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Joseph Kindley Frazier ’50

A picture of Joseph Frazier

Joseph Kindley Frazier ’50, May 17, 2011, in Portland. Joe received his BA from Reed in history. His son, Doug, wrote, “My father was always proud of his Reed education, and I think his years at Reed were some of the best and happiest of his life. A lot of people at Reed influenced my father. Perhaps most important was history professor Richard Jones [history 1941–86], whose teaching caused my father to change majors and pursue a career in teaching. Another was fellow student Bill Axford ’50, whose sister became my mother.” Joe and Della Jean Axford had two sons, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren; all survive him. Joe went to the University of Washington for graduate school and taught at Marietta College, the University of California at Riverside, and Portland State University before joining the faculty at Pacific University, where he taught American history and geography. Former Pacific University president Robert Duvall said that Joe brought exceptional colloquia to the university. “His passion for teaching ‘a kind of history of ideas, seen through everything’ manifested itself in the experimental work he challenged his students with,” wrote Joe Lang of Pacific. Joe Frazier’s students left the confines of the classroom in search of historical artifacts that could reveal stories of local landscapes. In one summer course in history at Portland State, students prowled the Portland waterfront in search of remnants of streetcar tracks and explored an abandoned dry dock under St. John’s Bridge for a kind of “urban phrenology.” Finding things that didn’t happen were as important as finding things that did, Joe said. “You start with the geographic structure and work down until you get to the hardware.” The course mingled several disciplines, including history, architecture, urban planning, and geography. In addition to his teaching, Joe enjoyed travel, reading, and hiking. “From Reed, if you’re lucky, you get a sort of intellectual-academic morale (favorite word of David French ’39 [anthropology 1947–88]). This carries you through and keeps you fundamentally happy. It is the intellectual work ethic, and the tradition of being near the cutting edge of thought, that seem to have persisted for three-quarters of a century.” Joe was a loving husband and father, a man of learning, a friend with a great sense of humor, and a staunch supporter of democratic ideals and humanistic values. “We will miss his laughter, his knowledge, his support, and his love.”

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2011

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