News of the College Novemberwinter2006

Wrong Number

I like to think I have had a lifelong connection to Reed College,” says Gary Knight, a retired Oregon State Liquor Control enforcement officer who lives several miles south of the campus in the Portland suburb of Milwaukie.

The problem is that in recent years the connection has become telephonic. Nine years ago, Knight sent the local phone company $50 for a memorable home phone number with the prefix 777. That happens to be the prefix for most phones on the Reed campus, but not the main switchboard number, which starts with 771. In recent years, callers have sometimes confused the two, and Knight’s number has been mistakenly printed in a few college publications. Callers then get to speak to Knight or to hear an answering machine that begins, “This is not Reed College . . .”

Knight started using the message after a Reed parent from New York left an R.S.V.P. for commencement. “I called her back to tell her that she had better call the college,” he says. “She called again, asking me if she could compensate me for my call. I told her it wasn’t necessary.”

Knight grew up not far from Reed. In the late ’50s he worked at a local nursing facility, where an original Reed faculty member, Charles Botsford, was a patient. “He was a wonderful man,” Knight recalls, “and a fascinating conversationalist.”

Later, after service in Vietnam, Knight returned to Oregon and occasionally visited Reed in his liquor control officer’s role, patiently explaining the state’s “zero tolerance” of underage drinking.

“He’s always very nice,” says Nina Nehler in the Reed business office. “He has kept a sense of humor about it.” For the record, the Reed switchboard can be reached at 503/771-1112.