Seven Vermont Women Upgrade Higher Education Compiled by Rickey Gard Diamond
Excerpt from Vermont Woman newspaper, December 12, 2012:
Nationally known for its progressive contributions to educational history, Goddard College named Barbara Vacarr its tenth president in June, 2010. Vacarr believes that "telling a fuller story is part of the job of education," the reason why she made it one of her first tasks to honor the accomplishments of Evalyn Bates. Bates' story paints a vivid picture of women's education in an earlier time.
Bates attended Montpelier Seminary as a boarding student, with her tuition paid by produce and milk from the family farm, graduating in 1933. Her fraternal grandmother wanted someone in the family to graduate from UVM, so she paid for Evalyn's attendance. But after a year, Bates developed appendicitis and had to leave. (An older brother had already died of the Spanish Flu.)
She finished her second year at Goddard Junior College, located in Barre then, while living with her grandmother and aunt, acting as a mother's helper and nanny to her young cousin, in exchange for her board and room and tuition. She wouldn't graduate until 1936.
When Goddard reincarnated as a four-year college in Plainfield in 1938, Evalyn was among those who worked to get the new enterprise off the ground, while continuing her studies. In 1943, she was one of the first two baccalaureate graduates. Her senior study was "Two Projects in Adult Education."
President of the new college, Tim Pitkin, in his commencement speech noted Bate's study had removed "the barriers that ordinarily separate school from real life. In a very real sense the social environment has been [her] laboratory." Bates became Pitkin's secretary and maintained a long professional relationship with the man who became her mentor and friend.
Bates went on to design The Adult Degree Program, the first "distance education" ever instituted, decades before computers made the term widespread. Bates' ideas about a low-residency model were ahead of her time; she oversaw the first residency in 1963. Vacarr says that Bate's approach changed education forever. It is why she felt it important to tell Bates' story.
ADP remains the mainstay of Goddard's education now, and its design has been adapted by other colleges, including Johnson State, Bennington College and Norwich Univ. programs at Vermont College, now become Vermont College of the Fine Arts. Vacarr launched Lesley University's Ph.D. program in the School of Education in 2006 as the epitome of her career that helped make Lesley a center for adult learning in the Boston area. Elements of Vacarr's work used Bates' design.
When Bates first began, however, she reported meeting with some initial resistance. "My recollection is that it took some prodding for [Tim Pitkin] to think about it," she laughed. "He wasn't too keen on the idea at first; he didn't understand its dimensions." By 1968, she took a sabbatical to study at Claremont Graduate School and Esalen Institute in California, formulating a master's program, based on the ADP model.
Yet it wasn't until Sept. of 2011 that Evalyn Bates' work became more widely recognized, appearing as part of an article about Goddard's surprising survival in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
This fall, Vacarr awarded Bates an honorary doctorate at a graduation event, saying, "In Evalyn's own words, 'Goddard was one of the few places that took seriously the idea that adult college students could make their own minds up about what they wanted to do.'
"This is what students have always had the freedom to do at Goddard," Vacarr went on. "However, this day is also about righting a wrong, about telling a woman's story that is long overdue, a story that has endured in silence….Evalyn's work…remains more educationally relevant today than ever before."
Sadly, Bates doctorate was awarded posthumously, but Dr. Vacarr's work, illuminating Bates' career and Goddard's lost history, brings this president closer to her broader goal of a more inclusionary educational narrative.