In Memoriam

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Ellen Coleman Gruetter Simpson ’36

Ellen Coleman Gruetter Simpson ’36, June 21, 2003, in Forest Grove, Oregon, from progressive muscular degeneration. Ellen earned a bachelor’s degree in general literature from Reed at a time, she asserted, when society did not value the intellectual capacity of women. She entered the college after earning straight "Es" in high school, and engaged in activities and studies she honored throughout her life. She was a member of many organizations, including the Audubon Society, World Affairs Council, League of Women Voters, City Club, Unitarian Church, Eastmoreland symphony auxiliary, and the Opera Guild, and was a volunteer for the Reed alumni association. Ellen enjoyed athletic pursuits, including swimming, hiking, and canoeing. She was instrumental in establishing theatre at Reed, and extended this interest to the Ashland Shakespearean Festival. She was a trailblazer in gardening, planting native species before they were popular. In 1938, Ellen married James G. Gruetter ’36, who predeceased her, and they had four children. For nearly two decades, she taught English and French at Madison High School in Portland, was chair of the foreign language department, and a student adviser; she retired in 1979. Following retirement, Simpson studied French at the Sorbonne in Paris, and traveled to Mexico, Alaska, Ireland, Italy, Africa, and Australia. "Funny world," she once remarked. "How the human race survives is a bumbling, glorious mystery." In 1984, she married Paul B. Simpson ’36. To the end of her life, Ellen remained a scholar, and when her illness required that she be in assisted-living, she took time to read to another resident. Family members who also attended Reed include her father, Matthew J. Coleman ’21, her sister, Mary U. Coleman ’37, and her brother, Matthew J. Coleman Jr. ’39. Survivors include her husband, her two daughters and two sons, 10 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and her sister.

Appeared in Reed magazine: November 2003

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