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2001

Colin S. Diver, Reed's 14th President

Diver believes his entire life has prepared him to be president of Reed. “What sparked my interest in Reed was the clear understanding that I was going to be challenged and that I was going to learn here. This position will give me an opportunity to deal with my own issues surrounding authority. I don’t like to be told what to do. I know that the president of Reed has relatively little formal authority, so the president has to work with students, staff, and faculty members to earn whatever authority he possesses.”

Colin and Joan Diver stand with son Ned and his partner, Kelly Davis, left, and son Brad and his wife, Heidi Kapusta, and daughter, Margot, right

 

 

Diver also acknowledges that he will have to earn his authority while working within the bounds of Reed’s honor principle. “As a former law professor, I know the limits and shortcomings of rules. But in a heterogeneous community like Reed, rules signal shared expectations about what is acceptable behavior. The concept of honor at Reed comes from an era when there were homogeneous norms of decorum that everyone knew and adopted. That era is past, and thankfully, because those norms were too often based on racial, cultural, and sexual stereotyping. But the passing of that era leaves us with a heterogeneous community that must struggle constantly to establish some agreed-upon norms of behavior.”

Both Colin and Joan say they have a fairly clear understanding of the unique characteristics that make up the Reed student body. “We’ve had some experience raising Reedies,” says Colin. Joan explains, “Our two sons, Brad and Ned, didn’t go to Reed, but they easily could have fit in here. They are both very creative, free-spirited, highly intelligent young men.” Colin concurs. “We understand their struggles to fit into a world that doesn’t necessarily fit their vision. They don’t want to conform, but they don’t want to chuck it entirely either. Our own lives fit that model as well.”

The Divers lived and raised their sons in Boston during the 1960s in a neighborhood that was undergoing gentrification. Their experiences struggling with Boston’s school desegregation and working toward racial equality were chronicled in New York Times journalist J. Anthony Lukas’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Common Ground.

Diver says the leap from dean of the University of Penn’s Law School to president of Reed College isn’t as monumental as it might sound. “Law schools are autonomous institutions with a lot of responsibility to raise money, hire faculty and staff, establish academic requirements, and admit students. As dean of the law school I learned to maximize the benefits of smallness while dealing with the diseconomies of small scale and to appreciate the autonomy of the faculty while offering them administrative support.”

At the University of Pennsylvania Diver enhanced the faculty and helped with a campaign to raise $110 million in new gifts and pledges. He also added new programs in public service, interdisciplinary teaching, and research, as well as clinical legal education.

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2001