Under the leadership of the late Carrie Hervin, a group of approximately 20 founding members created the "Reed College Women's Development Committee" in 1956. The member roster from 1956-57 is recorded as:
Mrs. E. B. MacNaughton (Cheryl)
Mrs. John R. Catlin (Helen)
Joan Kaplan Davidson
Mrs. C. H. Davis III (Anne)
Mrs. Arch Diack (Fran)
Mrs. Clark Graham
Mrs. William Haseltine (Maurie)
Mrs. I. E. Hervin (Carrie)
Mrs. Harold S. Hirsch (Elizabeth)
Mrs. G. Prentice Lee (Patricia)
Mrs. Matthew Riddle (Catherine)
Mrs. Robert Sabin (Catherine)
Mrs. Lawrence Shaw
Mrs. Norman Stoll (Helen)
Mrs. Archie R. Tunturi (Ruth)
Mrs. Simeon R. Winch (Mary)
Some of the other women credited with developing early programs for the committee included Vera Scott and Edith Levy Feldenheimer. In the committee's third year, the word "development" was dropped from the original name, as committee members felt it sounded too much like a YWCA class. A limit on membership years was also established to encourage turnover.
The founding philosophy of the Reed College Women's Committee (RCWC) was that it would be for women who had good minds, used them, and had regard for intellectual concerns. The committee goals remained the same over the years: to provide intellectual enrichment for members through regular meetings, to acquaint the surrounding community with Reed College, and to sponsor a fall lecture program of high quality whose proceeds would support some significant college need.
RCWC meetings were originally held around a table in the old commons "Blue Room", with consistent attendance of about 20 members. Sylvia Breed Gates, chairwoman in 1965 and one of the co-chairs of the 50th Anniversary Endowment Committee, described these meetings as the closest thing to recreating an old favorite, the college seminar-with members discussing what brought them to Portland and why they were on the committee-lifelong friendships were made during those gatherings. These "seminars" evolved into the Program Committee, where members discussed ideas and fleshed out topics for the lecture series. Many members remember how lively and intellectually stimulating these discussions were, hosted by the Program Chairs in their homes, with members seated on chairs or the floor.
Membership in the committee was through nomination only, based on the prospective new member's interest in and willingness to take part in the lecture series through ticket sales and personal involvement. To serve on the committee was considered a great honor. The RCWC encouraged a diversity of age and cultural backgrounds, community of residence in and around Portland, and civic, cultural, and professional interests. Categories of membership included Active: current members who served a three-year (later, a four-year) term, with responsibilities of selling lecture series tickets and sponsoring one new member; Permanent: general chairwomen/presidents, and program chairs who completed their active term on the committee; Honored: women who distinguished themselves by outstanding service to Reed College through the committee; and Friends: former members who paid an annual fee to remain on the committee's mailing list (added in the 1990s).
Committee member tasks were considerable and included securing speakers and orchestrating their visits, managing ticket sales, writing brochures and letters, ordering books, coordinating art exhibits, recruiting new members, budget management, record keeping, and promoting the lecture series. A distinctive feature of the RCWC was the creative contribution of the members, and the committee's successes have been the result of their imagination and hard work.
Funds raised were originally used to support music programs, visiting nonacademic lecturers from the Portland community, and other special efforts. The first lecture series in 1958, "Symphonic Heritage of Twentieth-Century Music", was a benefit for the college's music program and included lectures by Reed professors, each followed by a tea, as well as concerts. Tickets were $10 for the series, or $2 at the door. Beginning in 1964, the fundraising focused on student scholarships for American minority students; from 1971 to 1983, for international or older, nontraditional students; and since that time, for nontraditional female students. The existing criteria for awarding RCWC scholarships, as adopted by a long-range planning committee in 1997, is described elsewhere in this handbook. Two interactions with students occurred annually: the scholarship recipients would speak at the RCWC monthly lunch meetings, and several students would present their theses at a spring lunch.
For approximately the first 12 years, lectures showcased Reed faculty members. Beginning in 1970, speakers from all over the nation participated, all without compensation, except for their travel expenses. Faculty members continued to speak on intriguing topics at the RCWC monthly lunch meetings, and lively discussions usually ensued.
Originally held in member homes, the lectures moved first to the Eliot Hall faculty lounge, then to the Eliot Chapel to accommodate larger audiences; in the 1980s, the lecture series moved to Vollum Lecture Hall, and in the mid-90s to Kaul Auditorium.
Under the chairmanship of Joan Shipley in 1983, the committee began holding lectures Thursday evenings, as well as mornings to accommodate a growing demand for tickets. During the blockbuster 1984 lecture series, "A Sense of Humor," the audience was moved to the Sports Center to accommodate an audience of a thousand. In 1986, ten lectures were held and the active membership expanded to 80 members. In 1998, the series returned to a general format of one lecture held on each Thursday in October.
Throughout the years, the committee has undertaken special fundraising efforts. Some of these efforts included an auction in 1995, chaired by Nadja Lilly, and frequently, marvelous art exhibits and sales. In 1986, both an art exhibit featuring work by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Colescott and a film series highlighted "Heroes". In 1988, under the leadership of Elizabeth "Betty" Barton, and Jeanne Radow, chairwoman 1980, the committee created-through private contributions and matching funds from the college-an endowed scholarship in honor of Nancy and Paul Bragdon at the time of Paul's retirement from the presidency of the college.
Each fall's lecture series had a special theme. Frequently these themes have become subjects of major public concern. In 1961 the lecture series, "Contemporary Concerns: Afro-Asian," addressed emerging problems in Africa and Asia. In 1963 the theme was "Woman: Image and Reality," anticipating the women's liberation movement by many years. Other lecture series have covered such diverse subjects as "The Moulding of Modern Culture: The 18th-Century Enlightenment," "The Changing World of the Arts," "Privacy and Censorship," "Islam: The Heritage Behind the Headlines," and "Central America." A complete list of lecture series titles is included in this handbook.
The lecturers were people of stature, often national leaders in their fields. Speakers have included Ed Cony '48, Editor of The Wall Street Journal; Marietta Tree, U.S. Delegate to the United Nations; fashion designer Marchese Emilio Pucci '37; Elizabeth Ann Brown '40, Deputy Director, U.N. Political Affairs; Fred Freed, Executive Producer, NBC; Sir Julian Grenfell, Assistant to the President of the World Bank; Mrs. Danny Kaye; Kenneth Taylor, Canadian Ambassador to Iran; noted glass artist Dale Chihuly; and Richard Danzig '65, Secretary of the U.S. Navy.
In early 2005, as planning efforts began for the 50th anniversary, the college and the committee embarked on a comprehensive review to examine critical issues facing the committee. Notwithstanding the committee's hard work and important and illustrious past, unfortunate realities such as increased competition with other prestigious lecture series in Portland, and more competition in the nonprofit sector for volunteers, resulted in a trend of declining membership, revenues, and audiences at the lecture series.
After careful evaluation, which included focus group sessions for active and permanent members, and discussions with the RCWC executive committee and leadership at the college, the decision was made to end the formal work of the committee after 2006. This decision was not an easy one. The college is deeply appreciative of the RCWC's work, commitment to community outreach, and to making a Reed education possible for students who would have otherwise been unable to attend the college.
The 50th anniversary provided an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of the committee. Led by RCWC President Susan Brody and 50th Anniversary Chair Annie Munch, several events were hosted by the college in 2006. A January tea with President Colin Diver and Joan Diver kicked off the year. A fun, yet poignant picnic reunion of all permanent, honored, active and former members followed in April. Stephanie Snyder, Director of the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, hung a selection of committee posters in the Kaul Auditorium foyer from July through September. Gay Walker, Reed's Special Collections Librarian, assembled a September exhibit of RCWC memorabilia in the library. Artist Kristy Edmunds created and donated a limited series art print that also was the basis for note cards. In lieu of a lecture series, the committee sold the prints and cards to benefit the endowment fund. The year of celebration and transition culminated in the 50th anniversary dinner on September 14 with over 100 in attendance.
While the formal work of the committee concluded at the end of 2006, the RCWC scholarship endowment fund, which currently stands at over $260,000, will continue the committee's legacy of providing financial aid to female students. In honor of the 50th anniversary, the RCWC set a fundraising goal of $50,000 to bolster the endowment, which was met and exceeded through the efforts of the Endowment Committee, co-chaired by Sylvia Gates, Chris Swanson, and Cecelia Huntington, and through sales of the Edmunds art print and note cards.
Beginning in 2007, permanent members will gather annually to celebrate the award of RCWC scholarship funds, learn about endowment performance, and hear news of the college.
Reed College acknowledges with profound gratitude and thanks, the RCWC members past and present who have made lasting contributions to the health and vitality of one of the best liberal arts educations available.