Photo by Stuart Mullenberg
President Colin S. Diver announced in June that he will retire at the end of the next academic year.
“I have loved Reed College more than any other institution for which I have worked, and I have loved being its president more than any other job I have ever held,” Diver wrote. “But the time is approaching when I need to seek new challenges, strike out in new directions, and, yes, smell the flowers.”
Since taking the helm in 2002, Diver, 67, has led the college through several significant changes.
Reed has become more diverse. While the size of the student body has grown slightly (headcount now 1,477), the proportion of minority students has risen from 14 percent to 26 percent. At the same time, the college has doubled its spending on financial aid over the past decade, to $22.5 million a year.
Reed has also become more selective. The college currently accepts 40 percent of applicants, down from 71 percent a decade ago, while SAT scores have climbed steadily.
On the academic side of the ledger, Diver has overseen key changes to Reed’s traditional curriculum, including a big investment in the performing arts, a new major in environmental studies, and an expansion of the hallowed Hum 110 syllabus to include Egyptian and Persian sources. The college has added 13 full-time faculty positions, pushing the student-to-faculty ratio down to 10.23 to 1.
Reed has also made far-reaching improvements to student life. The college has built several new dorms, allowing almost 70 percent of students to live on campus. It has also revamped its fitness, health, and wellness programs to help Reedies thrive in the intense academic environment.
Finally, Diver has strengthened Reed’s connections with alumni. More alumni now serve on the board of trustees, and alumni are returning to campus for Reunions in record numbers. In addition, the Centennial Campaign, launched in 2009, has raised more than $160 million.
Diver’s tenure has not been without controversy. One difficult moment came last year, after the drug-related death of a Reed student. Local prosecutors vowed that undercover agents would infiltrate campus at Renn Fayre, sniff out any illicit activity, and arrest all offenders.
Some presidents might have seized on the prosecutors’ threat as an iron-clad rationale for getting rid of Renn Fayre (a perennial administrative headache). But Diver put his faith in Reed. Convinced that by working together, students, faculty, and staff could create an event that was both exuberant and safe, he declared that Renn Fayre would go ahead. The festival was celebrated with customary zeal, and despite the presence of undercover agents, no arrests were made and no trouble was reported.
The use of alcohol and other drugs remains a serious issue at Reed and at campuses around the nation. Rather than simply bringing down the hammer, however, Diver led an effort to improve the way Reed implements its policy, focusing on prevention, treatment, and common-sense enforcement.
Throughout his tenure, Diver has remained popular with students (a notoriously demanding crowd), who have nicknamed him “C-Divvy.”
“Throughout the coming year I look forward to joining with many of you to commemorate Reed’s distinctive history, celebrate its contributions to society, and savor its indefatigable spirit,” Diver wrote in his announcement. “Let the centennial celebration begin, and let the journey continue.”