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Preston Crosby Bassett ’40

A picture of Preston and Helen Bassett

Preston Crosby Bassett ’40, July 26, 2009, in Fort Myers, Florida, following a stroke. Preston's flair for mathematics was recognized by a teacher at Grant High School in Portland. “Somewhere along the way, word got to all my Reed professors that I was a mathematics major and should concentrate on that field. For example, Reed required that we have reading ability in either French or German. I passed in French by solving a math problem from a French textbook!” Preston met Helen Edmonds [commons 1938–40], who was a dietician at Reed, in 1939; they later married. Professor F.L. Griffin [mathematics 1911–56] introduced Preston to the actuarial field. F.L. had an arrangement with the Prudential Insurance Company to hire his top mathematician every year, and Preston was hired in 1940. Preston wrote: “Prudential had an education program for these winning students, to assist them in passing the required 10 examinations to become a fellow at the Society of Actuaries. To remain in this program, you had to average passing one examination each year. I completed my exams in 1950. Thank you, Reed!” During World War II, he served with the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific, and in 1950, joined the firm of Towers, Perrin, Forster, and Crosby, where he was vice president and chief actuary. He left the firm to establish his own practice in 1978. A specialist in the areas of employment benefit and pension policy, Preston served on the pension committee for the Department of Labor and was a member of President Carter's Commission on Pension Policy. He was president of all three major actuarial societies: the Conference of Actuaries in Public Practice, the Society of Actuaries, and the American Academy of Actuaries, and was an instructor at the University of Pennsylvania. Preston published numerous articles for Harvard Business Review and the New York Times, among others; and wrote three books, Financial Aspects of Private Pension Plans, Interpreting Pension Law Developments, and Benefit Accrual Requirements. Preston and Helen lived in Philadelphia, with a second home on Sanibel Island, Florida. Survivors include a daughter and son, four grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2010

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