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Letters to Reed
Confronting Drug Use
The June 2010 article “Fatal Overdoses Focuses Attention on Drug Use and Reed” left me feeling both saddened and worried. In confronting drug abuse, Reed cannot enforce our way out of the problem. Adopting the tactics of the “war on drugs” will only push the problem of dangerous drug use underground, where it will be less responsive to prevention and education.
Drug abuse is a societal problem that touches all corners of our society, including elite liberal arts colleges. Reed draws big thinkers, experimenters, and seekers. All of these attributes make Reed the unique place it is. It also forms the backdrop for experimentation of a variety of types. Sadly, for some people this experimentation becomes drug addiction or worse. This is not unique to Reed and I doubt that threats will stop these problems.
In Reed’s quest to deal with dangerous illegal drugs, I see a real risk of merely displacing the problem. The demand for intoxicants and alcohol is responsible for more than its share of college student deaths. To attack illicit drug use requires a holistic understanding of the problem and a complex understanding of the varied motives and risks that people experience. Meeting the dictates of the law, backed with vague threats, is important but it requires clear thinking and not reactionary policy.
Another issue in addressing drug abuse at Reed is conflating Renn Fayre with the problem of drug abuse. It is worth noting that neither of the tragic overdose deaths that have occurred in recent years had anything to do with Renn Fayre. A public and media obsession with Renn Fayre and drugs does not point us toward the real problems that some individuals have with drug abuse.
In sum, other institutions have tried and failed to enforce their way out of the problem of drug abuse. For Reed to conduct a three-pronged approach of prevention, education, and enforcement has potential, but there needs to be a recognition that enforcement has the potential to undermine the trust required to do smart education and effective prevention. In seeking to keep students safe, there must be a complex understanding of the problem, not a desire to just create good optics for the college.
—Scott Beutel ’06
I was saddened to learn of the death of two Reed students due to heroin overdose. It is good that Reed is responding with education, counseling and enforcement, but this is not enough. The Reed culture itself plays a part in this tragedy. The Reed culture, as I experienced it, was devoted primarily to intellectual accomplishment, valued individualism, applauded nonconformity, and challenged the norms of society. There is much that is valuable and attractive in that culture, and like many Reed students I was proud of it. But the Reed culture also has a darker side. People need more than intellectual challenge and stimulation in order to thrive. Individualism often leads to isolated individuals. Some of the challenged norms are vital to sustaining people’s lives. The campus culture tolerated the abuse of alcohol and drugs.
No doubt the Reed culture has changed somewhat in the years since I was there. From what I have gathered, however, the features that I mentioned above are still very much a part of the college. In particular, the abuse of alcohol and drugs seems to be even more tolerated than it was in the ’60s. With young people, it is not uncommon for a brilliant intellect to be in the same personality along with immaturity and vulnerability. A person who is isolated from others is even more vulnerable to drug addiction, and no one is likely to know about the addiction. Even if others know, they may not act if they believe it is none of their business. Two young men have died from drugs. There must be many others whose lives have been devastated by drug addiction.
Institutional culture is very resistant to change. I hope this tragedy gives the Reed community (and especially its leaders) the courage and determination to reexamine the campus culture and change those parts of it that contribute to the college drug problem. If Reed is to continue to deserve our respect, the campus culture must insist that the destruction of young lives through drugs, or any other means, is not acceptable.
—Chris Meyer ’66
A Mother’s Thanks
I remember walking through Reed’s beautiful campus four years ago with my son, Ryan Lau ’10. I loved looking at the ivy-covered buildings and marveled at the breathtaking Reed College canyon. I attended the parents’ orientation and found out about Reed’s Honor Principle and philosophy of learning. I listened to questions from parents regarding drug use and campus safety, and thought to myself, is this the right college for Ryan? Flash forward to 2010. Next week, I will be walking again through Reed’s beautiful campus; however, instead of going to a parents’ meeting, I will be present for Ryan’s commencement ceremony. Ryan will be graduating with a degree in physics and will attend Cornell University for his PhD. There is no doubt Reed was the right college for Ryan. Ryan is an independent thinker, self-motivated, academically inclined, and responsible—a true Reedie. I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge President Colin Diver and his outstanding faculty for enriching Ryan’s life with a passion for learning that will take him to new heights! Thank you very much for giving Ryan an incredible education journey that will last a lifetime. Mahalo and best wishes.
Editor’s Note: Ryan is one of the students featured in our article Ten from ’10.
In Praise of the DoJo
What a wonderfully different place Reed must be today compared to 1949–52!
Tears streamed down my cheeks as I read this article (“Sharpening Skills at the DoJo,” June 2010). I never expected to see these problems openly addressed at Reed and found your words stunning in the way they brought back long submerged memories and feelings of my days as a confused teenager at Reed. “Bright” and somewhat self-important, I lacked the academic habits and skills of a serious student and struggled to keep up with more experienced and articulate classmates many of whom were G.I. Bill, World War II veterans in their mid-20s.
It’s been almost 60 years, but the self-imposed “impostor” label still sticks. Did I fool the folks at Reed all those many years ago? Maybe, as in three years no one ever suggested remediation. No one, least of all myself, said anything at all about the possibility of a problem.
In those days we all knew it was “sink or swim” at Reed, but some of us just couldn’t figure out what to make of that. In retrospect, it seem obvious that a few swimming lessons might have done the trick. Maybe if I hadn’t waited until age 55 to become the really good swimmer that I am now, I’d have been able to travel a much more productive and exciting 78-year life path. Who knows what would have happened if the DoJo Center had been there when I was?
—Penny Pereira Johnson ’53
I was pleased to see (Reed, June) that the former residence of Dorothy Johansen ’33 is now the site of a program to tutor and assist students. The college is right to recognize that students new to Reed, no matter how bright, may need help in their study habits. Indeed, some students of former times might have benefited. I particularly applaud the creation of an antiprocrastination program.
I had an experience with procrastination many years ago in that very building. I enrolled in Professor Johansen’s American History class, and once a week we students went up to her house to drink her coffee, ravage her supply of cinnamon graham crackers, and talk history. However, the main project for the semester was a long paper that each student was to write.
I chose a topic and kept assuring Professor Johansen that I was pursuing it and working on it, but I was being economical with the truth. I never did get the paper written.
Dottie Jo, wherever you are in Historians’ Heaven, please forgive me; it wasn’t your fault.
Hum 110 play program cover by Susan Reagel ’97.
—Michael Mahoney ‘62
On the Origins of Hum Play
You reproduced a program for the Hum 110 play in the Reed magazine March 2010 issue. I’m the artist (and it was the cover of the program, not a poster). I was the program artist (and set designer) for the first four years of the play. A little credit please! Thanks.
—Susan Reagel ’97
Remembering Joan White
I was saddened to see the footnote in Reed magazine, which announced the death of Joan White. Back in the day, Joan ran the campus events office, a smoke-filled room on the ground floor of Eliot Hall in which the nonacademic events on campus were scheduled. In Joan’s office, one could reserve a room, schedule an event, or score one of the dozens of jobs that arose as a result of her duties. Joan paid students to calligraph announcements and banners, to post the announcements, to record humanities lectures, to usher at graduation, and to bartend at trustee events. (Burt Lancaster liked his martini dry.) The plum job was “art guard”—being paid to study for five hours on a weekend afternoon while babysitting the artwork in the Faculty Office Building gallery. Joan provided coffee (free, if you didn’t have a dime), secondhand smoke, and a place to blow off steam between classes while socializing with the other regulars who came in to say hi and look for jobs. Best of all, Joan would occasionally sit back, look you in the eye, and provide just the right piece of advice at the right time.
Joan was also an accomplished cook and gardener. She once took up my challenge to make jelly out of some ornamental crabapples I picked on campus. As she’d predicted, it was sweet, pink, and fairly tasteless. After Joan’s retirement from Reed, Florence Lehman took up a collection from friends of Joan for her to build a greenhouse. I like to think of her productively puttering and selling flowers to local gardeners. Her office provided a haven from the stresses of academics, and Joan was a reliable source for friendship, wisdom, and gossip for both students and faculty. She is a treasured part of my Reed experience, and I’m glad to have known her.
—Randy Hardee ’80
My Reed was a matriarchy. The important persons in my world at that time were Ann B. Shepard (dean of students), Florence Lehman ’41 (alumni director), and the “newbie,” Joan White (coordinator of special events). As a student required to earn her keep to secure necessary loans and scholarships, I was assigned to Joan, or, as she eventually was known, “Mother White.”
There were several of us, different students from year to year, doing everything from ushering at graduations to cleaning up after faculty meetings and alumni reunions. And, Joan stayed, too, every time, until the last dish.
The ’60s. Reed’s decision to forego federal loans for its students (due to the allegiance clause) and the early entrance of most everyone on campus into the anti-Vietnam movement meant Reed students largely were perceived and treated as “pinko,” anti-war radicals who looked ratty, smelled bad, and gave Portland a bad rep. I suppose much of that was true, except the part about our odor.
Through all of it, Joan gave us her support, as long as we showed up on time and in acceptable attire. It didn’t occur to me, until much later, how much she shaped me during that tumultuous time. A single mother with three children (John, Janet, and James) thrust into needing to earn a living (just like me), she taught me perspective, unconditional inclusion, showed me how to disagree—graciously.
I graduated, kept in touch with her for several years, and stayed in her home on northeast Alameda for my 15th (or was it my 20th?) class reunion. She had finally quit smoking (almost), and was still coordinating special events, still helping shape lives, still being “Mother White.” The issues in the world had changed; her passion for Reed and its students had not.
So, when I read of her passing, I had to make certain that her contribution to Reed College is not forgotten. It stays forever in the hearts of all of us who were privileged to be one of hers, even for a little while.
—BJ (Betty Jo) Blavat ’66
Sappho and Mary Barnard
Letters in the June 2010 issue of Reed—a discussion of Mary Barnard ’32 and the poet Sappho—reminded me of an article about the same subject from an earlier issue of Reed (“Afternoons with the Muse,” by John Sheehy ’82, August 1999). That earlier article had inspired me to write the enclosed poem, titled “Revelation”:
The few phrases remaining
—Eileen Reierson MAT ’67
Serendipity on the Quad
If you skipped reunion weekend at Reed, you missed a lot. To be sure, there are disappointments as well as pleasant surprises—downpours (no surprise there) and sunshine (wonderful), friends who failed to show up (why?) and almost-forgotten classmates who turn out to remember one another after all. And we all seem to have mellowed. There is also a better than even chance of serendipity happening, as it did to me during the “All Class Dinner” on Saturday. Wandering around looking for friends, my attention was caught by a warm and welcoming smile on the face of an elderly graduate—as did his unusual name, visible on his nametag. I stopped to inquire where in Central or Eastern Europe he might have come from, and although disappointed that he was not Hungarian, I thoroughly enjoyed our brief encounter. A mere two weeks later, in Berlin, I caught an item in the International Herald Tribune by regular New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof about the recent death of his father, Ladis Kristof ’55. I felt as if I had lost a friend, though the son’s tribute to his father was really my introduction—what a career he had! How proud Reed should be of the role it played in his life! And how glad I am that, thanks to attending my class’s 45th reunion, I had a serendipitous encounter with an inspirational individual I would otherwise never have met.
—Constance Putnam ’65, MAT ’66
Editor’s Note: Ladis was an amazing character, even by Reed standards. Look for an obituary in the next issue.
Remembering Marilois Ditto Kierman ’43
In my first term at Reed, I was a sailor in the cast of Pinafore, directed by Marilois. She had perfect pitch of great accuracy, which is not always a blessing. During one rehearsal in the old student union, she finally could stand no more of the errant intonation of the Reed orchestra, so she told them to “take 10,” and while they were gone, went around and tuned all their instruments, after which they sounded better.
She was dainty and slender with delicate features and an effortless femininity, so it was perhaps inevitable that her husband, Frank A. Kierman Jr. MA ’43, would nickname her “Butch.” I still have a visual memory of them walking across the big front lawn to Anna Mann, with Frank’s right hand at the nape of her neck, and I still relish an audio memory of her playing a Brahms two-piano piece with Art Wilson ’45 on two grand pianos that were temporarily in the chapel. What a joyous noise they made one Saturday afternoon.
—Fred White ’50
Reed in the ’30s
Thanks a lot for keeping me in touch with Reed. I majored in psychology with Professor Monte Griffith [1926–54], who was a true wit. Another faculty member I enjoyed was Alexander Goldenweiser [1933–39], who offered a course in anthropology. He was a chain smoker, and I can still recall him lecturing with a cigarette in his mouth, not pausing even as the ashes lengthened to half the length of the “coffin nail” or else dropped off.
I loved my time at Reed. Outstanding memories include Bessie Dariotis Twyman ’36, for her sexy beauty and intelligence. I remember dancing with her and enjoyed it tremendously! I’m sorry I didn’t have the serchal (Yiddish for nerve) to ask her on a date. (Editor’s note: we’re sorry to say Bessie died in 1982.)
Hunting For Clues
Compiled by Brandon Hamilton ’10
You know Reed—but how well do you know Reedies? A free bumper sticker to the first 12 readers who can correctly answer the following questions about our illustrious classmates. Note that the puzzle has been fiendishly designed to confound Googlers and to encourage good old-fashioned browsing. The answers are all in this issue!
Got ‘em? Email your answers to email@example.com or send postcard, letter, or other literary contrivance to Puzzled Corner c/o Eliot Hall 212, 3203 SE Woodstock Boulevard, Portland Oregon 97202.
Reed changed the course of my life in many ways. Most notably by giving me the confidence, or was it that I profited from learning the fact that my building self-confidence was essential for a successful life?
My profession has been as a clinical psychologist with a specialty in clinical psychotherapy. Buddies made life full of jolly times, and I recall Jack Glover ’36, Jack Witter ’36, and Bob Lucas ’36. I played tennis with Bob and others. Played in a quartet with Jack G. My instrument was violin. I conducted the Reed orchestra for a time, a very delightful experience, at graduate ceremonies.
So I’ll stop on that note (doodle of some notes on a treble clef) and say: I loved my life at Reed and I’m most grateful to the two men who were at Reed before me and recommended I go to the college. Thanks to Reed for all that it meant to me! A great deal!
—Albert Freeman ’36
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