Presidents of Reed

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Richard H. Sullivan


Born on November 1, 1917, in Arcanum, Ohio
Died on June 22, 1982, in Seattle, Washington

Until Richard H. Sullivan became president of Reed in 1956, no president had enjoyed a longer tenure than the college’s first president, William T. Foster. During Sullivan’s 11 years of service, he was able to do what many presidents, with shorter terms, could not do—expand.

A Harvard graduate and World War II veteran, Sullivan came to Reed after serving as assistant director of the College Entrance Examination Board and executive vice president and treasurer of the Educational Testing Service in Washington, D.C.

Sullivan entered his presidency at Reed with an eye toward the future of the college. He increased faculty salaries, hired new faculty members, and implemented a sabbatical program. These developments were meant to widen the scope of course offerings in each department and strengthen non-science disciplines. As a result, Reed’s student population began to reflect a wider geographic draw, making Reed a truly national institution and bolstering its academic reputation. Sullivan also attempted to establish a full-scale graduate school at Reed, but was unsuccessful.

With new funding he secured for the school, Sullivan oversaw the construction of several buildings and extensions on campus, including new biology and physics buildings, residence halls, a sports center, the commons and bookstore, and an extension for the library.

When Sullivan left Reed, he became president of the Association of American Colleges; in 1970, he joined Carnegie Corporation of New York to work on behalf of their higher education program. While at the foundation, Sullivan established support for the Research Libraries Group, and is credited with strengthening research libraries throughout the nation. In 1976, he became the foundation’s chief financial officer.

Sullivan left an indelible mark on the Reed community, helping to make it the strong educational institution it is today. In 2005, the Steele East dormitory was renamed Sullivan Hall in honor of his service. As President Paul E. Bragdon aptly noted, “Richard Sullivan succeeded in restoring the sense of a Reed community.”