Presidents of Reed
Victor Gregory Rosenblum
Born on June 2, 1925, in New York, New York
Died on March 13, 2006, in Evanston, Illinois
Victor G. Rosenblum, a passionate teacher and noted expert in administrative law, joined Reed as president in 1968. He arrived from Northwestern University School of Law, where he had been professor of law and political science, with a plan to strengthen Reed’s humanities program. Pointing to the college’s well known standing in the science disciplines, he wanted to focus support on Reed’s other programs as a means of enhancing its academic mission.
However, Rosenblum was faced with many challenges during his presidency. Chief among these was the controversy surrounding whether or not to establish a Black Studies program at Reed. In December 1968, students demanding such a program—and demanding that its curriculum be determined by the Black Student Union (BSU)—blockaded themselves in Eliot Hall for a week. Rosenblum was caught between the demands of the students and the concerns of the faculty, who had been instrumental in shaping Reed’s curriculum and who, in the years following the Velde Committee, were adamant that it remain politically neutral. In January 1969, the trustees approved a resolution to create a Black Studies program, with the condition that it be governed by accepted academic procedures, rather than by the BSU.
Other dissatisfactions among students and faculty continued, including allegations that the dean of admission used admission policies to recruit students based on diversity and involvement with counter-culture, rather than on academic merit. In addition, Reed’s concurrent financial situation meant that there were insufficient funds to support the kind of capital building projects Rosenblum wanted undertake to aid the arts and humanities. Many faculty members were denied tenure, whether for lack of funding or for other reasons, and left Reed.
In December 1969, approximately 100 students initiated a tuition strike—refusing to pay tuition for spring semester unless changes to the Reed curriculum and personnel were made. Rosenblum worked with the students involved, reducing by more than half the number of strikers. In the end, only 40 students did not return to Reed.
When Rosenblum left Reed, he cited the institution’s financial problems as the main cause. “I’m a spender,” he said. He returned to Northwestern, where he earned numerous teaching awards and was director of the law school’s graduate studies program from 1979–92.
Rosenblum earned a Ph.D. in political science from UC Berkeley and an A.B. and L.L.B. from Columbia University. He worked as the U.S. House of Representatives associate counsel on the Committee on Government Operations in 1957 and 1958, and later served as president of the Association of American Law schools. He was active politically for pro-life and human rights movements.