1881, May 6. Yesterday we went to town see the opening of the Vassar Brothers Home for old men. I looked at Matthew Vassar (Vassar College’s founder’s nephew) with admiration. It is a good deal to be successful in getting money, to give it away by tens of thousands is more! And to see a man upwards of 70 stand up in a crowd and say exactly the right thing and sit down before the audience was tired, is not usual . . . .
Maria Mitchell always says it well. Matthew Vassar, founder of Vassar College, had originally wanted to establish a hospital in his name. His nephew, also named Matthew Vassar, was once of several who convinced him to establish a women’s college. Vassar would still goon to be a generous man in supporting the Poughkeepsie area – I believe a hospital was built – and obviously his nephew continued n in the same tradition as noted by Maria Mitchell here.
This reminds me of Bill Gates and Berkshire Hathaway founder Warren Buffett and many other multi-millionaires and billionaires who have pledged to give away much of their wealth. There were people in the nineteenth century and earlier, during the Great Depression and later who saw a need and gave willingly. The MMA was such a recipient in its building of the Vestal Street Observatory in the early 1900s when some monies were given to its building by Andrew Carnegie. A small new observatory on an isolated island – he knew we were in need and knew it could be something tremendous that contributed to our knowledge and education – and he was right!
Further, Vassar was not looking for accolades as Maria also notes. Buffett, Carnegie, Gates, they don’t look for accolades and I would assume that all would know what to say and would not continue to speak on and on, nor stand until the audience could no longer clap. That’s class – for lack of a better word – and reaching out to give to others when you have so much or so much more that you cannot ever use it all. That is compassion, caring, generosity and kindness.