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Reed's Oral History Project Wins Honors

By Miles Bryan '13 on August 14, 2013 03:54 PM

Reedies have known for some time that Comrades of the Quest is a signal achievement. Since its publication last summer, the magisterial oral history of Reed, edited by John Sheehy ’82, has been devoured by Reedies on campus and elsewhere (check out these tidbits that were excerpted in Reed magazine). The book quickly became an invaluable tool for alumni to understand their school and their role in its history. Lately, however, Comrades and the Oral History Project—which produced the enormous treasure trove of interviews which are the basis for the bookhave received recognition in the wider world as extraordinary works of scholarship.

The Oral History Association has just named the Reed College Oral History Project as the recipient of its prestigious Elizabeth Mason Large Project Award, given for outstanding works of oral history. The awards committee found that the project had been completed at “consistently high standards of professionalism, ethics, and scholarly rigor,” and that it made “important contributions to the social and cultural history of education.”

Thirteen years in the making, the Reed Oral History Project involved a team of 127 volunteers who conducted more than 1,400 interviews with Reed alumni, faculty, staff, and trustees, under John's tireless direction. It is the first college project ever to win the Mason award.

In addition, Comrades of the Quest was enthusiastically reviewed in the most recent edition of the Oral History Review, published in June. In particular, the reviewer noted:

"[COTQ] shuns the celebratory, self-congratulatory approach of most college histories and, as a result, offers a fascinating glimpse into the broader history of higher education from 1911 to 2011. The issues debated and discussed at Reed were faced by colleges and universities across the country. Sheehy has succeeded in telling the story of Reed in a way that reflects the engaging and contested spirit often present throughout its history. Oral history teaches us that many narratives tell a more complete story of our common past. Sheehy’s Comrades of the Quest is an excellent example of the rich, contested, and multivoiced history of our nation."

Congratulations to John and to the scores of people who worked on the Oral History Project!