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Scrounger Reunion Chatter
Scrounging for Dollars
In addition to recruiting graduating classes at five-year intervals, reunion organizers occasionally focus on a theme, inviting alumni from all classes who especially identify with an organization or activity—KRRC deejays, calligraphers, rugby players—to come back to campus as a group. This year marked the return of the Reed scroungers, those gastronomic gadflies who relish the idea of feasting on leftovers.
The art of scrounging, it turns out, can have some rather upscale applications.
Consider Michael Tippie ’80, who looked every bit the successful businessman (he lives in Seattle, so it was business casual), nibbling crackers and brie, and holding forth at Saturday night dinner (where else?) on the lessons of scrounging that have served him well over a 20-year career raising venture capital through dot-com boom and bust.
“I’ve raised $100 million for companies, begging for money,” said Tippie, who is now vice president for finance at CNS Response, a biotech firm in Seattle.
“It’s the exact same deal as scrounging. It’s the tin cup trail.”
Tippie, who majored in chemistry at Reed and then earned an M.B.A. from MIT, also was quick to point out what he didn’t learn at Reed: an appreciation for the role business organization, investment, and entrepreneurship play in creating jobs and wealth. In short, there was nothing about making money.
“I had some native sales ability, but it wasn’t nurtured at Reed,” he said. “Anti-business is a big problem.”
Yet, notwithstanding a certain faculty disdain for the material aspects of capitalism, Tippie said that not every student got the message. “My adviser, John Hancock, told me that those who can get into elite [academic] institutions should go—anything else is just filthy lucre. But a disproportionate number of Reedies are entrepreneurs and CEOs. They’re the creative engines of capitalism, and Reed is a training ground. But they’re not valued, not respected, except on the board of trustees. People are ashamed when they’ve made tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. That’s a tragedy, but it’s the culture here.”
Tippie was one of about a dozen scroungers grazing on a spread of cheese, seasonal fruit, and gourmet carbs (thin-sliced baguette and fancy crackers) that, for once, had not been previously owned. Beth Ungerecht ’06, for one, was somewhat fazed. “They gave us real food,” she said. “We don’t even know what to do with it!”
Adrian Smith ’86 recalled debates during his time about scrounger etiquette: Was it OK to cut the line? He also remembered the pre-meal anticipation: Will I get a cookie? Greg Agamalian ’05 had a contemporary piece of scrounger strategy to share with his elders: Beware abundance (five plates of something on the scrounger bar means don’t eat it, it’s nasty).