Saturday, July 15, 2006

Thank-you For My Education …

Bea was the first woman in her family to attend an Ivy League college. Vassar has always been very important to her. She explains why to her father in a letter written April 3, 1932. The blue stationary is engraved Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York.

“I do love you so very much! And I really appreciate what Mother and you have done in giving me this wonderful opportunity to look into the knowledge, the wealth of wisdom, of the men of the past, and to have the pleasure, good example, and inspiration of friends like those we have here, to enrich my life this way. Even though I have shown in no tangible way and achieved nothing spectacular in a scholarly way yet, I cannot express to you what these four years have meant to me. In sending me to college you really have done some part in adding to the progress of civilization because I know that through my education, my growth, in magnanimity, tolerance and knowledge of human foibles, I shall be a better wife and mother and bring my children up with a more far-seeing plan and with more self-control than I would have otherwise.

I hate to think of the four years coming to a close. There is so much more which I would like to look into further! So much which I have not yet investigated, so many courses I would like to have taken. But college teaches that a man’s best instructor is himself, so I am going to try very hard to continue steadily the development started here.

Tonight we had a pleasant evening, which I shall never forget. Most of the girls don’t get back until tomorrow and tonight we had a feast in our rooms for nine girls who came back early, six of which were from different groups, girls from different kinds of homes, in different parts of the country, all of different interests. And we had a grand time! One girl brought malted milk and a shaker, and we shook. Kit had a chicken she brought from home. And we talked about everything under the sun.

Please write to me, Daddy if you get a chance. With love to Mother and the children, your loving Bee.”

In an album, I find a loose photo of my mother, looking beautiful. The caption reveals it to be the shot sent to Vassar prior to admission. Above the photo, Bea has scrawled, “What did Vassar do for me?”

It is hard to imagine her mood the day she wrote those words. Generally Bea felt she got a lot out of Vassar, as she so eloquently describes above. Still, I think what mattered most were the lifelong friends she made there.

This week I finally told her Miggits had passed away. Bea got very quiet. It must be hard to be alone in such a case, unable to share one’s grief. Bea is the only member of her Vassar group still alive. Nancy Rodman Macdonald, her brother Seldon, Kitty Stryker Dunn, Ruth Berrits Fox, Peggy Hodges, now Margaret White Campbell and brother Ben, all gone …

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