Presidents of Reed

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Peter H. Odegard


Born on April 5, 1901, in Kalispell, Montana
Died on December 6, 1966, in Berkeley, California

Appointed Reed’s sixth president in 1945, Peter H. Odegard worked for three years to secure faculty salary increases, hire more faculty members, and expand the geographic draw of students. He also helped to boost attention to the arts at Reed, and contributed to the physical improvement of many campus buildings, including the physical plant, the library, the old Foster-Scholz dormitories, and the gymnasium. Students and faculty alike saw Odegard as a champion for the community and its intellectual history. Known to believe that “a college must be something more than an intellectual delicatessen store,” he put forward the idea that Reed “must serve as an island of free inquiry, for only by free inquiry can the frontiers of knowledge be advanced.”

Odegard earned a B.A. from the University of Washington, where former Reed president Richard F. Scholz had been his teacher. He earned a Ph.D. from Columbia, and taught at Williams College, the Ohio State University, and Amherst College before moving to Washington, D.C., during the war years, where he served as a special assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury. His duties included authoring the blueprint for the War Bond sales program.

In 1948, Odegard left Reed to join UC Berkeley as chair of the political science department. He continued to teach and work there until 1965. When he retired, UC Berkeley established the Peter H. Odegard Memorial Award in Political Science.