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Alan Loren Dean ’41

A picture of Alan Dean

Alan Loren Dean ’41, emeritus trustee, December 2, 2010, from a stroke, in Arlington, Virginia. Alan grew up in a Swedish community in Portland's Kenton neighborhood. He was fascinated with inorganic chemistry and thought he would become a chemical engineer; he entered Reed with that intention. In an oral history interview in 2004, he reported: “After taking a year of chemistry at Reed, and getting into a fair amount of organic chemistry, I said, 'I'm not going to spend my life brooding over these complicated carbon rings.'” Instead, he switched to political science; he was particularly captivated by a course in psychometrics-the field of mathematics dealing with chiefly biological statistics. “I got so I could figure out not only simple things like standard deviations with pen and pencil-no computer or anything-but I could also work out a Parsonian product coefficient correlation, and that is not easy.” Mentor Charles McKinley [political science, 1918-60] arranged for Alan to get into civil service testing, and he was special examiner for the city of Portland in 1939-41. Alan's thesis, "Personnel Administration in the Government of Portland, Oregon," completed requirements for a BA in political science. During his years at the college, he organized the first Reed Union, a debating group, the Day-Dodgers Union, and rifle and track clubs. After graduating, he worked for the War Department as a civilian personnel director, an inspector of civilian personnel programs, and as a director of the department's School of Public Personnel Administration; the work took him to Hermiston, Oregon; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C. For the next 27 years, he held senior positions with departments such as the Federal Aviation Agency; the Department of Transportation; the Office of Management and Budget; the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare; and the U.S. Railway Association. He also completed an MA in public administration at American University. Alan was principal architect in organizing public agencies such as NASA and the Federal Aviation Agency, and President Lyndon Johnson honored him as top civil servant in 1965. Alan joined Reed's board of trustees in 1969, serving first as an alumni trustee, and became an emeritus trustee in 1998. He was married to Vera Sisson for 67 years; they had three daughters and nine grandchildren. Cherished of his many, many honors was his selection as the winner of the 1955 Washington Post “Ideal Father” contest based on the recommendation of his daughters, who touted his humor and his qualities as a civic leader, bricklayer, fruit grower, song leader, storyteller, and camp counselor. “I've had a very spectacular career,” Alan said, “including the highest rank a career civil servant can reach, assistant secretary. There's a saying that I adopted a long time ago about a good liberal arts education. 'Liberal arts education prepares you for nothing while preparing you for everything.' I have a graduate degree, of course, but when I left Reed, except for some occult science, there was almost no direction I couldn't move if I wanted to.”

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2011

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