Rena L. Vassar (1927-89)

John J. Broesamle, November 1989

Rena L. Vassar, Professor of History at California State University, Northridge, died on July 14, 1989. A victim of cancer, she was 62. Her colleagues and her many friends throughout this country and abroad will remember her for her charm, high professional standards, and uncompromising integrity.

Born in Pueblo, CO Professor Vassar took her bachelor of arts at the University of Colorado and completed the Ph.D. in American colonial history at the University of California, Berkeley in 1958. She joined the Northridge faculty seven years later. She also taught at Indiana University, the University of Colorado, Claremont, and Colgate. At Northridge she developed new courses in the history of American women and in oral history. She had an exceptionally loyal following of students. They knew her as a demanding teacher who was uncommonly generous with her time. Though considerable, Professor Vassar's published legacy reflects only a portion of her broad range of scholarly interests. Her two-volume Social History of American Education (Rand McNally) appeared in 1965. At the time of her death she had completed much of the research for a landmark history of women in higher education.

Colleagues and friends knew Rena Vassar as a person of wide-ranging and complex intellect. She was devoted to the arts; not a week went by without a concert or play. Her fine memory gave her quite an astonishing breadth of knowledge in an array of fields. She had a bounteous capacity for friendship, and eagerly aided those who were troubled. This compounded the frustration of all who tried to return full measure during her final months. Friends who were not with her then will feel no surprise that she was a model of grace, unflinchingly courageous to the end.

John J. Broesamle
California State University, Northridge