John Guy Vassar and Matthew Vassar Jr., nephew of Matthew Vassar who founded Vassar College, recognized the need for an organization that would combine three educational societies formed during the 1870’s to discuss science, literature and art. These societies merged in 1881 to form the “Vassar Brothers Institute” of which we are members today.
The Vassars were civic minded and generous. They built a Victorian multi-purpose building on Vassar Street in Poughkeepsie (on the site of their former brewery) and presented it to our first Trustees on November 28,1882. It contained an active museum, library, arts studio and an auditorium seating 215 people.
Three sections of the Institute- Science, Literature and Art- sponsored lectures, worked with farmers to increase agricultural knowledge and offered popular courses in arts, civics and language. Each year since 1882 a series of lectures has been held, sometimes with as many as 19 programs. Several of these were given by Vassar College professors and other well-known public figures. Following World War I, public schools, given seed money from our endowment, took over many of these programs.
As our attendance increased, we outgrew the original building on Vassar Street. It was sold in 1977 and now the Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center uses it to enhance its programs in the community. Since 1946 we have presented personally narrated Travel and Adventure Films in the Poughkeepsie High School. “Science in Your Life” lectures were started in 1983 and were held at Our Lady of Lourdes High School Auditorium in 2009.
Not only do funds from our endowment subsidize both the travelogue series and the science lectures, they also support a variety of programs in the community that relate to the Vassar’s mission: the furtherance of Science, Literature and Art.
Maung S. Htoo, President, Ph.D.
Edwin E. Fitchett, Vice-President
Edmund Lynch III, Secretary
Arne C. Christensen, Treasurer
Board of Trustees
John H. Bickford
Arne C. Christensen
Edwin E. Fitchett
Stephen Friedland, M.D.
Margaret A. Horton
Maung S. Htoo, Ph.D.
Steven C. Johnson
Edmund Lynch III
Arthur B. McComb
Lorne E. Richards
Mary Louise VanWinkle, Ph.D.