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Karen Drews White ’64

With her unquenchable desire to read and learn, Karen walked through life like an encyclopedia soaking up information from the pages of life. Her father, Professor Robin Drews ’35, finished his bachelor’s degree at the University of Oregon, but it was his respect for Reed College that led Karen to enroll.

“At Reed, I began to learn to think clearly and critically,” she remembered. “When I graduated from East Lansing High School, I told my friends I was going to college in the West because people married people they met in college and I wanted to marry a Westerner.”

At Reed, she met and married Joel Kahan ’64, and during their 10-year marriage she acquired a degree in English literature from UCLA and a son, Gordon. After divorcing Joel, she realized single mothers with a BA in literature were not in great demand, and completed an MA in English literature at Stanford. She got jobs in Berkeley working for public service–oriented organizations, but was bothered that she wasn’t a “something” and enrolled in an MBA/accounting program at California State University, East Bay. It was an interest developed through various jobs. About the time she was ready to work as an accountant and her son was graduating from high school, she attended her 25th high school reunion. She met a former classmate to whom she had spoken only once in the seventh grade. It was apparently love at second sight, because she married Wood White four months later. Their two sons graduated a week and most of a continent apart, and in June, Karen returned to the scene of her childhood.

“One can go home again,” she wrote, “and after it stops feeling like a foreign country, it’s a great place to be—especially with the right person, doing the right things.”

She worked as an accountant, a job she loved, at Michigan State University, and, in the last years of her career, ran the kitchen in a senior care facility, where she acted as a guardian angel to many of the residents, ensuring they were well cared for. Her husband, Wood White, his son, Wood, and her son, Gordon Kahan, survive Karen.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2016

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