The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Vassar College
VASSAR COLLEGE, an institution of learning near Poughkeepsie, N. Y., founded by Matthew Vassar for the advanced education of young women. The founder was born in Norfolk county, England, April 29, 1792, and in 1796 came to the United States with his father, who settled on a farm near Poughkeepsie. The father engaged in brewing, in which his son subsequently accumulated a large fortune. In February, 1861, Mr. Vassar delivered to trustees, incorporated for the purpose by the legislature in the preceding January, $408,000 for the founding of Vassar female college, accompanying the gift with a statement of his wishes concerning the plan of the college and its system of instruction. About half of this sum was to be expended in the erection of buildings, for which he gave a beautiful site of 200 acres nearly two miles E. of Poughkeepsie and a little greater distance from the Hudson river, and the remainder to form an endowment for the partial support of the professorships, &c. It was not his purpose to make it a charity school, but to afford to women opportunities for obtaining a collegiate education at moderate cost, and gratuitous instruction to those unable to pay for it. All sectarian influences were to “be carefully excluded, but the training of our students should never be intrusted to the skeptical, the irreligious, or the immoral.” Mr. Vassar died June 23, 1868, and left a bequest of $50,000 to constitute a lecture fund, the income to be used in maintaining, without extra charge to the students, lectures on literature, science, and art; $50,000 as a library, art, and cabinet fund; and $50,000 as an “auxiliary fund for aiding students of superior promise and high scholarship, who are unable to pay the full charges for board and tuition in the college.” The construction of the main college building was completed in 1865. It is of brick with blue freestone trimmings, 500 ft. in length, with a breadth at the centre of 200 ft., and at the transverse wings of 164 ft. The central building and the wings are five stories high, and the connecting parts four stories. Within the edifice are five independent dwellings for resident officers, accommodations for about 400 students, recitation and lecture rooms, a chapel, and apartments for a library and reading room, philosophical apparatus, laboratories, &c. Apart from the main edifice are an observatory and a spacious museum, containing an art gallery, a studio, cabinets of natural history, a lecture room, music rooms, a hall for literary societies, a hall for calisthenics, and a bowling alley.
In 1861 Prof. Milo P. Jewett was chosen president of the institution, and he subsequently visited Europe to obtain information for the promotion of its organization. In 1864 he resigned, and was succeeded by John H. Raymond, LL. D., who still holds the office (1876). In September, 1865, the college was opened with 8 professors and 20 other instructors, besides the president and lady principal, and 300 students, which number was increased during the year to 350. In 1867 the name of the institution was changed from Vassar female college to its present form. There is a preparatory course of study of about two years, and a collegiate course of four years. Special collegiate courses are also provided for advanced students not under 20 years of age. Applicants for admission to the preparatory classes must be at least 15 years of age, and to any college class at least 16. In all cases admission must be preceded by examination. To the middle of the sophomore year all studies are prescribed, except that the student has the option of taking Greek, German, or French. For the remainder of the course the student must pursue at least three studies, which may be selected by herself subject to the approval of the faculty. Students are encouraged to take, in addition to the regular course, one study in drawing, painting, and modelling, or in music. Students who complete the regular course receive the first or baccalaureate degree. A candidate for the second degree must pass examination in studies which have been approved by the faculty as equivalent to a post-graduate course of two years, and must present a satisfactory dissertation on some literary or scientific subject. The price of board and tuition for each student is $400 for the college year of 40 weeks. An extra charge is made for private lessons in music and the arts of design. Provision is made by the auxiliary fund for remitting to indigent students one half the charge for board and tuition. In 1875-'6 there were, besides the president and lady principal, 9 professors, of whom 3 were women, 22 female teachers, and 370 students, of whom 202 were pursuing collegiate and 168 preparatory studies. Of the students, 114 were from New York, 253 from other states, 2 from Canada, and 1 from Russia. The total number of graduates of the college to the close of 1875-'6 was 323. The college has a library of 9,000 volumes, and valuable philosophical apparatus.