In 1992, when you
first arrived at Reed as president, was there anything that surprised
Well, I dont know about the word surprise.
I had a fairly clear idea of Reeds mission and its values. I had
really tried to understand Reed on its own terms as part of my candidacy,
and what I discovered when I got here was that it was all true and more.
I think one of the most pleasant surprises for me was getting to know
the faculty. The first two months I was at Reed I spent five hours a day
interviewing and visiting with the faculty. I discovered there was an
extraordinary diversity in terms of attitudes and values, but also extraordinary
commonality in their dedication as teachers and mentors. There was a time
when the faculty was very angry at each other. I think my first and most
important task was to really understand that here were people who did
share values and a dedication |to teaching, which meant there was a common
base for reestablishing the facultys capacity to work together effectively.
I knew that Reed had a demanding, rigorous academic program, and I expected
it to have its share of wonderful and rigorous teachers, but I discovered
that the range of the ways in which Reed faculty members encourage, stimulate,
prod, and whip their students towards remarkable intellectual achievements
is really quite unusual.
leadership of leading liberal arts colleges, his dedication to their
missions and ways of doing business, bespeaks a man who gets
it. He has been a splendid colleague and a good friend.
Pat McPherson, vice president of the
Mellon Foundation and former president of Bryn Mawr College
enthusiasm and energy for life, whether at work or at play, is both
awesome and contagious. Simply by example he reminded the Reed community
that we should all take pleasure in what we do. His positive attitude
will be sorely missed.
Patrick McDougal, professor of chemistry
At your inauguration
you said you were looking forward to coming to a place where there was
a culture of openmindedness and tolerance among the students. Did you
find that to be the case?
In one sense I did and in another I didnt.
There is a pervasive tolerance of difference at Reed among the students
that I think is so ingrained in the culture that it allows small, minority
values to sometimes dominate other value systems. To address this you
have to try and build social and personal bridges across groups of young
people who dont necessarily have the tools to do this themselves.
I have struggled to try to help students find each other across these
differences because theres an extraordinary richness and diversity
in the student body.
way the student body has tried to encourage this diversity was by creating
the community rights committee, so that some of this disruptive behavior
can be brought into the honor systems processes. There has to be
a significant level of energy put into it by students and staff and faculty
to try to make the social environment affirmative and supportive of the
academic mission. I think thats frankly the hardest part of Reed
College and one on which I think weve made some progress, as the
significant increase in our retention rate suggests.
you identify as some of your other challenges?
I think that the biggest challengethe one that I tried to be mindful
of all the timewas to stay focused on what I was trying to do. Things
come at presidents from all directions: thats the nature of the
job. The problems usually wind up in the presidents office because
they havent been resolvable anywhere else; by the time they get
here most of the good choices have been eliminated, and usually the person
bringing them into the office already has an answer but would rather have
me take responsibility for it. Thats perfectly appropriate, so that
the problem doesnt get lost in this welter of issues that fly in
the door. When I became president, the fact that we needed more money
so we began work immediately on a fundraising campaign. The fact that
we needed to work on reestablishing effectiveness in faculty governance
was also obvious, as was the fact that we needed to improve student social
life. With all these challenges, what I was really trying to accomplish
was to strengthen the mission of this institution. I took the mission
almost as the founding faculty and the founding board understood it and
took it to heart. I believe in it, and I think its a spectacular
mission for an educational institution, and so I had this as a touchstone
I could return to.
Koblik is a man of indefatigable energy, warmth, and insight, whose
immediate grasp of any situation constantly astounds and whose embrace
of every responsibility that comes his way delights those who want
to see the best educational values triumph.
Al Bloom, president, Swarthmore College
This was the reason that I came out in the middle
of the fundraising campaign with the presidential initiatives that went
beyond the goals of the campaign. I had a very high comfort level that
they would immediately resound in a positive way to all constituenciesand
they did. The most important of these was the initiative to lower the
student faculty ratio to ten to one. I believe part of the reason
why we were successful in the campaign and subsequent initiatives was
because it was clear that the college had a confidence level that it hadnt
dared express earlier.
The other challenge has been student social life. I have this deep feeling
that students at Reed are just so extraordinary as human beings, with
such remarkable ranges of talents and interests, and they dont expose
each other to these talents and interests. I believe the colleges
commitment to treating students as adults is absolutely correct. The problem
is that in this society most adults behave like children anyway, so thats
sometimes not a very useful model.
I believe part of the challenge is that we have never found a mechanism
to create the kind of community that existed at Reed when the student
body was 700 or less. I think making the student body smaller, around
1,150 or so, would really help us make some major changes to student social
life, not by changing the rules but by helping the students create a more