About Reed College

Since its founding in 1908 as an independent undergraduate institution, Reed College has remained steadfast to one central commitment: to provide a balanced, comprehensive education in liberal arts and sciences, fulfilling the highest standards of intellectual excellence. Reed offers a liberal arts education of high quality under unusually favorable conditions, including a challenging curriculum involving wide reading, conference and laboratory-based teaching in small groups, and a student body motivated by enthusiasm for serious intellectual work.

Mission of the College

The goal of Reed College is to provide an education in the liberal arts and sciences with emphasis on the highest intellectual and scholarly standards. The Reed education pays particular attention to a balance between a broad study in the various areas of human knowledge and a close, in-depth study in a recognized academic discipline.

The general program consists of a background in humanistic and scientific study, which delineates the relationships of cultural phenomena and the modes of thought important in understanding both ourselves and the world. The advanced program provides opportunity for intensive examination of the subject matter and techniques of a more narrowly defined academic discipline, culminating in the senior research project and thesis. At Reed we believe the balance of a general and more specialized education is best achieved where students and faculty members work closely together in an atmosphere of shared intellectual and scholarly concern, and where individual interests and disciplines are pursued not in isolation, but with a sense of the larger intellectual life of which they are a part. 

History of the College

Reed College was founded in 1908, and its first classes were held in 1911. Reed is named for Oregon pioneers Simeon and Amanda Reed. Simeon Reed had been an entrepreneur in trade on the Columbia River; in his will he suggested that his wife “devote some portion of my estate to benevolent objects, or to the cultivation, illustration, or development of the fine arts in the city of Portland, or to some other suitable purpose, which shall be of permanent value and contribute to the beauty of the city and to the intelligence, prosperity, and happiness of the inhabitants.” Amanda Reed followed that suggestion in her will by setting up a board of trustees to found the Reed Institute. After extensive research, the trustees of the Reed Institute made the decision to establish a college of liberal arts and sciences in Portland, with no limits other than an insistence on equality and secularism. 

Reed’s first president was the visionary William Trufant Foster, who served from 1910 to 1919. He was followed by Richard F. Scholz, 1921–24; Norman F. Coleman, 1924–34; Dexter M. Keezer, 1934–42; Arthur F. Scott, 1942–45; Peter H. Odegard, 1945–48; E.B. MacNaughton, 1948–52; Duncan S. Ballantine, 1952–54; Richard H. Sullivan, 1956–67; Victor G. Rosenblum, 1968–70; Paul E. Bragdon, 1971–88; James L. Powell, 1988–91; and Steven S. Koblik, 1992–2001. The current president is Colin S. Diver, who assumed the office in 2002. Reed was led by an administrative committee in 1919–21 and by six acting presidents: Frank Loxley Griffin, 1954–56; Byron L. Youtz, 1967–68; Ross B. Thompson, summer of 1968 and 1970–71; George A. Hay, 1980–81; William R. Haden, 1991–92; and Peter J. Steinberger, 2001–02. 

Governance of the College

The affairs of the college are conducted under constitutional government. How the faculty, students, and staff participate in governance is set forth in the faculty constitution, the community constitution, and the student body constitution.  

Ultimate responsibility for the welfare of the college rests with its board of trustees and president. Educational policy is the responsibility of the faculty. An elected faculty Committee on Academic Policy and Planning (CAPP) makes recommendations about curricular change to the faculty and provides advice to the president about the college budget and faculty resources. A parallel Student Committee on Academic Policy and Planning (SCAPP) works with the CAPP. An elected faculty Committee on Advancement and Tenure (CAT) makes recommendations to the president about faculty personnel matters. Many faculty committees have student members, and students may also attend regular meetings of the faculty. The advice of students is sought, particularly in the evaluation of the faculty’s classroom performance.

An elected student senate works with the faculty’s Community Affairs Committee on the non-academic life of the college. The student body controls expenditures of student fee money through the student senate and makes appropriations that fund the budgets of most campus organizations.

Life at Reed

Social life on the Reed campus is informal, and all activities are open to all who are interested. There are no fraternities or sororities. Nearly two-thirds of the students live on campus, and the small house groupings in the residence halls provide a congenial social environment without exclusiveness. A variety of extracurricular opportunities abound in cultural and public affairs, community service, and recreational sports.

The college provides an environment for student life in which unnecessary structuring and regulation are avoided. An honor principle mediates areas of conduct not affected by college regulations. The affairs of the college are conducted under constitutional government in which students participate through an elected student senate and appointment to college committees. The campus is an area of the freest exchange and open discussion of ideas. 

Education of this kind, animated by critical inquiry, is in a real sense its own reward, but it also contributes substantially to such objectives as social responsibility and professional success. The effectiveness of such an educational experience as a foundation for widely varying careers is indicated by the outstanding records of Reed graduates in scholarly pursuits, the professions, public service, teaching, business, and fine arts.



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