The Center for Life Beyond Reed

Division of Student Services

Constance Putnam

Class year: 1965, MAT 1966
Major: Philosophy
Company/organization: I work for myself
Job title: Independent Scholar

How did you get where you are? (e.g., education, brief work history, mentors)

Partly just good luck--but also the grounding that a Reed education provided me helped make clear I could do pretty much whatever I set my mind to. I have had numerous careers: foreign language education (including teaching German, Latin, and ESL from grade school through post-secondary teaching and teacher training, as well as later working for a decade for a major trextbook publisher as an editor, an administrator (head of editorial dept.), and as a product manager doing field support for the sales representatives.

I ran a program in continuing education for people working in the publishing and print industries.

I developed and taught a range of courses and workshops on editing skills in continuing education programs.

I worked as a freelance editor on foreign language texts and on academic books in a variety of fields.

I reinvented myself as a medical historian after getting my Ph.D. (in an interdiscplinary program) at the age of 56.

I have worked as a freelance writer and an Independent Scholar for a decade and a half.

As for mentors: They can be found anywhere, in any job--if you know how to seek them out and are willing to accept criticism and advice.

What lessons have you learned along the way that you'd like to pass on to current Reed students?

Some of this I've already said:

Take advantage of the fact that a Reed education teaches you, above all, to THINK. Focus on mastering the art of figuring out what the right questions are and then asking them.

Don't be limited by what it says in the registrar's office about what your major is.


Take on things you didn't think you could do.

In what ways you think you can help Reed students?

I am open to all kinds of questions. I give honest answers.

I am an example of what it looks like to be willing to try different things, switch gears, etc.

I can talk and I can ask questions; I can also listen.

What else should students know about you? (e.g., volunteer engagement, avocations, interests)

I am deeply engaged in housing issues--wlorking with Habitat for Humanity broadly (locally and internationally) and serving on a local affiliate's comittee. I am also on the board of a local non-profit housing Foundation in my town.

I am physically active, music matters a lot, I am a letter-writer and somone who stays in touch with folks--family, old friends, neighbors, the sick, the elderly. I think this matters more than almost anything else.

I am not wired to the hilt: I use a computer and a clunky old cell phone. That's it.

I read--BOOKS.

I love Reed and volunteer for Reed in a variety of ways.