Kaspar T. Locher, 1920-98

After a long illness, Kaspar T. Locher, literary scholar and professor of humanities and German at Reed College for nearly 50 years, died peacefully on Saturday, January 10, 1998. He was 77. More than 200 friends, colleagues, and former students attended a memorial service on February 14 in the Reed College chapel. Locher is survived by his wife, Caroline Locher '67, associate director of alumni relations at Reed; two children, Felix and Cornelia, from a previous marriage; and two grandchildren. The family requests that memorial gifts be in the form of contributions to Reed's Kaspar T. Locher Creative Scholarship Fund.

Locher was born in St. Gall, Switzerland, on December 15, 1920, and came to the U.S. in 1946 under the auspices of the Institute of International Education after studying medicine at the University of Geneva and literature at the University of Zurich. He received a Ph.D. in comparative literature in 1949 from the University of Chicago. He taught there and at Vanderbilt University before coming to Reed as an instructor in German. Locher wrote a number of books and articles on German literature that were published in the U.S., Germany, and Switzerland. He received research and travel grants from the American Philosophical Society, the American Council of Learned Societies, and other institutions. He was visiting professor of German at the University of Washington in 1963 and at the University of Oregon in 1978. He was granted emeritus status at Reed in 1988.

Locher, an active supporter of the arts in Portland, collected numerous works by Northwest artists. He developed his own walking tour of Portland's art in public places, which he offered for a number of years to Reed alumni returning for reunions.

Ottomar Rudolf, professor of German and humanities, read a resolution to Locher at the January faculty meeting that is excerpted below:

"Professor Locher's scholarship has been recognized internationally, particularly his many publications dealing with the works of the nineteenth-century Swiss writer Gottfried Keller. But teaching was his foremost love. 'What keeps me here primarily,' he said, 'are the students, the pleasure and satisfaction of teaching them.' He believed in another strength of Reed College--experimentation and the freedom from rigorous specialization. This philosophy motivated Kaspar to give years of effort to our unique humanities program, resulting in exceptional instruction in the freshman and sophomore humanities course. Kaspar designed and taught our first film study course, 'Film and Fiction'; he initiated and directed the Danforth Summer Institute in 1967, 'Four Arts Today'; and in 1964 he founded the successful summer creative scholarship for our talented students. The scholarship was renamed in his honor in 1997. Kaspar also revised and chaired our senior symposium for many years. He was a generalist in the best sense of the word--everyone who knew him well, knew and shared his love for the arts. . . . Kaspar T. Locher was a gentleman. He had class. With his death, an epoch at Reed has ended. Kaspar T. Locher, master teacher, internationally recognized scholar, respected mentor, and beloved friend, we give you lasting recognition and respect."

At his memorial service on February 14, a number of friends and colleagues remembered him. Peter Parshall, professor of art history and humanities, said, "Kaspar was a humanist in the true and great tradition of what a humanist is meant to be. A man of assimilated learning that also constituted a philosophy of life. For us the loss of him is also the loss of this, but not the loss of his example."

President Steven Koblik remembered his extraordinary work on the summer creative scholarship program: "It wasn't long after I had come to the president's office that Kaspar came to see me about one of his favorite and most important projects--the summer creative scholarships for students. Kaspar explained to me the history of the summer creative scholarships and urged me to do what other presidents had done: to support him as he tried to find money so that students at Reed College could seek to express themselves in various creative ways during the summer. It's really difficult to imagine how hard Kaspar worked to create these opportunities for his students. For me, as a new president at Reed, it suggested to me the dedication of Kaspar to students, not just simply in the normal way that faculty members seek to serve their students, but in development of all of their skills. It was a pleasure to support him. And when we learned of Kaspar's illness last spring, I think it was a special opportunity that we on the faculty and the board of trustees had in being able to honor Kaspar by establishing an endowment and naming the program in his honor. I know that when we had that party in the spring to celebrate the creation of the Kaspar T. Locher Summer Creative Scholarships, it was an extraordinarily meaningful thing for Kaspar. It's very hard as friends to find ways to celebrate individuals whom we respect."

Janan Abdo Stoll '78 remembered him as the teacher who had the most profound effect on her education: "In reflecting on my Reed education, I realize how remarkably well Kaspar prepared us for life by teaching us to read critically and to articulate our views. He allowed us to become impassioned by ideas, to seek out intellectual challenges, and to fiercely pursue the truth. He taught us to work cooperatively and to be gentle with ourselves and others. He demonstrated an ability to love one's work without being consumed by it. He taught us to appreciate beauty, art, and humor. . . . Kaspar had a unique gift for finding the positive in everything. . . . For me, Kaspar was an embodiment of the Reed humanities program. The year I spent as his student was the most personally enriching year of my life. . . . I would like to thank Caroline for choosing this day to honor her valentine. Kaspar was also Reed's valentine. He was universally loved by Reed students, faculty, and staff because he so generously shared his heart with each of us."r


Carole Archer



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