The collegiate vine: Reed and the Ivies
It was a typical Thursday afternoon, October 14, 1937, in the New York Herald-Tribune sports department.
Assignments were being handed out for coverage of college football games, and sports writer Caswell Adams drew the task of covering the less-than-stellar Columbia–Pennsylvania match. Adams remarked to his editor: “Whyinhell do I have to watch the ivy grow every Saturday afternoon? How about letting me see some football away from the ivy-covered halls of learning for a change?”
And so, the phrase “Ivy League” came into being and was quickly picked up by other sportswriters to describe the football matches among the East Coast’s oldest colleges: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale. In 1945 the first Ivy Group Agreement was signed, and Ivy League changed from a descriptor to a formal organizing principle among the eight schools. The accord affirmed the observance of the colleges’ football teams of academic standards, eligibility requirements, and need-based financial aid.
Today, in addition to an easy reference to these eight outstanding institutions, Ivy League has also come to represent established, honorable, and scholarly academic organizations.
Reed’s commitment to academic excellence, in addition to its distinctive (then) ivy-clad architecture, encouraged some to compare Reed to the “Ivies.” Albert E. Doyle, original architect of Reed’s campus, described the features of the campus in a 1922 interview: “Designed as a modification of the finest collegiate gothic style, the buildings are an embodiment of quiet dignity and strength.” His choice of architectural design followed a current trend, strongly influenced by the quadrangle concept of St. John’s College at Oxford University, and already in use by older, Ivy League schools.
Today Reed is referred to by some as a “West Coast Ivy.” While it may have at one time adopted the ivy-covered bricks in emulation of the ivies of the east, by forsaking NCAA sports and the complementary cheerleaders, mascots, and homecoming games, it remains uniquely Reed.