Fran, two decades of leadership

From beautifying the campus with new buildings to forging relationships with students and alumnae/i and hosting dignitaries, these are the memories and images that help to define Fran’s time at Vassar.

“Fran’s understanding of what makes Vassar students tick is remarkable.” JENNIFER DIXON ’06, STUDENT ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT

“I love bumping into her after a guest speaker has appeared on campus. Fran delights in the nuances of argument and in the flair of a good presentation. Days after a good speaker, Fran is still bubbling, still enthused.” ANTHONY S.WOHL, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF HISTORY

“I look around with joy every time I come to campus and think, ‘A highly visual person has been in charge here.’” SUSAN DONAHUE KURETSKY ’63, PROFESSOR OF ART

“Fran has left an indelible imprint on the college in ways large and small. She brought a vision of expanding Vassar’s traditional Eurocentric liberal arts curriculum to embrace the scholarship and experiences of the multiple communities that make up this world.” RICHARD W. ROBERTS ’74, VASSAR COLLEGE TRUSTEE

“Fran has done a tremendous job strengthening the ties between Vassar and its local community.” COLETTE MERICLE LAFUENTE ’63, DUTCHESS COUNTY CLERK AND FORMER MAYOR OF POUGHKEEPSIE

ALANA Center
ALANA Center
“My first perception of Fran was that she was younger than I—a shock. I got to see Fran in action, and at close hand, when I served on the committee to choose the dean of the faculty. It was here that I discovered that she was not just younger than I, she was smarter as well.” RICHARD WILSON, PROFESSOR OF MUSIC

“For me the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center symbolizes Fran. It has style, it has class, it has integrity, and it has quality.” FRANCES PRINDLE TAFT ’42

“During Fran’s first faculty meeting, I shared the story of a student who had written on a course evaluation, ‘If I had to describe Steerman, I’d say he’s the kind of guy I’d like to go fishing with.’ With the hopes of a new period of positive cooperation between the faculty and administration, I echoed this sentiment by saying that Fran Fergusson is the kind of person with whom I’d like to go to the movies.” JAMES STEERMAN, PROFESSOR OF DRAMA AND FILM

with Hillary Rodham Clinton
with Hillary Rodham Clinton
“Fran synthesizes Vassar yesterday, Vassar today, and the social and political issues of the moment into a powerful—sometimes moving, always impeccably considered— discourse. I am just amazed by her intellect.” MEG VENECEK JOHNSON ’84, AAVC BOARD MEMBER

Read more comments about Fran.


two decades of campus growth

The following list highlights some of the noteworthy improvements and progress on campus under President Fergusson’s leadership.


  • A master plan was initiated for the improvement of classroom, residential, and student life on the Vassar campus.
  • Over 1,600 trees planted throughout campus to enhance the landscape and arboretum
  • Buildings and Grounds Services Center, 1993
  • Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, 1993
  • Fisher Passage, 1994
  • ALANA Center
  • Susan Stein Shiva Theater
  • Computer Center
  • Doubleday Studio Art Building
  • Priscilla Bullitt Collins Field Station, 1995
  • Class of ’51 Observatory, 1997
  • Blodgett Hall renovation enhancing teaching and research facilities, 1998
  • Noyes House lounge renovation, 2000
  • Athletic and Fitness Center, 2000
  • South Commons residences and new Terrace Apartments, 2001
  • Martha Rivers and E. Bronson Ingram Library addition and renovation of Thompson Library, 2001
  • Dexter M. Ferry Cooperative House renovation, 2002
  • Mary Anna Fox Martel Recital Hall in Skinner Hall, 2003
  • Students’ Building second-floor renovation and restoration, 2003
  • Jewett House renovation, 2003
  • Center for Drama and Film, 2003
  • J. L.Weinberg Field Sports Pavilion, 2003
  • Alumnae House renovation, 2005
  • Kenyon Hall addition and renovation, 2006


  • In 1986, Vassar accepted almost one out of every two applicants. About 10 percent were students of color.
  • In 2005, Vassar accepted fewer than 29 percent of more than 6,300 applicants. Almost 25 percent were students of color.


  • Summer internships supporting collaborative student-faculty research:
  • Undergraduate Research Summer Institute (URSI), 1986
  • Ford Scholars Program, 1988
  • Multidisciplinary programs, including:
    • Jewish Studies, 2000
    • Environmental Studies, 2000
    • Neuroscience and Behavior, 2004
    • Media Studies, 2005
  • Integration of technology into learning and teaching across the curriculum, along with Ethernet wiring of the entire campus:
  • Geographic Information Systems, 1998
  • Scientific Visualization Laboratory, 2000
  • Media Cloisters, state-of-the-art library space for collaborative learning and the exploration of high-end technologies, 2000


  • Vassar’s endowment was approximately $200 million in 1986, before Fergusson led a successful $206 million campaign (then a fundraising record for a liberal arts college) ending in 1996.
  • By 2006, Vassar’s endowment more than tripled, to $712 million, and the college had received an upgrade in its bond rating from AA- to AA.


  • Arlington neighborhood revitalization project
  • The Community Works Campaign, funded by donations from Vassar employees and students of Vassar College, provides financial assistance to local not-for-profit organizations.
  • The Vassar Summer Community Fellows Program pays students to work in local human service agencies that promote commitment to social justice.
  • Good Neighbors Committee was created to provide small cash grants to groups working to improve the local community and to help students learn about philanthropy.


  • Acquisition of Paul Fritts pipe organ for Mary Anna Fox Martel Recital Hall, 2003
  • The annual Powerhouse season has grown during the Fergusson presidency into one of the nation’s most respected summer programs for the development of new work and the training of young talent.
  • 782 gifts, purchases, and bequests—and the more than 4,700 individual pieces—acquired by the art center during her tenure