Vassar Innovators

I was bursting with pride at being a Vassar graduate even more when I read the recent Vassar Views on Vassar innovators, movers and shakers, rebels, discoverers, entrepreneurs, etc. What an exciting group of people, with an impressively diverse list of projects. I hope every prospective student receives a copy of that issue. [Visit http://innovators.vassar.edu.]

Happy Prince Marsh ’53
Yarmouth, Maine

Thank You

Thank You, Leathem Mehaffey. I just wanted to write a note about Mr. Mehaffey [Summer 2005]. I could never pronounce his first name and felt that it was improper to use it anyway. But I was enrolled in his “Introduction to Biology” class during my freshman year in 1974. That year we were working with fruit flies (family drosophilidae) in the lab. I recall that we were studying genetics/heredity. Therefore, when the big day arrived for our finals—I was floored. I had never sat for an exam in an auditorium before. There were over 200 students sitting for the biology final. I had spent all night studying. I loved his class and the labs; he was great, inspirational. It was fun, too!

So, here I am sitting for the exam. I read all the questions and just blanked. I couldn’t answer any of them. I just went DUMB! So, I stood up and handed my test to him, less than 15 minutes after sitting down to take a two-hour final.

I was so surprised when he asked me why I was giving him a blank exam. I explained that I had studied so hard and long that I couldn’t remember anything at all.

This incredible teacher told me that I could come to the lab and take his test. I cried all the way back to my dorm room, where thank God I went to sleep. I sat for his exam, and I passed the class. By the way, his exam was much more difficult than the general department’s final.

I still tell this story to every student who tells me that teachers are against them. It’s not true.

Mr. Mehaffey, thank you. Enjoy your retirement.

Pattie J. Robinson ’78
Perth Amboy, New Jersey

Men in Strong House

I was one of approximately 25 freshman and sophomore men who were assigned rooms in Strong during the 1971–72 academic year. The article “Strong House” in the latest issue of the Quarterly[Fall 2005] would have us believe this never happened, that Strong has been staunchly single-sex for its entire history “...even after the transition to coeducation in the early ’70s.”

Interestingly, the article features many recollections from a Vassar graduate named Cecilia Mendez Hodes who, as a 1972 graduate, would have been living there at the same time we were. I was astonished that Colton Johnson,who was teaching in the English department at the time and also contributed to the article, appears to be as amnesic as Ms. Hodes.

Middle age can admittedly fog the memory bank, but for me, living in Strong my freshman year was a fascinating and intense introduction to Vassar not easily forgotten. In fact it was a distinction I have always felt separated me from the freshman experiences of most of my male classmates. At an institutional level every guy was adjusting to a wildly lopsided gender ratio, but those of us in Strong House got a different dose of this reality.

If interviewed by Micah Buis ’02 I would certainly have painted a picture that for a single year in Strong’s existence a lucky group of men were fully, if somewhat oddly, integrated into the rich fabric of this dormitory’s single-sex history and culture, otherwise portrayed with considerable accuracy in his piece. And we were far the better for it.

I visited Strong with my six-year-old daughter, Hayley, at my 30th reunion this past June. My wife (also a Vassar graduate) and I would love for her to follow in our footsteps. I, for one, would be delighted if Strong House was a part of that decision.

David Foote ’75
New Canaan, Connecticut

Winifred Asprey ‘38

As a former student of Winifred Asprey, I can attest to the joy and privilege of having been in her classroom. Many thanks for the splendid article in the recent VQ [“Vassar’s Computing Pioneer,” Fall 2005] about this remarkable woman. Clearly, she is computer science’s Maria Mitchell.

Fay Gambee ’62
New York, New York