Notable Alumni - The Independents
Adam Penenberg '86
Reed major: economics
Considering a career as a musician, Adam Penenberg (author of Spooked: Espionage in Corporate America) enrolled at NYU as a jazz studies major. Then he transferred to Reed for a thorough liberal arts education.
"A college cannot keep up with technological change," he says, "but liberal arts is forever."
After graduating from Reed in economics, Penenberg won a Thomas J. Watson fellowship for travel to India and Japan in search of indigenous music. In Tokyo he taught English by day and played with some of Japan's top jazz musicians by night. Then came a few years traveling across Asia, Europe, and Africa by train, plane, car, and bicycle. In the early 1990s, he returned to New York to work as a freelance writer and published stories in the New York Times, Wired, Mother Jones, and Playboy in addition to being on the staff of Forbes and forbes.com.
"I've been a lot of places," he says, "done a lot of things, and written for a number of brainy publications. But I have never been in a more intellectually stimulating environment than at Reed. Not because I amassed knowledge there but because I learned to analyze reams of material and to synthesize my own thoughts. I became an independent thinker. Knowing where to look for information is much more important than knowing the answer."
Penenberg won national attention in 1998 for exposing a fabricated New Republic story on hacker crime (portrayed in the movie Shattered Glass). As an investigative journalist, he's uncovered scoops that drew attention to important issues and written stories that have been read into the Congressional Record.
"Journalism is the kind of intellectual challenge that Reed is known for. That's why I see so many classmates out there working at places like the Washington Post and the New York Times."
He's also working on his second book, for HarperCollins, on the Ford-Firestone fiasco. "There's no reason to settle for less than spending your life doing something you love," he says. "I love what I do. I love learning new things every day, and challenging myself to get better, as a writer, as a researcher, and as a person."
Adam Penenberg is currently assistant professor in the department of journalism, and assistant director of the graduate business and economic reporting program, at New York University. He also writes a weekly media column for Wired News.
Jon Appleton '61
Pioneer of electronic music
Reed major: music
Jon Appleton is a noted composer of electronic music and writer on the relationship of music and technology. Co-inventor of the Synclavier synthesizer, he directs the graduate program in electro-acoustic music and is a professor at Dartmouth College.
"My high school debate partner had gone to Reed and wrote glowing letters. I decided to visit him, and I begged the admissions people to let me in. Reed College changed my life. It was there that I really became a composer."
James Beard '24
"The Father of American Gastronomy"
James Beard (1903-85) was a tireless champion of the American culinary heritage. He taught countless Americans how to cook well through his numerous cookbooks, his cooking schools in New York City and Oregon, his many articles in national publications, his mentoring of emerging professional cooks, and his appearances in the country's first televised cooking show. Many of his cookbooks are still in print, and his legacy lives on in the James Beard Foundation, which celebrates the country's best culinary artists.
Susan Sokol Blosser '67 (MAT)
Reed degree: Master of Arts in Teaching
Susan Sokol Blosser's company-one of Oregon's first wineries-produces more than 30,000 cases of award-winning wine per year. It isn't a passion for the product that drives her, though: "I love wine, but I'm not a wine geek," she explains. For Sokol Blosser and Bill Blosser, co-founders of the business, it was the act of creating the vineyard that provided the reward and challenge, rather than an obsession with either grapes or wine.
"How you do business is as important as being successful. Responding to the environment, to employees, and to the community is crucial. If it means in the end that you don't make as much money, by not taking advantage of the environment and your employees, then you just don't make as much money."
Arlene Blum '66
Mountaineer and motivational speaker
Sarah Dougher '90
Singer, songwriter, scholar
Reed major: classics
Sarah Dougher is a favorite in the indie-rock music circuit, labeled as pop-rock and folk-punk. Yet she's just as much a scholar as a singer. Dougher, who has a classics Ph.D. from the University of Austin-Texas, has taught in colleges and spent several years as the program coordinator for the Oregon Council for the Humanities-and for the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls.
"Who else can take care of you but you? Reed was a gentle place to learn that it is not just education and accouterments of culture that make you smart, but also openness and flexibility."
Janet Fitch '78
Reed major: history
Janet Fitch gained national renown with her acclaimed 1999 novel White Oleander. The novel was announced as an Oprah book club selection before it went on sale (and later made into a film staring Michelle Pfeiffer). Fitch now teaches fiction to advanced writers, drawing on her decidedly intellectual side. "At Reed it was so great. I felt like it might be worth living if you could drink rancid coffee and discuss history well into the night."
'When the muse fondles you, when your radio is finally tuned into the right station, when the Universe is using you to the limit of your ability, it's fine above all things. When I'm working deeply enough, honestly enough, I discover I know things that there's no way I can possibly know. It's like you break through the floor of your own individual experience and into the collective unconscious."
Sophie Haviland '92
Theatre director, producer
Reed major: theatre
Sophie Haviland has lived in Manhattan since she graduated from Reed in 1992. She ran a theatre in the city for seven years, has toured productions to international festivals, and has directed her own plays.
"My current intern (also from Reed) and I talk about the realities of making a career in the theatre. She has smarts and she has guts and she asks interesting questions. 'Trying to be a theater artist in contemporary America is an act of blind faith,' I tell my intern. She nods her head. She is as crazy as I am."
Steven Jobs '76
Steve Jobs is co-creator of Macintosh and co-founder of Apple Computer (where he is now interim chief executive) and NeXT Software, Inc. Widely acknowledged as a visionary and pioneer in personal computing. Owner and CEO of Pixar, the studio that created the blockbuster computer-animated film Toy Story.
David Lukas '93
Environmental journalist and author
Reed major: English
Writer and naturalist David Lukas is author of The Wild Birds of California and Watchable Birds of the Great Basin, and main author of the Lonely Planet Guide to Yosemite National Park. Lukas's articles on the natural world have been published in Audubon, Sunset, UTNE Reader, and other magazines. Lukas also teaches and leads tours extensively.
"I started at Reed unquestioningly ready to obtain an advanced degree and professorship in biology. And now I'm a freelance writer. There's no incongruence here. In fact it was a fluid and satisfying transition. Reed didn't change me directly. Rather it challenged me to change myself, and this has proven to be the greatest gift of all."
Stephen McCarthy '66, J.D.
Creator of fine spirits
Reed major: political science
Stephen McCarthy is the owner and proprietor of Clear Creek Distillery, producer of the highly acclaimed eau de vie that McCarthy produces using the pears from his family's orchard in Hood River, Oregon. The distillery, created in 1987, is just one of his successful business enterprises. He is a member of the Columbia Gorge Commission and is a national board member of the Earth Justice Legal Defense Fund.
Peter Norton '65
Founder of Norton Utilities, philanthropist
Peter Norton founded Norton Utilities in the 1980s and created the well-known and imaginative file and disk management programs of the same name. The most famous of these programs is "UnErase," which recovers deleted computer files. Norton sold the business in 1990 and established the Norton Family Foundation, which provides financial support to the arts and humanities communities.
Eric Overmyer '73
Playwright and scriptwriter
Reed major: theatre
Eric Overmyer is the author of numerous critically acclaimed plays, including On the Verge and In Perpetuity Throughout the Universe, which have been performed worldwide. He has served as scriptwriter and producer for many television shows, including Law & Order, Homicide: Life on the Streets, St. Elsewhere, and The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd. Overmyer was called a "cosmically inclined theatrical court jester" by Mel Gussow of the New York Times.
"I remember sitting in small rooms and listening to [Reed grads] Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, and Lew Welch talk and read from their work. Reed put me in touch with a whole world of writers and poets-a world I hoped would somehow rub off on me. Some time later, after I'd begun to construct a semblance of a life and a career in New York, it dawned on me that going to Reed had, quite literally, saved my life. I'd found, under Reed's benign and patient tutelage, what I'd always known but hadn't had the courage to claim: my identity as a writer."
Roland Pott '95
Owner-operator, Urban Word Café
Reed major: English
Roland Pott co-founded Trenton Makes, a small company leading the redevelopment of downtown Trenton, New Jersey-now a hotspot for poets and artists. He opened the Urban Word as a coffee shop, and it grew into a bistro, bookstore, and nightclub.
"Whether a community grows and succeeds has a lot to do with how its people communicate. This is a place where connections happen."
Gary Snyder '51
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet
Reed major: anthropology
Gary Snyder, author of 18 books, is one of America's most distinguished poets. He won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize in poetry and the Bollingen Prize for Poetry in 1997. An ecological philosopher, community activist, and Buddhist dharma warrior, Snyder is devoted to communicating the importance of a sense of place and responsible stewardship for the place where you live.
"From my own fifty-year vantage point I can say that some of the finest people who ever graduated from Reed are not famously successful. A few that I know quite well have been lost to the alumni association for decades, but they live exemplary lives and do needed and innovative work in the everyday world, with no more frustration and often more sense of accomplishment than those on the rosters of the eminent."
Eric Westervelt '91
National Public Radio correspondent
Reed major: American studies
Eric Westervelt is the NPR foreign desk correspondent for national security and military affairs, covering a wide range of defense and foreign policy issues for the Pentagon and aound the U.S. Most recently he reported from Afghanistan, and from Iraq, where he covered ground combat, ongoing attacks on U.S. forces, and the struggle to rebuild the country. "I wanted to take this opportunity to tell the stories of the soldiers and the men and women who are putting their lives on the line. I think as journalists we need to be there."
Mark Worthington '83
Film art and production director
Reed major: theatre
Mark Worthington has been the art director for films that include Legally Blonde 2, Moonlight Mile , Austin Powers in Goldmember , Wag the Dog , and Hearts in Atlantis .
"The experience of my Reed education is something I have carried with me like a second skin. I make use of it every day, in ways both conscious and not. Reed was my home then and, in a palpable and practical sense, it still is."
Wilfried Zimmerman '74
CEO of Polder, Inc
Reed major: psychology
Wilfried Zimmerman is the head of Polder, a New York company that imports and manufactures upscale housewares.
" Prior to Reed I had a career in the hotel business. Having skipped a formal education in my youth, I decided to go for one. In August of 1971, I changed my Times Square office for the Reed campus. Reed gave me the confidence to move on in my life as an independent spirit. Reed's fabric is so rich. The combination of accessible faculty, independent study, and a highly charged intellectual community changed my life!"