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Shaffer Eugene Thompson, Friend

Shaffer Eugene Thompson, friend, March 16, 2011, in Coralville, Iowa. Editor emeritus of Reed (1985-95), and former director of the college's publications, Gene grew up in Iowa and earned a BA in English and history at Grinnell College. He did graduate work in English at the University of Iowa and the University of Wisconsin, and taught high school English and journalism.

Gene's first taste of the joys of college publications came in 1964, when he served as editor of the Grinnell College magazine. At Grinnell, he also taught humanities and writing and was dean of students. He worked for many years at Whitman College as director of publications before coming to Reed in 1985. “Reed has its eye on academic quality above all, so that those whose job is selling it have the best possible foundation to stand upon,” he wrote. Gene completely revamped Reed's publications, and was responsible for broadening and strengthening the magazine.

He maintained a strong rapport with students. “Gene was a very encouraging figure to me at Reed and was instrumental in helping me get through my thesis year,” wrote Darrel Plant ’90. “He offered me a part-time position laying out the Reed weekly newsletter that helped my wife and me limp through the spare period while I completed my thesis in the spring of 1990. A few years later, as I was putting together a short-lived book review magazine, Gene gave me encouragement and tips, then he ran a piece on my run for the state legislature in Reed. He always had a ready smile and would make time to talk about books, printing, or whatever else came up. I fell out of touch with him after he left Reed and I'm going to regret for a long time not following through on tracking him down.”

Gene loved sailing. He lived aboard his boat and sailed on the Columbia River and through the islands of Washington state. In 1999, he returned to Iowa to be with his partner, Caitlin Robinson. In retirement, he became a radio-control airplane hobbyist with the Iowa City Aerohawks; created a website, Forever 73; formed Dryland Sailor Publishing; and undertook extensive reading and writing projects. Survivors include Caitlin, two sons, and a brother. Memorial contributions in Gene's name may be made to the Council Bluffs Public Library.

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2011

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