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reed magazine logoAutumn 2007

Gale Dick ’50, who was drafted into the navy in 1944 after graduating from Portland’s Roosevelt High School, came home after fixing communications equipment on Guam, and had one of those rare realizations that remains with a person his entire life.

“Once I had gotten to Reed, I immediately realized, almost in one of those blinding flashes of epiphany or something, this is where I personally belonged,” he said in his oral history interview. “I remember when we first came to campus, we all met in the chapel—the incoming students. President [Peter H.] Odegard [1945–1948] gave us a pep talk. And I can remember one line from it, which I thought was wonderful, because we wanted to hear this. He said, ‘At Reed—although God knows it’s not true—we’re going to treat you like adults.’”

Lenske recalled the mix of backgrounds feeding off itself in a way that made serious study fun and could also make fun a bit serious. “More people went to college, and they were serious about going to college,” he said. “It wasn’t just a playboy thing. They were curious. They became good students. And those attitudes transferred or were witnessed by the younger students.”

The influx of veterans-turned-students also brought a few less savory aspects of military life to campus. Old Dorm Block became home to an ongoing poker game populated largely by returning vets, many of them budding chemistry students.

“You’d have a class, so you’d get up and have somebody hold your place, and then you’d go off to class, then come back and get your place back at the table,” recalled James Robertson ’51.

Campus Day, group shot

Campus Day during the war: Bill Fordyce (killed in action), Margaret Sprinkle Newton 44, Karen Vedvei Atiyeh 47, Mary Jarvie Gourley 46, and sailor friends.

Several postwar students recalled efforts by President Odegard and his successor, Ernest B. MacNaughton (1945-52), to curb the cardsharping, if only because veterans’ benefits might not stretch far enough to cover the consequences of a busted flush.

Reed also never adopted the de facto quota system that kept the number of Jewish students small at many other elite colleges. This added to Reed’s appeal among a nationwide pool of prospective students.

The practical effects weren’t lost on Robert Fernea ’54, who later rose to prominence in the field of Middle Eastern studies. “We had a lot of Jewish students, [which was] the outcome of the quota system for Jews and for women that still existed in Eastern colleges. And once that quota was passed, forget it. No matter how good you were. This was also true in some California schools. So I understood why a number of the students at Reed were from those backgrounds. How else would we get people coming all the way to Oregon from New York?”

George Joseph ‘51 was too young to fight and transferred to Reed in 1949 after a checkered path that included stops at six schools. His first impressions of the college of that era would resonate with many who have followed his path. “Talk was what you did at Reed,” he recalled. “You talked at lunch, you talked at breakfast, you talked at dinner, you talked in the evening. You had a lot of reading to do. But you talked very little about trivia or what we would have thought of as trivia. We talked about important things; we had important fish to fry.

“When I first came to Reed,” Joseph continued, “I recognized it was what I’d been looking for. I had enrolled in or attended five or six different colleges by the time I came to Reed. I was looking for something, and I knew I’d found it,” he said, recalling his first conversation with Dorothy Johansen ’33, a longtime history professor and chronicler of Reed’s early history. “You can’t sum up love. You just know it. Things happen and you know they’ve happened and that was one of them. I found Reed and stopped looking. I’ve been to other schools. I’ve taught at other schools. I’ve gone to other schools. Before and since. There’s just no place like Reed College.”

Of the hundreds of Reed students who went to war or trained for war in the pre-meteorology program, 38 didn’t come back. Their names are listed in the entrance to Eliot Hall, where they still get noticed, Betty Brockman Martin recalled in a 2002 oral history interview.

“You know, the one time I was back at Reed,” she said, “I saw the plaque—isn’t it just in the entrance to Eliot Hall? ‘The World War II fallen.’ And I looked at it and I thought, I knew all of those young men and they were the cream of the crop. And it was really hard and sad to see that.”

reed magazine logoAutumn 2007