Sallyportal: Madly Blogging Reed

Think Different. (Farewell, Steve Jobs)


Visionary. Iconoclast. Rebel. There was something about him that always seemed quintessentially Reed.

Steve Jobs was formally enrolled for just six months, starting in the fall of 1972. Short of cash, he did something unconventional--dropped out but stayed on campus, living in Westport. He spent his time auditing classes--including the famous course on calligraphy from Robert Palladino [1969-84], which would later have such profound impact on the pioneering Macintosh.

But it wasn't the number of units he took that marked him as a Reedie. It was the crystalline intensity, the obsession with ideas, the hunger for perfection.

"Reed is about ideas, and Steve Jobs embodied the spirit of Reed by fighting to bring his ideas into existence," President Colin Diver said today. "He revolutionized the way we communicate, how we listen to music, how we share information, and he caused us to notice the form of our functional devices--something he attributed to studying calligraphy at Reed. He showed us how the power of creative ideas can transform the world. We are saddened by his loss."

"Steve Jobs was an archetypical Reedie," says Steve Falk '83. "Brilliant, innovative, outspoken, focused, and willing--no, make that eager--to challenge the dominant paradigm. We fellow Reedies were, are, and always will be proud to call Steve Jobs one of us."

Reed was a much deeper part of Jobs than you would guess from his official transcript. A class in modern dance from Judy Massee [dance 1968-98] influenced his ideas on animation and movement perception. Wise words from legendary dean of students, Jack Dudman '42 [math 1953-85], kept him focused on his dreams even when his pockets were empty and he had to recycle bottles at 5 cents a pop so he could keep auditing classes. He even named his son Reed.

"I can assure you that as the patina of time takes its toll, I thank God I had these experiences here," he told Reed students at convocation in 1991. "It has helped me in everything I've ever done, although I wouldn't have guessed it at the time."

Then, reaching back almost 20 years, he paid tribute to a transformative act of kindness on the part of Jack Dudman, who was sitting in the audience. "When I was at the end of my rope, Jack would go for a walk with me and I would discover a $20 bill in my tattered coat pocket after that walk with no mention of it from Jack before, during, or after. And I learned more about generosity from Jack Dudman and the people here at this school than I learned anywhere else in my life."

Jobs wound up that speech with a closing line that also resonates with a lot of Reedies.

"Character is built not in good times but in bad times, not in a time of plenty but in a time of adversity--and this school seems to nurture that spirit of adversity, and I think it does build some character. So thank you for teaching me how to be hungry and how to keep that with me my whole life."

Thank you, Steve, for showing us what can happen when you stay hungry.

(Click SteveJobs.mp3 to hear Steve's 1991 speech accepting the Vollum Award at convocation. Introducing him is physics professor Richard Crandall '69, himself a pioneer in computational physics.)

Tags: Apple, calligraphy, dance, Steve Jobs