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Reed College Begins Its 96th Year of Classes

Students arrive amid a flurry of national attention.

Reed College commenced its 96th year amid a flurry of attention that included recognition by Newsweek magazine as one of the 25 “New Ivies,” continued inclusion in the Princeton Review’s list of leading academic programs for undergraduates, and mention on ABC World News Tonight with Charlie Gibson and in both The Economist and the Washington Post for its refusal to participate in the annual U.S. News rankings.

Taking the national recognition in stride, 431 new students—376 freshmen, 47 transfers and 8 exchange students—as well as returning students were busy doing what Reed students do best: attending the year-long freshman humanities course, pursuing a rigorous program of academic distributions, preparing for the junior qualifying exam in their majors, or starting to work on the senior thesis that is required of all graduates.

orientation trip imageFor nearly 150 members of the freshmen class, the year began with off-campus backpacking, rafting, and rock climbing orientation trips as well as community service trips focused on education, community development, hunger, homelessness, and the environment.

International students arrived from 19 countries—Bangladesh, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Ecuador, Ghana, Great Britain, Italy, Jamaica, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Romania, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Zimbabwe—and had the chance to rest, settle in, and start exploring Reed College and the Portland community during international orientation.

Reed’s Peer Mentor Program also offered a retreat during orientation week for freshman reporting ethnic minority backgrounds—23 percent of the non-international incoming class—or those reporting as first generation college students—7 percent. Founded in 2001 to help underrepresented, first-year students make a successful transition to the college, the program’s annual retreat provides incoming students of color and students who are the first in their families to go to college the opportunity to pair up with returning students for support and information throughout the year.

commenecment imageReed College President Colin Diver officially welcomed incoming students and more than 480 parents in formal convocation ceremonies. The most selective class in Reed history—fewer than two in five applicants were offered admission—then heard from Rick Wollenberg ’75, Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees; Daniel Bump ’74, professor of mathematics at Stanford University and this year’s winner of the Vollum Award for Distinguished Accomplishment in Science and Technology; and student body president Lauren Rother ’07.

Rother greeted new students with as much enthusiasm for the sense of belonging to be gained at Reed as for its academic rigor. “You will receive one of the most amazing undergraduate educations here,” she said, “And, if you let yourself, you will be bound to the community forever.”

Steven Wasserstrom, Moe and Izetta Tonkon Professor of Judaic Studies and Humanities, delivered the convocation lecture, “The Afterlife of Achilles in the Odyssey.” A member of the Reed faculty has given such a talk on the Odyssey at convocation each year since 1998. For more than 50 years, Reed freshmen have been asked to read Homer’s Iliad over the summer in preparation for Humanities 110, an intensive year-long interdisciplinary study of classical culture.

At an informal picnic for students and their families earlier in the day, dean of admission Paul Marthers provided some facts and figures about the new class. “New students hail from 42 states plus the District of Columbia,” he noted, adding that transfer students—comprising one of the strongest groups in Reed’s history—had come from such prestigious institutions as UC Berkeley, Bowdoin, Bryn Mawr, and Williams. Marthers also provided an irreverent summary of the incoming students: “Ten of you are named Emily, the most common girl’s name, and seven are named John or Andrew, tied for most common boy’s name. Twenty-one have fathers named John or David, the leading dad’s name, and 12 of you have mothers named Susan, the leading mom’s name for two consecutive years. No new student has Reed as a last or first name, but one new student’s middle name is Reed. One student goes by ‘Fluffy,’ and you use email names like ‘extreme platypus,’ ‘a clockwork banana,” and ‘apocalypse cow.’”