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50th Reunion Chatter
Breaking All the Rules
As they found seats for their 50th reunion dinner, members of the Class of ’56 discovered that a half-century later they were still dividing largely along disciplinary lines—natural sciences here, humanities and social sciences there.
“They used to say that we physics majors went down into the basement of Eliot to work on our projects and came up four years later,” said Ronald Laing, who spent decades teaching ophthalmology at the Boston University School of Medicine and now lives in Florida. “We were not too involved with all the stuff that was going on. In my case, I’m not sure I even knew about it.”
“The stuff”—several tumultuous years of campus political upheaval leading to the departure of President Duncan Ballantine, termination and suspension of faculty members, and resignation of several trustees in the wake of House Un-American Activities Committee hearings into leftist activity at Reed—was a hot topic at the other table. Alfred Levinson ’54, a chemistry professor emeritus at Portland State, wandered over to debate aspects of his long-ago campaign for student body president with Michael Munk, who endorsed Levinson’s opponent, Kaoru Ogimi ’54. “Your letter turned the tide against me,” Levinson told Munk, “and thank goodness, because had I won I probably would never have graduated.”
Across the way, June Burlingame Smith, Ruth Oser Newman ’55, Dorie Moore Edlin, and Laing were chuckling about the “inter-visitation” rules of their day, when men could visit women’s rooms only from 2:30 to 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, and then only with the door open. Most social mores were honored more in the breach, they noted. Laing recalled rendezvousing with his girlfriend on the banks of Reed canyon. Smith confessed to colluding with other rendezvousers. “I was a dorm adviser and I’d keep the window to my parlor open at night,” she said. “The girls knew they could climb through, whatever time they got back.”
Back at the “science” table, two couples who are Oregonians of more recent vintage were explaining that sometimes retirement is only a temporary thing.
Chuck Richardson, who passed up appointment to the Naval Academy to stay at Reed, closed down the computing firm that he and his wife Marie owned for 43 years in Palo Alto, California, and moved to the Portland suburb of Beaverton. “We thought that we were retiring,” Chuck said, “but some of our clients asked us to keep working with them so we set up an office in the basement.” Their new work/life balance suits Marie just fine. “We have a 10-second commute to work,” she said, “less if we slide down the banister.”
Darrell Brownawell ’54 and Marilyn Losli Brownawell ‘55 pulled up stakes in New Jersey in 1997 after Darrell’s 33 years with Exxon and moved to Black Butte in Central Oregon. “Then five years ago someone found a couple of patents for chemical filters that Darrell developed and that Exxon had never acted on,” Marilyn said. “Now he’s working on what could be the next generation of oil filters for diesel trucks. They recycle exhaust gases back through the engine to reduce emissions.”
Members of the 50th reunion class gathered in Eliot chapel Saturday afternoon, where Tod Mikuriya, classmate and noted California “pot doc,” discussed the medical uses of cannabis and Smith led erstwhile members of “Sound Experiment” in folk songs. Then they joined storyteller Cricket Parmalee ’67 and Reed archivist Gay Walker ’69 in a session of recollections for use in an oral history of Reed to be published in conjunction with the college centennial.
There was so much to say that the group stayed overtime, then rushed out to join the parade of classes. “We were not a class that liked a lot of rules,” said Smith, a community college professor from Los Angeles, recalling the time federal agents found a beer brewery in the basement of her dorm. She and her late husband, Greg Smith, met in transfer student orientation.
John Dopyera, a psychologist now retired in Ithaca, New York, recalled feeling out of place on a campus filled with intellectuals; he was a high school dropout, veteran, transfer student, and the son of a musical instrument craftsman. Other unusual paths to Reed were related by Mary Lou Skoglund, a Portlander who swam in the old swimming pool as a fourth grader, and Anne Lloyd Rieger, who stayed in the Reed ski cabin on Mt. Hood during a high school youth hostel tour.
But they had nothing on Ralph Markson, a physicist from Massachusetts who hitchhiked West after two years at Cornell and wound up in the clink in Seattle. He planned to attend the University of Washington, “but I was bailed out by a Reedie” who recruited him. “I interviewed a week before the semester and I had no paperwork or transcript, but they took me and it worked out pretty well. I even sent my kid here.” That would be Alison Markson ’92, a psychologist who is due back for her 15th reunion next June.