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Donald N. Wheeler ’35

Donald Niven Wheeler ’35, November 8, 2002, in Seattle. Wheeler arrived for his first year at Reed by crossing the Columbia River rapids in a boat. Following receipt of a bachelor’s degree in political science from Reed, he went to Pembroke College, Oxford University, as a Rhodes Scholar, earning a First on his exams in philosophy, politics, and economics. He was granted a third year at the University of Paris. At Oxford, Wheeler joined the Communist Party, and was active in the Popular Front against fascism and later the International Brigades, assisting vets on their return home from Spain. He and Mary Margaret Lukes Vause ’35 were married in 1938. He taught briefly at Yale before working nearly a decade in Washington, D.C., including five years as chief economist in the Office of Strategic Services. Donald was blacklisted during the Cold War and moved with his family to Seattle, Washington, working as an oil burner mechanic until 1947, when he and his family moved to a dairy farm in Sequim, Washington. In 1965 he accepted a teaching position at Franconia College in New Hampshire, and returned to Oxford where he received a Doctor of Philosophy for his research on the scale of agricultural enterprises under a socialist economy in 1975. His appointment to the faculty at Brandon University in Manitoba, Canada, came in 1970, and he retired as a professor emeritus of political economy in 1980, after which he moved to Bainbridge Island, Washington. Donald was a superb adventurer and athlete and an amateur mechanic, who kept his 1965 Chevy II effectively operating for over 400,000 miles. He possessed an encyclopedic knowledge, and was a prolific writer and a passionate teacher on many subjects. Throughout his life, he remained an outspoken foe of war, racism, and capitalist exploitation. He said that he didn’t want his last thought to be "Why didn’t I do something?" Three other members of Donald's family graduated from Reed, Margaret J. Wheeler ’26, George Wheeler ’29, and Helen Wheeler Hastay ’39. He is survived by two sons, including Timothy Wheeler MAT ’66, two daughters, 11 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and two sisters. His wife and one son predeceased him.

Appeared in Reed magazine: May 2003

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