On August 15, 2016, Catharine “Cappy” Hill completed her remarkable tenure as President of Vassar — an extraordinary decade of service that changed the face of the College.
Under President Hill’s leadership, and with the support of the Board of Trustees, Vassar has emerged as a national leader in need-blind admissions. President Hill felt strongly that deserving students, regardless of their economic circumstances, should have access to the best of higher education. The College’s progress in this area has been widely recognized and lauded, from the halls of the White House to the pages of The New York Times. In 2015, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation presented its inaugural Prize for Equity in Educational Excellence to Vassar for the College’s success in attracting and graduating low-income students. The $1 million award is the largest in the nation recognizing a college making strides in enrolling low-income students and supporting them to successful graduation.
Hill expanded the concept of access in unexpected and innovative ways, notably through her pioneering vision for the Vassar Veterans Posse. Each of the four classes on campus now includes a complement of men and women who have served our country in America’s Armed Forces, both here and abroad. As a result of this forward-thinking leadership, Vassar’s student body now better reflects the demographics of a changing America.
Under Hill’s presidency, Vassar emerged as a national leader on issues of access to higher education.
President Hill also spearheaded a fundraising campaign, Vassar 150: World Changing, that resulted in the completion of the College’s Integrated Science Commons, including the new Bridge for Laboratory Sciences, bringing Vassar’s science facilities into the 21st century. Her work significantly broadened the College’s outreach to the community outside its walls, both locally and internationally; and she worked closely with the Board to ensure Vassar’s fiscal stability as she successfully guided the College through the most challenging economic times since the Great Depression.
“President Hill is an exceptional leader,” Board of Trustees chair William Plapinger ’74 said, upon the announcement of her decision to step down. “She has shown this time and again over the course of her presidency, as she has worked in partnership with the board, and with our faculty, students, staff, graduates, and parents. She led the College through and out of the global financial crisis; she has been an unwavering national leader for socioeconomic diversity on campus and the admission of veterans; and she has been a tireless advocate for Vassar and its needs.
“Cappy Hill is also an extraordinary person, a characterization that is heard across all quarters of the College and beyond,” Plapinger added. “A collaborative and thoughtful leader and educator, she has been my colleague and my friend. My board colleagues and I will miss her greatly.”
Said President Hill, “As I consider my presidency at this wonderful college, I think in terms of the individuals I have come to know — our amazing students, talented and hard-working faculty and staff, alumnae and alumni accomplished in every field, and dedicated board colleagues. I am so proud of what they have been able to do, and what we have achieved together. And I look forward to the ongoing work that will continue to ensure Vassar’s place as a leader in higher education.”
The Hill Years: A Look Back
Catharine Hill becomes Vassar’s 10th President.
Vassar’s Board of Trustees votes to adopt a “need-blind” policy regarding financial aid.
Weathering the Crash
The U.S. economy slides into the deepest recession since the Great Depression. In response, Vassar devises a plan that keeps layoffs to an absolute minimum while ultimately restoring equilibrium to the College’s finances.
Vassar receives two major grants from the National Science Foundation that will help enable the transformation of research and research training at the College.
Marking a Milestone
Vassar celebrates the 150th anniversary of its founding by kicking off a year-long Sesquicentennial Celebration and a concomitant fundraising campaign with a goal of $400 million.
Embracing the Community
More than 600 area residents attend the first “Day at Vassar” program for the Hudson Valley community, attending classes taught by more than 40 of the College’s faculty who volunteer their services on the first day of fall break.
Reaching Out to China
Reflecting the rapid growth in the number of students from China attending Vassar, President Hill signs an accord during a visit to Peking University’s Yuanpei College that will result in a student exchange program beginning in fall 2013.
Forming a Posse
The Posse Foundation and Vassar announce a joint initiative originally suggested by President Hill to enroll groups of qualified students who are veterans of America’s recent wars.
Advising the White House
President Hill joins Vice President Joseph Biden, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and nine other college and university presidents for a White House meeting about issues of financial aid and other costs in higher education; Vassar is the only liberal arts college represented at the meeting.
Collaborating with West Point
The Vassar-West Point collaboration, which seeks to facilitate dialogue between future military and civilian leaders, is launched.
Standing Up to Hate
More than a thousand community members, including students, faculty, administration, staff and alumnae/i, unite to counter a demonstration by the Westboro Baptist Church hate group.
Exceeding the Goal
The Vassar 150: World Changing campaign concludes, having raised $432 million, well surpassing its original goal.
Welcoming the Veterans
The first 10 Vassar Veterans Posse scholars arrive on campus.
Topping the Times Index
The New York Times ranks Vassar #1 in its inaugural survey which evaluates efforts by colleges and universities to enroll students from low-income backgrounds.
Doubling the Bandwidth
The National Science Foundation awards two major grants – more typically given to large research institutions – that result in Vassar more than doubling its digital bandwidth.
Winning the Prize
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation announces it is awarding its inaugural $1 million Cooke Prize for Equity in Educational Excellence to Vassar in recognition of the strides the College has made in attracting and enrolling low-income students and supporting them to successful graduation.
Increasing the Aid
Nearly 63% of the incoming freshman class receives some kind of financial aid from Vassar – up from 46% nine years earlier.
The College commits to two renewable energy projects that will allow Vassar to generate nearly a quarter of its electricity from renewable sources.
Opening the Bridge
Bringing one of the primary goals of the Vassar 150 campaign to realization, the Bridge for Laboratory Sciences opens for classes, completing an Integrated Science Commons that also includes renovations to Sanders Physics and New England buildings as well as Olmsted Hall.
Leaving a Legacy
President Hill leaves office after 10 years of heading Vassar; with the arrival of the Class of 2020, each class now contains a Veterans Posse.