A Lifelong Habit
Cal Ripken Jr. played every game for 16 years, and The Phantom of the Opera is in its 19th year on Broadway. But as streaks go in the annals of annual giving, a retired schoolteacher named Maxine Howard Crites ’42/MAT ’65 tops them by a mile. Crites has contributed to the Reed College annual fund for 64 consecutive years.
“Maxine Crites’ remarkable consistency in her giving would be music to the ears of anyone in my position,” says David Rubin, director of Reed’s annual fund, who says Crites’ streak is probably a record (albeit with an asterisk that we will get to later).
A native Portlander who was the youngest of five siblings and the only one to graduate from high school, let alone college, Crites says that she holds her Reed education in high regard. “It was really an eye-opener to be in those small classes and those big lectures,” she remembers. “You weren’t criticized or made fun of when you spoke. You were encouraged to think and have ideas of your own. I’ve carried that way of thinking into my adult life, trying to see the broader picture and standing up for what I think is right.”
Money was scarce for Maxine Howard during her undergraduate years. She lived above the Reed infirmary (in a room with a great view of Reed canyon, she recalls), and worked downstairs as a nurse’s aide for 25 cents an hour. She supplemented that income by delivering food on hand-carried trays to fellow students who brought their own cloth napkins to the dining room. It was there that she heard news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
After graduation, she took a job as a government social worker in Roseburg, Oregon, and enlisted soon thereafter in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). She spent the balance of the war in the hospital corps in San Diego, ministering to wounded GIs, then returned to Portland, married Norman Crites, and raised three children.
Her husband was employed by grocery chains, so there was never a surplus of cash in those early days. But as surely as she set aside something to contribute to All Saints Episcopal Church, Maxine Crites found something to send to Reed at least once a year. “Reed has been at the top of my giving, for the small amounts I’ve been able to give,” she says. “I’ve felt all these years that I really owed Reed something for what the college has given me—an entirely wonderful look at life that I don’t remember having before I went to Reed.”
One day in the early 1960s she spotted an item in the church bulletin announcing the availability of Danforth grants to allow individuals with bachelor’s degrees to pursue a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree at Reed. The program was meant to address a shortage of teachers at the time. “So I applied,” says Crites, “and believe it or not I was accepted.”
Believe it. Crites had always been interested in education and was the president of the PTA at Meriwether Lewis elementary school a few blocks from Reed when she enrolled for the MAT. She remembers sitting in a classroom when word came that President Kennedy had been assassinated, and thinking back to the day 22 years and two weeks before when word of Pearl Harbor had arrived.
Crites’ Reed education helped her to formulate a philosophy of teaching social studies that she honed over 20 years at Portland’s Franklin High School. “The kids still had respect for the teachers and were pretty much willing to work for things,” she recalls. “I remember discussing some contemporary problem, and I divided this group into two small parts. I asked the students who were particularly opinionated—reflecting their parents’ views—to defend a position opposing the one they had brought to class. They had to do the research. I didn’t feed them any ideas. I think that reflects the education I had at Reed. It forced them to see another point of view.”
She retired from Franklin High School in 1986 but continued to volunteer in a number of capacities, including as a case reviewer for children in foster care and as a tour guide for students visiting local courthouses. She knew the ropes from having taught law to high school students in cooperation with the law school at Lewis & Clark College.
Crites also modeled the Reed educational experience for her son, Doug Crites-Moore. “One of my fondest memories of Reed is tied to [calligraphy teacher] Lloyd Reynolds,” he says. “Mom wanted to learn calligraphy. I was very young, so she took me to the classes, where I learned calligraphy along with mother via Lloyd Reynolds’ excellence. That knowledge has given me visual and artistic pleasure every day of my life.”
Now in her mid-eighties, Maxine Crites isn’t slowing down much. She still shops for herself and can occasionally be seen in Hauser Library, in the Reed bookstore, or on one of the campus paths (she carries dog treats in her bag for canine visitors to campus).
Crites also ventures farther afield. She and her daughter Melissa took an alumni tour of the hill towns of Tuscany not long ago. “I was surprised by her verve,” says Reed development director Johanna Thoeresz ’87, who accompanied the tour. “Anyone who tried to coddle this ‘sweet old lady’ was quickly put in their place by her quick wit and insistence that she didn’t want any special attention. She might have been the only one on the trip who never complained about anything and appreciated the experience in its entirety.”
Crites plans to attend Reunions 2006 in June, and to make her 65th successive donation to the annual fund. Oh, and about that asterisk? In 2001, Crites arrived with her annual gift to Reed after the June 30 cutoff. “What’s it called, where the financial year doesn’t end in December, but in July or something like that?” Crites asked. “I’ve forgotten what that term is.”
The term is “fiscal year,” and someone in the annual fund office at that time decided to extend the calendar in deference to Crites’ remarkable loyalty. “I was concerned about that and felt a little guilty,” Crites says, “but the sweetheart—you know, the alumni people are so nice—she said, ‘Well, you did give.’”