NOAA May 2005

Holly Leighton image
A message from the alumni association president

The "Reedness" of Reed
by Holly Gudmundson Leighton '78

In my last article for Reed, I explored the concept of "Reedness," that je ne sais quoi that the Reed experience instills in us and that makes us Reedies. Though the manifestation of this quality varies from person to person, "Reedness" becomes a fundamental part of who we are and how we approach life. There is also a "Reedness" in Reed itself—those things that make Reed what it is. The research I conducted for my last article told me that Reedies remain Reedies, no matter what direction their personal and/or professional lives take them. Can the same be said for the institution? Is Reed still Reed no matter what changes may occur?

I have heard alumni bemoan changes that have taken place on the Reed campus—both physical (old buildings taken down, existing ones restructured, new ones being built) and intangible (new programs and policies)—that, they fear, diminish the "Reedness" of the Reed they remember.

When the library was remodeled several years ago, for example, I was outraged that the entrance was being moved. During my years at Reed, that spot was a touchstone, the meeting place of choice, where people and dogs would hang out. It was an essential part of my Reed experience.

However, though the library entrance has changed (not to mention the rest of the library), during an alumni event in Minneapolis I learned from a recent alumna that the entrance is still the social center of campus, and the library, with its expanded space and increased resources, is still the heart of Reed.

Moreover, if you were to talk with a current Reed student, you would soon learn that the true "Reedness" of Reed—the intellectual challenge and the quest for knowledge—has not changed one iota. It is still at the core of the Reed experience. Though Reed may have undergone physical changes, the fundamentals have not altered—whether one's major is biochemistry or French literature, economics, or music, Reed still promotes a spirit of intellectual inquiry that is a cornerstone of its existence and will continue to define it.

Reed continues to be committed to hiring and retaining faculty who understand and encourage the academic and intellectual journey that students undertake during their time at Reed. In fact, in recent years, the college has worked to strengthen that commitment by decreasing the faculty to student ratio.

How can we rediscover— and support—this tradition of "Reedness"? I've made this suggestion in earlier columns, but it is one worth repeating: come back to campus for Reunions. During Alumni College preceding Reunions, you can recapture the academic intensity of your Humanities conference without having to write a paper. Reunions also offer the opportunity to reunite with your classmates, share your Reed experience in an oral history interview, and have fun. Another way to ensure that this tradition continues—and I've said this before as well—is by contributing to the Annual Fund. If you are celebrating a reunion this year, please consider a special gift in honor of your time at Reed.

By staying involved in the life of our alma mater, we can remember Reed's past, celebrate Reed's present, and become a part of Reed's future.

On a final, more personal note, Reed's "Reedness" also manifests itself in the connections it allows us to make with classmates, friends, and colleagues. I am very fortunate to have an incredible group of advisers who have been forthcoming with suggestions and support (and, when appropriate, compliments, or criticism) on everything from Reed articles to meeting schedules to leadership decisions. Merci mille fois to Mike Teskey, director of alumni relations, and his wonderful staff, and to the executive committee of the alumni association, including Steven Falk '83, Sally Snyder Brunette '83, David Perry '73, and Tony Fisher '80. Special kudos goes to Kim Lambert '80, who has earned the title of unofficial senior communications adviser. You all embody the "Reedness" of Reed, and I thank you for it. End of Article

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