REED HOME Gryphon icon
reed magazine logoSeptember 2010

Eliot Circular

Biggest Class Ever

Reed College Rowers

Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, great aunts, wayward uncles, delighted grandmas, stalwart friends, and faithful dogs crowded under the gleaming big top in May to celebrate commencement. Reed’s 96th graduating class was the largest in its history, with no fewer than 343 proud seniors stepping up to the podium to receive their diplomas.

As usual, the English department topped the roster with 41 graduates, followed by psychology (33). Anthropology (29) made a remarkably strong showing, edging out history (28) and biology (27). At the other end of the scale, the less populous majors included Russian/anthropology (1), classics/religion (1), and international and comparative policy studies (1).

The commencement address was given by Larry Sanger ’91, the cofounder of Wikipedia, who spoke on the ambitious theme of “What Is the Meaning of Life?” and concluded with a rather old-fashioned answer:

Contemporary life seems notoriously alienating and devoid of meaning . . . Our lives become scripted parts of efficient business and social processes. We follow the scripts willingly, which dictate how we advance in our careers and home life. In fact, right now a script is coming to a conclusion for you. Commencement punctuates the end of one script, and marks the beginning of many others. We follow life’s scripts—even nonconformist Reedies do so—simply because we’re ambitious, we are naturally proud of our accomplishments, and we do not want to place our potential at risk. This is often not merely understandable, it is usually commendable.

Following the scripts of postindustrial society can in time earn you a great education, an impressive position, a large salary, the respect of your peers, and a satisfying home and family life. Those are not bad things, of course, and all are worth working hard for. The trouble comes when you follow a script long after you have discovered that it requires you to act contrary to your principles, or that it would have you ignore more meaningful opportunities. The courage to act according to your best judgment, even when it goes contrary to the script, requires the virtue of integrity.

If there is one guarantee of a sense of meaning in your life, it is living with integrity. But integrity is a sadly waning virtue in our postindustrial society. I think of it as the cornerstone of a group of related virtues, which are also neglected: humility, independence of mind, and the courage to do the unusual or unpopular thing . . .

To read Larry’s speech in its entirety, see

Our Brilliant Students

Fulbright Scholarship

Congratulations to Piper Wheeler ’10, Reed’s newest Fulbright Scholar. Piper, a Russian major who wrote her thesis with Lena Lenček, will travel to St. Petersburg to translate Vladislav Khodasevich’s Silver Age memoirs, Necropolis, while studying Russian literature at Smolny College.

Mary Barnard Award

It’s like a headache caffeine can’t fix. Thus begins “America,” by Christina de Villier ’11, winner of the 17th annual Mary Barnard Award from the Academy of American Poets. The verse competition was judged in the spirit of poetic license. What were the criteria? “There are none,” says Karen Bondaruk, assistant to the English Department and administrator of the prize. “It’s up to the individual judge.” This year’s judge was poet Maxine Scates, who has taught creative writing at Reed in the past. Christina was delighted with the prize. “As a poet, I feel this poem marks a shift in my style that I would like to keep. It has a lot of energy . . . and it’s sort of a milestone for me.” Also mentioned were Kelly Bolding ’11 for “Troilus and Cressida,” and Sophie Aschwanden ’11 for “Someone Has to Tell Her.”

To read Christina’s poem, see

Class of ’21 Awards

Biochemistry/molecular biology major Stephen Eichhorn ’10 and classics major Sam Hotchkiss ’10 were honored with the Class of ’21 Award recognizing “creative work of notable character, involving an unusual degree of initiative and spontaneity.”

Stephen’s thesis sought to discover the mechanism by which micro-RNA regulates neuronal development—no small task. “Because his design represented uncharted territory,” said one adviser, “he was forced to develop the logic for his data analyses, something he also did entirely on his own.”

Sam Hotchkiss broke new ground in his work on the metrics of Homeric poetry. “The idea of my thesis was to develop a way of reading that actively participates in the creation of a poem as opposed to a thing to be molded in the form of genius,” he said. His professors were impressed, noting “Sam has enhanced our understanding of how Homeric poetry works and done so in a way that challenges and expands our sense of what it means to be creative.”

Meier Awards

Nicholas Drake-McLaughlin ’09, Derek Rutter ’10, and Laura Turcanu ’10 received the Meier Award for Distinction in Economics for exceptional extracurricular involvement and course work. Among the group’s accomplishments: opposing environmental degradation in eastern Europe. “I worked some of my sophomore year for an NGO in Romania which was fighting a gold mining company,” said Laura, who helped local residents develop a viable economic alternative to mining: tourism.

—Brandon Hamilton ’10

reed magazine logoSeptember 2010