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reed magazine logoSeptember 2010

Empire of the Griffin

Connecting Reed Alumni Across the Globe Edited by Robin Tovey ’97

Strengthening the Bond

In 1991, I sat in the damp spring air under a dark gown in a white tent on Reed’s front lawn, waiting for my name to be called at commencement. I never imagined that 20 years later I’d be welcoming a new class of graduates to the alumni community. I’d been too immersed in Reed to think much about my life after Reed. If I hadn’t been so preoccupied with graduating, I might have applied to graduate school. Instead, the summer was spent contemplating the realities of finding a job and paying rent.

Eric Speckman

I managed to get both a job and rent squared away, but connecting with other Reedies was not something I gave much thought to. The biology department held a reunion a couple of years later, but I’d recently concluded I wasn’t going to pursue biology. I skipped the reunion, feeling that, somehow, I’d let my professors and fellow biology grads down. That decision, and the feelings behind it, I’d later regard as mistaken.

A year or two after that, the Rainier chapter announced a new monthly brewpub gathering for alumni in the Seattle area. I quickly became a regular, and eventually jumped in to help keep it going.

Volunteering for my 10th class reunion turned out to be more work and more rewarding than I anticipated. I saw lots of familiar faces at the reunion, but no one I’d really known very well, which worked out nicely—rather than sharing stories with old friends, I talked to people I’d not known when we were originally on campus together. I heard new stories, and sometimes, the other sides of old stories.

Meeting people from a span of decades at brewpub nights, and meeting new people from my own time at Reed, gave me the chance to realize both how much I had in common with most Reedies, and how interesting our differences were. I’ve had the chance to see how other people have wrestled with the question of “life after Reed,” and the answers they’ve tried. If I’d had the benefit of their perspectives as a new grad, if I’d talked to other alumni about their experiences, rather than isolating myself from them, I would have had an easier time. I don’t think I’m alone.

I’ve become increasingly involved with the alumni association in the decade since. Over that period, the alumni association has devoted a lot of attention to celebrating Reed’s centennial in 2011. Dozens of alumni volunteers have interviewed hundreds of former students, faculty, and staff for the Oral History Project. Looking back at Reed over a century is a another reminder of the common threads in the Reed experience.

Preparations for the centennial continue, and we hope the 2011 reunion will be the biggest ever, but my own interests run towards the question of how alumni can support one another. I’ve enjoyed working with the alumni board to chip away at this issue. We’ve organized pizza parties across the country where alumni welcome new grads. We’ve also worked to improve career networking and host career networking events in a number of chapter cities.

This work is ongoing, and it is core to the plans we’ve been making for our efforts beyond the centennial celebration. In particular, I think narrowing the gap between current students and alumni can provide benefits for both groups. Drawing on the experiences of alumni can help current students and new graduates as they make plans for their own lives. Sharing those experiences, and facilitating the connections that make such sharing possible, is a way for alumni to make meaningful contributions to the success and happiness of Reed students and other alumni.

I’ll expand on our plans in future columns. In the meantime, I hope you’ll make your plans to join us for the centennial reunions from June 6–12, 2011.

—By Erik Speckman ’91
Erik is president of the board of directors of the Reed alumni association. Reach him at erik.speckman@alumni.reed.edu.

reed magazine logoSeptember 2010