Pearl W. Atkinson 1914–2005
Pearl Atkinson, director of women’s physical education at Reed from 1959 to 1977, died March 27, three days after her 91st birthday. Atkinson devoted her life to the promotion of physical activity and to helping young people engage in sports that they could enjoy throughout their lives.
It was under her guidance that Reed’s physical education program was restructured so PE credit could be given for mountain climbing, horseback riding, sailing, ice skating, and skiing. She helped the college become one of the first in the Northwest to offer co-educational programs in PE.
Atkinson’s personal passion was folk and ethnic dance, an interest that began while she was a Fulbright teacher in Leiden, The Netherlands, in 1953–54. She taught workshops and arranged folk dancing events during her tenure at Reed and well into retirement. In 1967, she wrote, “I have always been interested in folk dance, not only from the standpoint of dance, but from the study of ethnic cultures from which it comes.”
After retiring from Reed, Atkinson led motion exercise classes at senior centers around Portland that have become a model for senior exercise programs in Oregon.
Atkinson attended Lincoln High School in Portland and graduated from Oregon State University in 1937. She received her master’s in adaptive physical education from the University of Oregon in 1958. She received recognition from the American Red Cross for 30 years of activity, and was aquatic director for the Portland Parks Bureau for more than 15 years.
She is survived by two sisters. Donations in her memory may be made to Reed’s Folk Dance Fund.