2003

A message from the alumni association president

By Steven Falk ’83

When I was growing up, my mother always told me that if I worked hard enough, one day I could become president. Little did I know that she was referring to the Reed College alumni association! With this article, the first of three that I will write for Reed magazine this year, let me say that it is a privilege to serve you as president of your alumni association.

This sense of privilege was made especially clear when I read the May issue of Reed. The magazine’s centerpiece—the remarkable story of Katya Komisaruk ’78—described the life and times of the woman who, driven by her convictions, chose to sabotage the NAVSTAR weapons-control satellite network. During her subsequent jail stay, Komisaruk applied to and was accepted by Harvard Law School, and she now spends her time defending indigents, activists, and anarchists. One might disagree with her values and tactics, but you can’t question Komisaruk’s courage.

Thumbing through the class notes, I read about the pluck of various other Reedies. There was the short item on Jane Collier Anderson, who is busy writing the history of a local Unitarian Universalist chapel. Not that it makes a difference, but Jane happens to be 86 years old. There was the story of Andrea Frost ’76, who last year canoed 150 miles of the Missouri River, retracing the journey of Lewis and Clark. And let’s not forget Helen Irwin Schley, class of 1935, who noted that she has recently taken up the study of Spanish. Talk about loving knowledge for its own sake! All I can say is, “Helen, you go girl!”

The obits featured the stunning life story of Donald Wheeler, also of the class of 1935. This fellow arrived at Reed by crossing Columbia River rapids in a boat, went on to become a Rhodes Scholar and, via a winding path, earned a Ph.D. at Oxford University. Wheeler’s academic career was complicated by his membership in the Communist Party, and his blacklisting led him to be, intermittently, an oil burner mechanic and dairy farmer. The notes say that, throughout his life, Wheeler remained an outspoken foe of war, racism, and capitalist exploitation, and that he didn’t want his last thought to be, “Why didn’t I do something?”

Since its publication, I’ve spoken with other Reedies who were, like me, struck by the gravity, curiosity, and convictions of those alumni whose stories are profiled in Reed. With some 14,000 living members, the Reed alumni community now spans 77 years of the life of the college. So, while remarkable, the stories in the magazine represent just the tiniest fraction of the tales that we, the larger family of Reed alumni, have to tell.

Though we have each since ventured out and arrived at different places, politics, and persuasions, our common college experience ties our tales together. Our life stories are all rooted on the leafy Reed College campus, where, despite our generational differences, we shared “the Reed Experience. “It’s the place where we were encouraged to question assumptions and reject any sense of limits to our intellectual abilities.

And so, of course I am proud to represent this remarkable group of intellectuals, conservatives, radicals, doctors, lawyers, parents, academics, musicians, artists, scientists, and all of the other labels that describe those whom we call, simply, Reedies. I thank you for the opportunity to contribute and pledge that I, along with the alumni association board of directors, will give you our very best effort this year. End of Article

 

 

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2003
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