Convocation 2007

Welcoming remarks of
Dean of Admission Paul Marthers

Good afternoon, I’m Paul Marthers, dean of admission. It is a pleasure finally to see all of you here.

Last spring, the mail brought you good news from Reed in the form of a thick confetti-filled envelope. You had fun, we hope, throwing around all that confetti. Then out came the vacuum cleaner. The summer’s mail brought a copy of Homer’s Iliad. You read it in the original Greek, right? No, that’s next week when you begin Humanities 110 by actually singing the Iliad’s opening line in the original ancient Greek.

Yes, you are here at Reed for orientation, where this thing you have been waiting for called college begins. You are at a distinctive, paradoxical college where we give grades but don’t talk about them much, where we don’t have varsity football, but have club rugby and require physical education classes, where our buildings look old but the College is not yet one hundred, where we defiantly stand up against college rankings but never mind when a guidebook calls us America’s most intellectual college.

You are here, at college, sitting among 346 new freshmen (including 118 who were admitted through early decision or deferred from last year), 37 transfers and 12 exchange students. 6% of you are international citizens—from 22 countries, including 3 from India and 2 students each from Kenya, Nepal, the Philippines, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. Countries sending one student are: Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Ecuador, Ghana, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Japan, New Zealand, Qatar, Romania, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, and Zimbabwe.

You come from 39 states plus the District of Columbia--71 from California, 29 from Washington, 26 from New York, 20 from Oregon, 16 from Texas, 15 from Massachusetts, 13 from New Jersey, 12 from Illinois, 9 from Minnesota, and 8 each from Colorado, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

You come from 308 different high schools and a handful of home schools. 59% of you are from public high schools, 38% from private/parochial schools, and 3% from home schools or other.

Five high schools have sent three students: Cleveland High School in Reseda, California (my wife’s alma mater—just a coincidence), the Windward School in Los Angeles, Milton Academy in Metro Boston, Packer Collegiate in Brooklyn, New York, and the Hawken School in Metro Cleveland.

Portland State University is sending the most new transfers (5), while there are three students from the University of Washington and 2 from the University of Michigan. Some of the other former institutions are Arizona State, Boston University, Deep Springs, Dickinson, Evergreen, Marlboro, Mount Holyoke, Northeastern, Rose Hulman, Tufts, UC-Davis, U Colorado at Boluder, University of Portland, University of Puget Sound, Warren Wilson, Willamette, and Williams.

Six of you are named Lauren, the most common girl’s name and seven of you are named Matthew, the most common boys name. 14 have mothers named Susan, the leading mother’s name for three consecutive years. 18 have fathers named John, the leading father’s name for two consecutive years. The budding mathematicians among you can try calculating the probability of meeting a new student named Lauren or Matthew whose mother is named Susan and father is named John.

None of you have Reed as a last or first name, but one new student’s middle name is Reed. You have email names that express your individuality like:
sarcasticswimmer (maybe the last two can be roommates),
and sillyparadoxboy—well, sillyparadoxboy, you have found your paradoxical college.

One new student has a birthday today (Elizabeth Garry), and two others (Niall Murphy & Briana Patton) have birthdays during this orientation week. Happy birthday!

Among all you former newspaper editors, class presidents, eagle scouts, and debate stars are achievements and accomplishments too numerous to mention. Plus, at a college that does not have a dean’s list or other customary honors, we are loath to single out any one new student as more special than the others. But some of you might be interested to know that in your midst is a champion axe thrower—just remember, the trees in the Reed Canyon are part of an environmentally protected area.

This is Reed, so you may have heard that grades and numerical comparisons are de-emphasized here, but maybe, you are still curious to know how your class, the class of 2011, charts out by the numbers. It’s okay to want to know. We won’t tell anyone.

By the numbers, you are an extraordinary group, selected from the largest freshman and transfer applicant pools in the history of Reed College. 3,365 prospective freshmen applied and a record low 34% were admitted. 255 transfers applied, and a record low 29% were admitted. Equally impressive are the mean high school GPA of 3.9, SAT’s of 1384 and ACT of 30. Of those who attended high schools with class rank, 86% graduated within the top 20% of the class. By all academic measures, you are a record-setting class.

The male/female ratio roughly reflects the national average for college goers--46% men, 54% women. 11% of you represent the first generation of your family to attend college, 25 new students are continuing a family tradition of attending Reed, and 28% of you are students of color. Still, 17% of you chose not to report ethnicity on your application—another sign that Reed people resist categorization.

The statistics tell just part of the story, and arguably not the most interesting part. Statistics cannot measure the passion for learning exhibited in your applications or convey the intriguing points of view you will share in the classroom and across the dining table.

Today has been exciting for the admission staff. We are seeing students we interviewed in Boston and Chicago, met at high schools in Los Angeles and San Francisco, encountered at college fairs in Atlanta and Minnesota, or spoke to at summer programs in Denver and New York. On behalf of the admission staff, welcome to Reed. We hope you have an enlightening and rewarding experience.