faculty members

By Samantha Soper ’91

After many years of distinguished service as faculty and administrators of the college, the following five professors will retire, leaving behind beloved students and their own special legacies.

Frank Bergon

Professor of English

Bergon attended Stanford University as a Stegner Writing Fellow and completed his Ph.D. at Harvard University before coming to Vassar in 1972. When asked how Vassar students have changed over the years, Bergon replied, “I think of Willie Mays when he was asked to compare great catches he made over the years. ‘I don’t compare them,’ he said, ‘I just catch them.’ I feel the same way about the many talented students I’ve taught: I don’t compare them. I just coach them.” Aside from teaching Senior Composition, one of Bergon’s most treasured memories of Vassar is its commitment to multidisciplinary education. Bergon’s two terms as director of the American Culture Program, and his participation in the Environmental Studies and College Course Programs, allowed him to team-teach classes on topics such as death, boxing, science and the wilderness, and Native American art, while learning from his colleagues in varied disciplines across campus. In addition to his many novels, critical works, and anthologies, including Shoshone Mike, The Journals of Lewis & Clark, and Wild Game, Bergon has just completed a manuscript of a new novel, set in Mexico, and is looking forward to working full time on two new projects—a novel and a memoir, both set in California.

Ann Mehaffey

Lecturer in Biology

In 1982 Mehaffey’s job as a coordinator of laboratory instruction for the biology department became a faculty position. Her duties included scheduling and assigning technicians to work with faculty in supplying the necessary materials for laboratory work. She also focused on preparing solutions, growing organisms, and prepping laboratories, and she helped teach the introductory laboratories. It has been especially exciting for Mehaffey, who earned degrees in chemistry (B.A., Oberlin) and biology (M.S., UPenn), to be part of the creation of Biology 106, “a heavy-duty lab course.” The course is designed to teach many skills used by scientists, including data analysis, presentation of results, and graphing. Mehaffey intends to spend her newfound free time involved in community service work, traveling, and spending more time on the family sailboat.


Cartoon of students in lab
Cartoon of students in lab

Leathem Mehaffey

Assoc. Professor of Biology

“We decided to retire together to enjoy ourselves and because neither of us could countenance the thought of going off to work while the other slept in,” said Mehaffey about timing his retirement to coincide with wife Ann’s. And after earning degrees from Columbia, Fordham, and Ohio State, and putting in 32 years at Vassar, Mehaffey deserves a rest. Mehaffey ran the Leech Lab, located on the third floor of Olmsted. With the help of students, he studied leeches and often incorporated findings into his course Comparative Animal Structure. “That course reminds me of why I got into biology in the first place—the fascination with the infinite variety of morphological and physiological strategies that animals have evolved to adapt to and survive in a changing world.” In his tenure at Vassar, course offerings have changed. But as Mehaffey pointed out, “Even in courses whose titles haven’t changed, the faculty who taught them in 1973 would be hard-pressed to recognize the content today: such is the nature of a fast-moving discipline. One thing hasn’t changed at all, though: we still strongly encourage our students to get into the lab and work on basic research with the faculty.”

Stephen Sadowsky

Assoc. Professor of Psychology

Over the years Sadowsky has moved from Blodgett to Jewett House to Main Building while straddling positions from associate professor and chair of psychology to house fellow to dean of freshmen. After completing his Ph.D. at Brown University in 1967, Sadowsky headed to Poughkeepsie. By 1976 he had completed an internship in clinical psychology and sat for the New York State Licensing Exam in psychology. “Thanks to Vassar’s understanding and generosity, I have been privileged to be able to devote a portion of my time helping treat children and adolescents, and counseling their parents,” said Sadowsky. Only a couple of years into his tenure at Vassar, Sadowsky started accepting positions within the college’s administration, which led to his spending 21 out of his 37 years at Vassar in some administrative capacity. About Vassar students then and now, Sadowsky said, “They are extremely bright, challenging to teach, and delightful to interact with, and they are what has made being at Vassar such a joy.” Sadowsky intends to continue his own education in retirement by sitting in on several of Vassar’s wonderful classes and partaking in additional weeklong Culinary Boot Camps at the Culinary Institute of America.

Blanca Uribe

Professor of Music

This year Uribe will step down as the George Sherman Dickinson Professor of Music. Best known for her interpretations of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas, Uribe is also proud of her 36-year teaching career at Vassar. She trained at the Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in Vienna and later at the Juilliard School in New York. In addition to numerous honors from her home country of Colombia and local Dutchess County, Uribe has appeared as a concert soloist with orchestras around the globe and served on the juries of a number of international competitions. “What has been an interesting challenge is the combination of an active concert career with teaching,” said Uribe. Always hesitant to leave her “extremely bright” students, she arranged concerts that required little travel or were scheduled over academic breaks. She plans to move back to Colombia to live and teach piano.

Cartoon credit: Jean Anderson ’33