Presidents of Reed
Steven S. Koblik
Born on August 10, 1941, in Sacramento, California
Perhaps one of the most popular presidents in Reed’s recent history, Steven S. Koblik came to Reed following an impressive tenure in California’s institutions of higher education. Koblik, a Swedish historian, earned a B.A. from UC Berkeley, an M.A. from the University of Stockholm, and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University. He taught at Pomona College for over 20 years, and served as the dean of the faculty at Scripps College from 1989 until 1992, when he began his presidency at Reed.
Communication was a cornerstone of Koblik’s presidency. He was known for his friendly demeanor and emphasis on transparency with faculty, staff, and students. He took student pranks, many of which were directed at him, with grace and humor, and frequently treated students to pizza or basketball games.
He was credited with reuniting a faculty that had suffered a rift; when he resigned, the faculty passed a resolution citing Koblik’s stewardship and efficiency in faculty meetings. Koblik’s 10-to-1 initiative, aimed at supporting both students and faculty members, sought to decrease the student–faculty ratio by adding 15 new faculty positions and keeping enrollment numbers steady.
When Koblik first arrived at Reed, the budget was in a deficit of over $1 million. By the time he left, he had tripled the endowment—from $116 million to over $349 in 2000. Gifts from non-trustees and alumni increased under his leadership, creating more funds for student scholarships.
Although he was frequently quoted as saying he didn’t want to be a “construction president,” the face of Reed’s campus changed dramatically under his leadership. He increased the square footage of the college by 30 percent, adding 275,000 square feet to the campus, and undertook the construction of the Educational Technology Center (ETC), Gray Campus Center (GCC), Kaul Auditorium, Steele and Bragdon (Naito and Sullivan) residence halls, as well as expansion of the studio art building and college library.
Koblik also decided to stop submitting data to the U.S. News & World Report for “best colleges” rankings, a move that has drawn increasing attention to the college.
Koblik worked to unite Portland public schools and the Reed community, served on the boards of local organizations, including Loaves and Fishes and the “I Have a Dream” Foundation, as was a member of the governor’s task force on higher education and a trustee of the Boys and Girls Aid Society of Oregon.
The successful completion of Reed’s $100-million campaign coincided with Koblik’s departure from Reed. In 2001, he left the college to become president of the Huntington Library, Art Gallery, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California.