Go to Page 1 go to page two Page 3, you are here go to page 4 next page Link to Reed Mag  Home


Leaving a Long Legacy Title

When Robert Reynolds’s 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 at Reed.

“Students here are committed, demanding, and stimulating,” says physics professor Robert Reynolds, who retires in August. “I find teaching to be an ongoing, intense process—and that’s 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.

Reynolds’s 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 way.”

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 Reynolds’s 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 Reynolds’s “easy rapport” with students and his “close contacts with faculty from a wide range of disciplines.” Reynolds’s respect among peers, adds Griffiths, is evidenced by his frequent election to influential faculty committees such as the Committee on Advancement and Tenure.

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 department’s chair, and the lab has prompted those responsible for filling Reynolds’s 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 hasn’t 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 causes.

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. “I’m going to study some more physics.”

next page

Go to Page 1 go to page two Page 3, you are here go to page 4 Link to Reed Mag  Home