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Reed College Women’s Committee Marks 50th and Final Year

Celebration includes award and exhibits.

PORTLAND, OR (September 14, 2006) -- The Reed College Women’s Committee has been honored with the college’s 2006 Babson Society Award for 50 years of distinguished volunteer service to Reed.

It is the first time since its inception in 1987 that the award for outstanding volunteer service to Reed—named for Jean McCall Babson '42 and given annually by the Reed’s alumni association—has been presented to a group rather than to an individual.

The honor comes in the committee’s 50th and final year.

To mark the end of the committee’s formal work and celebrate its legacy, an exhibition from the Reed library's special collections is on display at the college. Materials from the group’s lecture series and other efforts to raise funds for student scholarships are on view through September 30, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., weekdays in the Hauser Memorial Library.

The committee was originated in 1956 under the guidance of Carrie Hervin to acquaint the Portland community with Reed College, raise funds for significant college need, and provide a forum for women in the Portland area that promoted intellectual enrichment for members of the group through monthly meetings. Sylvia Breed Gates, a former chairwoman, described the committee's meetings as “the closest thing to recreating an old favorite, the college seminar.” Eventually, the committee focused on raising funds for student scholarships and organizing stimulating, intellectual activities for the public that fostered an ever-increasing circle of friends for the college.

The committee’s annual lecture series, the principal way the group added to its endowment fund, attracted a lineup of prestigious speakers—including Ed Cony ’48, editor of the Wall Street Journal; fashion designer Marchese Emilio Pucci ’37; Fred Freed, executive producer, NBC; and Dale Chihuly, noted glass artist—who often addressed the most salient and provocative issues of the time. In 1961, the series explored independence movements and decolonization efforts in Africa and Asia. Pre-dating the national women’s movement, a series titled “Woman: Image and Reality” was presented in 1963.

Initially, the programs comprised only Reed professors. However, in the early 1970s, the group began to add to the roster various nationally renowned speakers. The 1980s saw a swelling in both committee membership and lecture attendance; for one event a move to the sports center was required to accommodate an audience of one thousand.

A selection of poster-size reproductions of program covers from the committee’s forums have been hung in Reed’s Kaul Auditorium in honor of the committee’s lecture series.

Funds raised by the group through events and private contributions were first used to support music programs, visiting nonacademic lecturers, and other special efforts. Since 1964, the funds have been used to provide scholarships to students in need, addressing the challenges they face as they enter college. Through the committee, 56 students, many of whom were international students or older students just starting college, have received aid from the endowment.

"The Reed College Women’s Committee has for fifty years helped Reed to flourish in the City of Portland and helped the college in its pursuit of academic excellence by increasing its capacity to attract and support talented students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds,” said Reed College President Colin Diver. “All of us at Reed are deeply grateful for the legacy of support made possible by the committee and the impact that legacy has had on the lives of Reed students.”

As the committee wraps up 50 years of service, the endowment stands at over $244,000. The committee’s fundraising efforts during the 50th anniversary year have added over $50,000 to the fund.

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