About this Issue
Since we last went to press, a giant Scrabble game was
staged in the student union, a raucous debate on academic freedom and liberal bias was
waged in Kaul Auditorium (Steinberger v. Horowitz),
and a series of inventive art installations sprang up across campus, among them a suburban
doorway complete with welcome mat on the walkway leading to Hauser Memorial Library.
All of this will probably seem more reminiscent than surprising to those who have experienced
the idealism and idiosyncrasy of a larger-than-life Reed education. And, as this issue
of the magazine demonstrates, many Reed alumni are prone to live lessons learned.
It was easy to sense that the moving stories filed from the Gulf Coast by NPR correspondent
Robert Smith ’89 after Hurricane Katrina would be interesting fodder for a personal
essay. But the journalism of Katrina proved even more personal for another alumnus. Michael
Perlstein ’84 was one of 10 New Orleans Times-Picayune reporters and editors who
volunteered to ride out the storm and chronicle its aftermath for a newspaper that lost
most of its readers. These two retrospectives—one by an outsider looking in, the
other by an insider looking out—examine how difficult it is for Americans to cope
when natural and man-made disasters crack their aura of invincibility.
Two other Reedies, Rachel Altmann ’88 and Tyler Morrison ’90, have coped more
anonymously (until now) with a different sort of crisis, their 2-year-old daughter Nina’s
affliction with Fanconi anemia, a debilitating genetic disorder. They agreed to tell their
story to raise awareness of the disease and generate support for research (www.fanconi.org),
but were surprised we were interested. “Why would you want to write about our ordinary
life?” Altmann asked. The answer is apparent.
Three other stories in this issue probe the unexpected. After a survey of Reed’s
architectural heritage ranked some Modernist buildings nearly as high as neo-Gothic fixtures
such as Eliot Hall, we commissioned former city planner Cielo
Lutino ’94 to investigate.
When journeyman poet Vern Rutsala ’56 was nominated for one of the nation’s
highest literary honors, the National Book Award, we asked Reed visiting writer David Biespiel
to explore what it‘s like to come into the limelight after decades of quiet creativity.
And when self-described computer geek and former scrounger Nelson
Minar ’94 emerged
as a major Reed benefactor, we asked staffer Matt Kelly to search out the implications.