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So, What Turns You On?

By Aaron Smith ’13 on August 29, 2014 04:40 PM

The Class of '18 greets the new year on the Great Lawn. Leah Nash

Beneath the deep arches of the white tent on the Great Lawn, 414 freshmen and their parents and friends rose as the faculty marched in stately procession Wednesday to mark Convocation 2014. President John Kroger welcomed the students of the class of 2018 and—noting that some in the class would take five years to graduate—the class of 2019. “And if you already think you may wind up in the class of 2020, please come see me after,” he added. Kroger spent the rest of his remarks distilling for parents and friends the experience of being a Reedie: Humanities 110, collaborative work with faculty and students, and Portland’s unique culture, which, according to Kroger, students would have no time for.

Professor Jay Dickson [English 1996–] gave the inaugural Humanities lecture, titled “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know: The Iliad and the Enkuklios Paideia.” Prof. Dickson’s lecture centered on the meaningfulness of Homer’s Iliad to a liberal arts education. Why, he asked, is Homer’s epic so important to a Reed education that all incoming freshmen are required to read it even before the first week’s classes? The poem’s vast array of stories and characters proved foundational to an ancient curriculum. Students would learn reading, writing, rhetoric, and other subjects by using the poem as a point of departure. Thus, just as the Iliad invited the ancients to extrapolate from Homer’s story into other fields of knowledge, so the epic encourages freshmen to do the work of critical extrapolation, the foundation of a Reed education.

Ivan Sutherland, visiting scientist at the Asynchronous Research Center at Portland State University, received the Vollum Award. Sutherland encouraged the freshmen to follow their academic interests by posing a single question: “So, what turns you on?”