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100 Years!

By Chris Lydgate '90 on September 24, 2011 02:10 PM

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Reed celebrated one hundred years this weekend with a gargantuan party, complete with dancers, drummers, jugglers, mad scientists, and a massive chorus reciting lines from the Iliad in Greek.

"If Portland is a great city, it owes a great debt to Reed, and I'm here to say, 'Thank you,'" declared Portland mayor Sam Adams before a raucous crowd of students, professors, staff, and alumni beneath a massive tent on the Great Lawn. "We need the spirit and the mission of Reed now more than ever--not just in Portland, but across the state and across the nation. You have made the world a better place."

The event on Friday included remarks from Reed alumni, professors, and students. "Reed taught me that the root of genius is passion," said ecologist Sasha Kramer '99. "I was lucky to meet so many passionate geniuses at Reed."

Kramer wrote her thesis on the nitrogen cycle with biology professor David Dalton and later founded a non-profit in Haiti that builds outhouses which convert human waste into fertilizer. Her pioneering work inspired economics senior Molly Case '12 to write her thesis about the economics of non-profit agriculture in developing nations.

"This is a place where anything can happen," Case said, her voice quavering with emotion. The Reed community is not just bounded by campus. It stretches across the globe and spans the generations."

President Colin Diver presented the first ever Thomas Lamb Eliot Award to national-security expert Richard Danzig '65, who served as Secretary of the Navy during the Clinton administration.

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The Eliot award is named in honor of the Unitarian minister who encouraged Simeon and Amanda Reed to found the college, and who served as trustee and regent for the rest of his life. Eliot also founded the Art Association, the Human Society, helped develop the public library, and worked for women's suffrage.

Concluding the ceremony, President Diver declared that Reed is not just about academic rigor, but also about gaining transformative skills.

"For a hundred years Reed has been synonymous with rigorous training, and so it will continue," he said. "Reedies read voraciously, argue endlessly, debate vigorously, master complex analysis and intricate argument. Yes, when those silly college guides and websites do rankings on Colleges that Kick Academic Butt, Reed will always be at the top of the list.

"But what is less appreciated is that Reed has also become synonymous with the practice of transformative skills: the ability to approach problems in non-routine ways using analogy and metaphor; conditional and abductive reasoning; taking initiative in the face of ambiguity. This is a description of what we do at Reed every day."

President Diver wrapped up his remarks by inviting the audience to join him in invoking the Muse to guide Reed through the coming century. Students, professors, and alumni stood and chanted (more or less in unison) the first haunting line of the Iliad:

Menin aeide thea Peleiadeo Achileos
(Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles, son of Peleus...)

It was a fitting start to the next 100 years.

For more about the centennial celebration, click here.