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reed magazine logoAutumn 2008

A Growing Tradition

Reed's Parent Council Fosters an Increase in Parent Giving

McNellis family

The McNellis family

She’s becoming a bit of an intellectual snob,” jokes John McNellis, father of Jamie McNellis ’09. “I suppose you can quote me on that.” He laughs. With a mix of humor and seriousness, McNellis compares the young woman who threw down her bags in her freshman dorm room to the newly minted senior. “She’s much more willing to hold her own around the dinner table in intellectual discussions,” he says, “and much more willing to tell us we’re full of crap. Or to announce that we have an outdated or parochial view. She’s more confident. In short, she’s become an adult.”

McNellis chairs Reed’s Parent Council, a group of 40 parents who volunteer their time and expertise in an effort to enhance the current student experience. Parent Council members share their experience and perspective on Reed in their communities, assist the admission office by talking to parents of prospective students, and keep career services informed about summer internships, undergraduate research, and career opportunities. They also make gifts that support strategic Reed priorities, like financial aid and curriculum development.

Last year, Parent Council members gave $162,117 to Reed in the form of matching funds, which elicited a total $466,338 in Annual Fund gifts from all parents. (Comprehensive parent giving, including non-Annual Fund gifts, totaled $1,571,232.) Parents gave 30 percent more to the Annual Fund last year than the previous year, and their reasons for giving are as unique as Reed students.

“Reed saw a thinker and scholar in my daughter,” says Allan Tanner of Naomi Tanner Smith ’04, “a clever girl who didn’t do well on standardized tests. I hope that my gifts may allow Reed to keep finding and developing ‘non-standard’ people.”

John Adams says that his son John Adams ’98 just couldn’t find the right fit before he came to Reed. “He floundered, trying to fit in. He’d always been in and out of friends because of his intellect.” After a campus tour filled with professors who wrote their own textbooks and students who were running a nuclear reactor, says Adams, John started meeting kindred spirits. “And it got him all fired up. Reed saw a little passion in him and really threw gasoline on the fire. That’s why we give.”

George Coffer, parent of Dorothea “Dot” Coffer ’06, says, “When my daughter went to Reed, she had a large scholarship. Some of that money, I’m sure, came from former Reedies or parents of Reedies. I’m just making a small donation to some future student at Reed.”

McNellis says his support is both inspired by Reed and part of a larger family value. “When I first visited Reed with Jamie, I fell in love with it. In fact, I was so impressed I started sending the college a little extra money. I came on the college tour, and my wife, Michele, came to Parent & Family Weekend Jamie’s freshman year. We’re committed to supporting higher education. We also support small schools, including a preparatory high school in East Palo Alto that does a fabulous job helping prepare under-privileged kids for college. We just think education is the only way to help the next generation get ahead.”

Why Reed? “Because we found it,” he says. “Jamie’s going there. I’ve always been a bit troubled by those whose principal contribution is to a nonprofit that benefits their family. But we just love Reed. The classical curriculum, the 10:1 student/teacher ratio, the requirement that they study the humanities for one year…Reed is the antithesis of the experience I had. I went to Cal [UC Berkeley], and I went to lecture halls with literally hundreds of other students, where there were two big screens on either side of the professor. It was like almost like a Madonna concert.”

Jamie, a psychology major, is interested in working with animals. “The Reed education isn’t going to be applicable directly to what she does,” McNellis says. “She won’t be a psychologist, she may not go on to get a Ph.D. Rather than trying to become highly technical in the one field that she’s interested in, she’s obtained this broad education at Reed, and I think that’s terrific.”

Parents who have adopted Reed as a cause, each for their own reason, have become an increasingly important part of Reed’s overall philanthropic and volunteer culture. To learn more about the Parent Council, contact Sirius Bonner ’05 at 503/777-7518.

reed magazine logoAutumn 2008