Bridges Bridges
Building Bridges
During the 2013/14 academic and fiscal year, even as a visible, physical bridge began to take shape as the centerpiece of the Integrated Science Center, Vassar College’s faculty, students, staff and alumnae/i were deeply engaged in building different kinds of bridges – between present and past; between campus and town; between disparate cultures, both on campus and overseas – in an ongoing effort to make connections, rather than sow division.
Catharine B. Hill portrait

A Message from the President

While the idea of “building bridges” is not a new one for Vassar College – we have been doing that since our founding – fiscal year 2013/14 proved to be a landmark year in our efforts to build bridges with one another as a community, and between the campus and the local community and the wider world. It is important to recognize these as part of a much larger, ongoing endeavor about Vassar’s future.

For example, last year it was undeniably exciting to welcome the first Vassar Veterans Posse to campus. But to truly build a bridge between our College and the young men and women who have borne the brunt of America’s recent wars requires an effort far more systematic than the one-time admission of an outstanding group of scholar-veterans. The arrival of the second Vassar Veterans Posse and the selection process for the third is a signal that our College is committed to diversifying our student body to include veterans over the long run. Equally important, as the article that begins on the Expanding Diversity page indicates, this program is but one component of our long-term commitment to the creation of a campus that reflects the diversity of 21st-century America through retention as well as recruitment, listening as well as learning.

Our commitment to building bridges can take unlikely forms, and can take us to unlikely places. The Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris might seem to have nothing more in common with Vassar than beautiful architecture, until an innovative and talented professor uses the most modern of methods to explain the intricacies of constructing glorious Gothic design to 21st-century students (Reconstructing Architecture's Past). A still more unexpected, and unexpectedly joyous, connection can arise when members of the Vassar choir perform in Japan with young people from that country and from Uganda (Creating a Home in the World). Closer to home, the accomplishments of our scholar-athletes have united the campus with pride in their achievements ( Inspiring Champions).

It is my hope that, as you read these stories and this entire report, the importance and the value of building bridges in all of these ways and more will become self-evident.

Catherine Hill Signature

Catharine B. Hill

President, Vassar College

William Plapinger portrait

A Message from the Chair of the Board of Trustees

The fiscal year that ended June 30, 2014 saw Vassar continue to make significant strides in our ongoing efforts to achieve financial equilibrium and ensure the College’s economic future for years to come.

Most notably, as the financial report beginning on Page 18 indicates, Vassar’s endowment, which provides nearly one-third of the College’s operational funding, had risen by the fiscal year’s end to an all-time high figure just below $1 billion, thanks to an investment return during the year of greater than 15 percent. While one must always be cautious in reviewing a single year’s results–and indeed, all of our financial planning takes into account the longer view–investment return on the endowment averaged 12.6 percent over the past five years, a strong base from which to continue to build the endowment. These excellent results are due in no small part to the expertise and guidance of the Board of Trustees’ Investments Committee, whose work, under the leadership of Committee Chair Henry Johnson ’88, I wish to acknowledge here.

At the same time, the College continued to take other steps consistent with the goals of the integrated financial model utilized by the Board of Trustees. Foremost among these was the decision to offer a voluntary retirement incentive program to a large number of administrative and staff employees, 69 of whom elected to conclude their service to Vassar by December 31, 2014. Although the College expects to eventually replace about half of these employees, this result will mean significant savings in Vassar’s operating budget. It also meant we were able to honor the extraordinary years of service by these individuals to Vassar–a stunning aggregate 1,559 years–for which we are deeply grateful.

While acknowledging the service of these individuals is a well-deserved nod to Vassar’s past, the planning behind the voluntary retirement incentive program, like all of the planning here at Vassar, was done with an eye to the College’s future. That is equally true of two of the most visible projects that are spotlighted on the following pages: construction and renovation of the new and historic buildings that will comprise our Integrated Science Center, including the soaring “bridge building,” giving Vassar the physical facilities needed for the 21st-century study of science (Page 8); and the opening of the new College Store (along with a new restaurant) at the site of the Juliet Theater, which extends further Vassar’s commitment to the Arlington community, and vice versa (Page 10).

Our progress in so many of these areas relies on the generosity of those who support the College through their donations, on the steadfast leadership of President Catharine Hill backed by an able administration and staff, and of course on the remarkable talents and creativity of our faculty and students. For all of this, I join my fellow Trustees in offering our profound appreciation.

Plapinger Signature

William A. Plapinger ’74, P’10

Chair, Vassar College Board of Trustees

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