When beloved Prof. Maggie Geselbracht [chemistry 1993–2014] passed away in September 2014 after a hard-fought battle with lymphoma, her husband Tom Armstrong decided to make a gift in her name.
Since then, there has been an outpouring of love and support from her colleagues, students, alumni, and friends. So far, a total of 139 donors have raised more than $140,000 for the Maggie Geselbracht Women in Chemistry Fund.
The fund underwrites summer research for women chemistry students and provides money for traveling to conferences to present their research.
“Maggie’s signature contribution to student development was that she really wanted them engaged in research,” Armstrong explains. “It was a big deal for her to have students go to national meetings of the American Chemical Society to present posters and research.”
Prof. Geselbracht joined the chemistry department in 1993 and became its first tenured female professor. Her legacy has inspired gifts from a remarkable range of people—former students who want to honor her influence on their education and career, parents of former students who appreciate the way she mentored their students, colleagues, friends, and family.
“Maggie seemed to be at the center of the web,” says her friend and colleague Prof. Arthur Glasfeld [chemistry 1989–]. “She was often the first chemist that our students got to know because she taught the fall semester of our intro chemistry sequence and had her finger on the pulse of every movement of their lives as they moved through the chemistry curriculum.”
Chantal Sudbrack ’97, a materials scientist with NASA, chose chemistry as a major because Prof. Geselbracht made it approachable. “Maggie was a phenomenal instructor,” Chantal says, “brash, full of zeal and passion, with a trademark smile that made her instantly likeable. She not only believed in us, but she also had the uncanny ability to inspire us to believe in ourselves. Make no mistake, she was demanding, but we rose to the occasion believing that we could excel.”
Chantal supported the fellowship because it opens doors for young women in science, providing opportunities not only to develop connections, but to gain a sense of direction in what area of science to pursue.
Natalie Keehan ’15 and Eve Mozur ’15 were the first women to receive Geselbracht scholarships, which allowed them to attend the national ACS meeting and exposition in Denver.
“Maggie was a huge inspiration to me,” says Natalie. “Her intro inorganic course was one of the major reasons I wanted to be a chemistry major. Whenever I write about chemistry, I am constantly thinking about whether or not it would be something that I would be proud to show Maggie.”
“Maggie’s boundless energy for teaching chemistry convinced me that I could spend my life thinking about the problems she presented to me,” says Eve, who is starting a PhD program next year. “I hope that I can emulate some of her enthusiasm for her subject, her incredible ability to mentor—and her ability to pull off cowboy boots and d-orbital earrings.”
Honor Maggie with a gift to the Maggie Geselbracht Women in Chemistry Fund.
Portland high-tech firm Urban Airship boasts no fewer than 12 Reed grads.
Back row: Jesse Grillo ’14, Andrei Stephens ’08, Russell Mayhew ’10, Michael Richardson ’07, Andrew Winterman ’11, and Mele Sax-Barnett ’05. Front row: Connor Wallace ’13, Ross Donaldson ’06, David Jackson ’09, Zach Brown ’13, Max Del Giudice ’14, and Lennon Day-Reynolds ’03.
English major takes helm of alumni fundraising.
Photo by Talia Herman
Five years after graduation, Michael Stapleton ’10 is still just as passionate about Reed as he was as a student. But he is also ready to put his money where his mouth is.
In July, Michael becomes the chair of Alumni Fundraising for Reed (AFR), a group of alumni volunteers who solicit donations from alumni for the Annual Fund. The unrestricted money given to the Annual Fund provides immediate support for financial aid, student services, and resources for faculty and the library. These funds are the mainstay of the budget, allowing Reed to meet its most pressing needs.
Michael has been an active supporter of the Annual Fund since his senior year, when the New York Times published an article about how the recession forced Reed to scale back its spending on financial aid. “I listened to a lot of ivory-tower conversations around campus about the injustice of Reed not being need blind,” he remembers. “And thought, ‘Why don’t we do something about this instead of just talking about it?’”
Michael and several other students founded Reedies for Reed, a student group dedicated to building awareness of—and raising money for—the Annual Fund.
The AFR was founded in 2009 when its first chair, Konrad Alt ’81, brought together a group of alumni to discuss how to augment the college’s resources for uncompromising academic excellence. Since then, the AFR has matured into an affiliation of more than 130 volunteers, with an established steering committee and several working groups.
The AFR chair establishes targets on a number of fronts, including growing the base of alumni donors and volunteers, spearheading young alumni giving, and encouraging more alumni donations at the leadership level ($1,000 or more per year).
A few months after Michael graduated, Konrad asked him to work with the young alumni working group of AFR.
“On the young alumni side we try to make every outreach as warm as possible,” Michael explains. “Someone will say, ‘I know that person. I’ll reach out to them.’ We try to make it relevant—someone who shares your major, is in your age group, or shares a personal connection. It’s important they realize they’re giving to people, not just to the college. Reaching Reedies who have a connection to that shared experience is a big deal.”
Michael did a marketing internship during his senior year at Reed, and took to the profession like a duck to water. He is now vice president of marketing at AnyPerk, a San Francisco company that provides perks that other companies can plug into without having to manage the relationships or negotiate for their employees. It also offers products designed to recognize employee achievements, spurring morale, productivity, and retention. Prior to AnyPerk, Michael was vice president of marketing at Gild.com.
“Reed taught me some very practical skills for my career,” he says. “I learned to communicate clearly, argue to a point, and understand the human condition. Majoring in English pushed me to think about framing human experiences through stories, and that’s helped me better understand my audience.”
Michael thinks Reedies often misunderstand the concept of branding—at least as it applies to the college. “They think it’s way dirtier than it is,” he says. “A brand is literally a set of ideas and principles connected to form a distinct identity in the mind. Saying you’re against the brand of the college is like saying you don’t believe in its mission. Reed’s brand is its very core.”
Reedies tend to resonate with the ethos of the college, and Michael finds that alumni who don’t feel a natural urge to give back often have the most complaints.
“I tell them, ‘If you think there’s a bunch of things wrong with Reed, I guarantee you that having more resources will help address those things,’” he says.
Find out how you can support the Annual Fund.