Convocation 2008

Marthers image
Paul Marthers

Welcoming remarks of
Dean of Admission Paul Marthers

Good afternoon, I am Paul Marthers, dean of admission. It is a pleasure to see you here: some ready to start their first day here in the utopia affectionately known as the “Reed bubble,” others of us eager to begin another year inside.

Last spring you heard good news from Reed in the form of an email and a confetti-filled envelope. I hope you had fun discovering that confetti. The summer’s mail brought a copy of The Iliad of Homer. You have read it and memorized it already, right? Next week you will begin one of your Reed rite of passage moments in our Humanities 110 class by actually singing the Iliad’s opening line in the original ancient Greek.

You new students are a talented and diverse group. In your midst are 331 new freshmen (including 116 who were admitted through early decision or deferred from last year), 29 transfers and 9 exchange and special students. 4% of you are international citizens—from 21 countries, including 4 students from China or its territories and 2 students from Chile and Italy.

You come from 40 states plus the District of Columbia—65 of you are from California, 28 from Oregon, 27 from New York, 22 from Washington, 20 from Massachusetts, 14 from Colorado and Texas, and 11 from Minnesota.

You come from 295 different high schools and a handful of home schools. 60 percent of you attended public high schools, 36 percent attended private/parochial schools, and 4 percent home schooled.

At Reed we tend not to have feeder schools that consistently send us clumps of students. Our independent-minded students tend to be the only one in their high school looking at Reed. So this year our top feeders are three high schools that have sent us three students each: Bard College Early High School in New York City, Stuyvesant High School (also in New York City), and the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut.

Each of the 29 new transfer students enters Reed from a different college, including some perennials like Boston University, NYU, and Portland State, and some less common former institutions such as Brigham Young, Emerson, Howard, Macalester, Middlebury, USC, and Wesleyan.

Seven of you are named Emily, the most common girl’s name and seven of you are named Matthew, the most common boys name for the second consecutive year. Lee is the most common last name: there are four Lees, followed closely by three Edwards. 16 new students have mothers named Susan, the leading mother’s name for four consecutive years. 18 have fathers named Michael, the leading father’s name. Is there an Emily Lee or a Matthew Edwards whose mother is named Susan and father is named Michael out there?—Just checking.

None of you have Reed as a first, middle, or last name.

But you have email names that express your quirky individuality like:

  • RufustheBaptist
  • Flamingspork of doom (that one makes me think of the back cover of our admission viewbook)
  • EThomephone
  • Snarfthewonder cat

No new student has a birthday today, but 4 new students have birthdays tomorrow. Happy birthday! And new student ages range from 16 to 44.

Among all you former editors, presidents, eagle scouts, orchestra members, and debate standouts are so many achievements and accomplishments that I could spend a day or two reciting them. At this college that does not have a dean’s list or other customary honors, we are loath to single out any one new student as more special than the others. You are all special; that’s why we admitted you. Still, some of you might be interested to know that in your midst is a standup comedian who has performed in New York City comedy clubs, the author of a published autobiography on growing up in a rural village, a student who held a bagpipe scholarship at her previous college, a fire spinner, someone who built a house out of straw bales (hmmm…the fire spinner rooming with the straw bale house builder, imagine the possibilities), a world youth harp ambassador (I am told there are only 7 in the world), and a new student who appeared on National Public Radio to promote high school recycling programs.

This is Reed, so perhaps you have heard that numerical comparisons between students are de-emphasized here, but maybe, you are still curious to know how your class, the class of 2012, charts out by the numbers. It’s okay to want to know.

By the numbers, you are an extraordinary, record-setting group, selected from the largest freshman and transfer applicant pools in the history of Reed College. 3,485 prospective freshmen applied, and a record low 32.5 percent were admitted. 261 transfer applicants applied, and a record low 27.6 percent were admitted. Equally impressive are the mean high school Grade Point Average of 3.9 (including weighted grades over 4.0), SATs (verbal + math) of 1380 and an ACT composite of 30. Of those who attended high schools with class rank, 85 percent graduated within the top 20 percent of the class.

The male/female ratio roughly reflects the national average for liberal arts college goers—2 percent men, 58 percent women. 11 percent of you represent the first generation of your family to attend college, 19 new students are continuing a family tradition of attending Reed, and 31 percent of you are students of color.

A statistical snapshot of the Class of 2012 does not tell the whole story. Statistics do not measure the passion for learning exhibited in your applications or convey the intriguing points of view you will share in Reed’s classrooms and residence halls.

I hope today has been a memorable day for you. It certainly has been an exciting day for the admission staff. We are seeing the students we interviewed, met at high schools, encountered at college fairs, spoke to at summer programs, and reviewed as paper files now beginning their Reed experience. On behalf of the admission staff, welcome to Reed. I hope you find your time here enlightening and rewarding.