REYNOLDS, DAVID W. BRAUER PROFESSOR OF PHYSICS
When Robert Reynoldss tour of duty with the U.S. Air Force ended
in 1963, he sought out a college where it was possible to focus
on teaching and working with good students. He found those qualities
Students here are committed, demanding, and stimulating, says
physics professor Robert Reynolds, who retires in August. I find
teaching to be an ongoing, intense processand thats fun.
For over four decades in the classroom Reynolds has tried to spark a sense
of serenity among his students, including many nonphysics majors, by showing
how physics offers people a way of understanding their relationship
to the universe. Beyond building a reputation as a well-liked professor,
Reynolds has distinguished himself by displaying broad interests in academia,
developing an astrophysics emphasis within his department, and earning
respect from colleagues campuswide.
Reynoldss introduction to faculty cross-disciplinary collaboration
came in his second year at Reed. He recalls long, dark, rainy evenings
spent on campus as the faculty vigorously debated whether Reed should
add a graduate school. It was a good initiation into the fact that
the faculty takes responsibility for educational policy in a very deep
His extra-departmental work has included teaching an independent study
course in creative writing (on poetry) as well as supervising a Master
of Arts in Liberal Studies thesis paper (an autobiography), a literary
critical thesis, and a creative thesis in poetry. He very much participates
in the literary life at Reed, says English professor Lisa Steinman,
who published one of Reynoldss poems in a poetry magazine she edits.
For a dozen years Reynolds co-taught senior symposium, a semester-long
course devoted to the critical problems of our age. He says he much enjoyed
chairing the course for three of those years. Senior symposium, he explains,
was notably satisfying because of the conference method of teaching.
Professor of physics David Griffiths, a longtime colleague, says he admires
Reynoldss easy rapport with students and his close
contacts with faculty from a wide range of disciplines. Reynoldss
respect among peers, adds Griffiths, is evidenced by his frequent election
to influential faculty committees such as the Committee on Advancement
Within his own discipline, Reynolds helped the physics department expand
its reach by broadening his own area of expertise. Although trained in
molecular physics, he developed an astrophysics program at Reed, beginning
with his popular advanced course on topics of astrophysical interest and
culminating in the 1998 construction of Space Lab and an observatory
atop the physics building. Already several rooftop experiments have evolved
into strong senior thesis projects, says John Essick, the departments
chair, and the lab has prompted those responsible for filling Reynoldss
faculty slot to consider candidates with some knowledge in astrophysics.
Reynolds expects that retirement will give him ample time to travel. He
and his wife have already mapped out a motorcycle tour of the dozen states
he hasnt yet visited as well as the southern Canadian provinces.
He also plans to upgrade his ham radio licenses, to continue to maintain
his popular website of worldwide subway information (on track to reach
a half-million hits this summer), and to volunteer for several political
Despite that full list of activities, Reynolds intends to stay connected
to the observational astronomy program and, if possible, to re-associate
with the senior symposium. He plans to retain an office on campus. There
are things I want to learn about astrophysics and general ocean and atmospheric
modeling, he explains. Im going to study some more physics.