Christopher Visher ’65 and Suzanne Bletterman Cassidy ’65
WHO: Chris Visher ’65 and Suzanne Cassidy ’65
MAJORS: English, Chemistry
HOW MUCH: $119,157
STAT: 95 donors have made their first major gift (100k+) to Reed during this campaign.
Christopher Visher ’65 and Suzanne Bletterman Cassidy ’65 became a couple their sophomore year at Reed. She was a self-described “blabbermouth” from Southern California, studying to become the scientist her father always wanted to be. He was the son of a diplomat, and though he had been president of his high school class in Greece, felt like he was barely keeping his head above water at Reed.
After graduating, they drifted apart. During her first year at Brandeis, Suzanne realized that pure science lacked the social interactions she craved. She decided medicine would combine both science and people and applied to medical school at Vanderbilt. Waiting for classes to begin, she worked in a lab studying genetic disorders, igniting her life’s ambition.
She taught medicine at a series of universities, and using patient care as her laboratory, continued her work on genetic disorders. Suzanne became the go-to specialist on a rare disorder called Prader-Willi syndrome and currently serves as president of the International Prader-Willi Syndrome Organisation and on the scientific advisory board of the Prader-Willi Syndrome Association.
She edited Management of Genetic Syndromes, in which 60 experts share information on care for patients with rare genetic disorders. The New England Journal of Medicine said the book “should certainly be on the shelf of every clinical geneticist and in the library of every pediatric tertiary care facility.”
After getting a degree in English literature at Reed, Chris went on to Columbia Law School. He worked as a legislative assistant for Hawaiian Senator Daniel Inouye, as general counsel and chief operating officer of Inheritance Funding Company and as general counsel for the estate finance division of LawFinance Group, a leading provider of financial solutions in the field of litigation finance.
Suzanne and Chris married other people, started families, and divorced. Thirty-five years later they drifted back together. Chris lived in the Bay Area, and when Suzanne was in town on business she invited him for a cup of coffee. They had spoken to each other only twice in the intervening years—to see if the other was going back to Reed for Reunions. In 2005 they exchanged vows atop San Francisco’s Wells Fargo Bank building with many Reedies in attendance.
“It’s been fabulous, probably better than it would have been if we had stayed together when we were young,” Suzanne says of their marriage.
Among the first alumni to pledge money for Reed’s new performing arts building, they are generous supporters of the Annual Fund and members of the Eliot Society—having named Reed as a beneficiary in their estate plans.
“We believe in Reed,” Suzanne says. “It’s a fabulous education; a very special place that is well worth supporting.”
Chris is glad that the college now focuses time and resources on helping students with both academic and socialization issues.
“When I was there, it was sink or swim,” he says. “It was a difficult situation. You were at the top of your class in high school and then got to Reed and felt you must be right down there at the bottom.”
At Reed Suzanne’s favorite class was Senior Symposium, where students from different disciplines got together once a week to discuss a book they were reading, usually at a professor’s house.
“I was thrilled with the fact that one’s study so influenced the perception of these books,” she says. “This idea of multidisciplinary approaches being so much richer than a single discipline approach stuck with me.”
The couple credits Reed with teaching them not only how to think, but how to put those thoughts on paper in a coherent way. The education they received at Reed has enabled each of them to maneuver through a variety of careers. Their marriage might be termed a fringe benefit of having been comrades of the quest.