Convocation 2011

Keith Todd, Dean of Admission

Keith Todd
Keith Todd

Good afternoon! It is a great pleasure to see all of you here: Reedies at last. I am especially delighted to welcome you, because you constitute the first entering class I have admitted to Reed, having arrived as dean of admission last year. I look forward to watching all of you learn, question, and explore over the next four years.

You should face the exciting challenges of Reed with confidence, because each one of you has made it through the gauntlet of nine extremely tough judges—not the Supreme Court, but the Reed College Admission Committee. We carefully read what you submitted to us, debating the merits of over 3,300 applicants and winnowing down to what we celebrate today: 374 new freshmen, 17 transfer students, and 10 visiting exchange students. We admitted barely 40 percent of freshman applicants, and only 13 percent of transfer applicants. Each one of you was admitted because you convinced us with your intellectual passions, with your commitment to making a difference in your school, community, or ecosystem—and in some cases, with a memorable interview or personal essay. You impressed us, amused us, and even moved us, and you each bring unique qualities to the Reed community.

We chose you as individuals, but I'd also like to share a few facts about you as a group. Entering freshmen come from 41 states and 22 countries, ranging from Ghana to Guatemala, Singapore to Switzerland, South Korea to South Africa, and from China to Ethiopia. We tend not to have feeder high schools, since our students are so independent, but this year Bard High School Early College in New York sent us a remarkable five students. The Big Apple takes all three top spots this year, as the next two high schools—which sent us four freshmen each—are the Berkeley Carroll School and Saint Ann's School, both in Brooklyn. The West Coast came in next, with four schools sending us three students each: Francis Parker in San Diego, Garfield High in Seattle, Mountain View High in California's Silicon Valley, and South Eugene High School here in Oregon. A remarkable 23 schools sent us two students each, including many West Coast schools, but also places as diverse as Boise High School in Idaho, the Bronx High School of Science, Concord Academy and Phillips Academy in Massachusetts, Lowell Whiteman School in Colorado, Brophy Prep in Phoenix, Grady High School in Atlanta, and the Waynflete School in the other Portland: Portland, Maine.

Our transfers come to us from Cal Tech and Vanderbilt, UC Berkeley and San Francisco State, Scotland's University of Edinburgh and both Portland State University and Portland Community College. We are glad you found us. We also welcome our exchange students from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, the Free University of Berlin, and from Great Britain, the Universities of Nottingham, East Anglia, and Sussex.

Ninety-six freshmen are from California, tying last year's record numbers from the Golden State—that's 26 percent of the freshman class. After that come 32 students from Washington State, 27 from New York, 26 from Oregon, and between 10 and 20 each from Massachusetts, Colorado, Connecticut, Virginia, and Texas. This year's class is 51 percent women, 49 percent men—that's the closest we have come to an even 50/50 split in quite a few years.

The most common name for women this year is Rachel—there are four of you entering this fall. Nine more names are shared by three women each: Alexandra, Amanda, Brianna, Christina, Elizabeth, Emma, Grace, Mary, and Nicole. For men, Jacob takes the lead with eight freshmen, alongside seven Dylans, seven Nicholases of various spellings, six Michaels, five Benjamins, and five Daniels. And, believe it or not, two new students from different states both have the last name Reed! To quell any incipient rumors, let me state that neither of our new Reeds is the great-great-great-grandchild of Simeon and Amanda Reed, to our knowledge. In the category of most common birth dates, five of you were born on June 15, and five on November 1. November 2 may be a rather sleepy day in Hum 110, after all those birthday parties.

Forty-nine freshmen, or 13 percent of the class, are in the first generation of their families to attend college—a wonderful milestone. That's also seven more first-generation students than last year. Twenty-nine percent of you identify as students of color, and 7 percent of you are citizens of other nations. We benefit from the diverse experiences and points of view that all of you, as new students, bring to our community.

In addition to these facts, I'd like to share a poem with you, by William Stafford, both national Poet Laureate and Oregon's Poet Laureate in the 1970s. It's called "An Afternoon in the Stacks," which feels right for library-loving Reedies:

Closing the book, I find I have left my head
inside. It is dark in here, but the chapters open
their beautiful spaces and give a rustling sound,
words adjusting themselves to their meaning.
Long passages open at successive pages. An echo
continues from the title onward, hums
behind me. From here the world looms,
a jungle redeemed by these linked sentences
carved out when an author traveled and a reader
kept the way open. When this book ends
I will pull it inside-out like a sock
and throw it back in the library. But the rumor
of it will haunt all that follows in my life.

I am confident that your Reed experience will positively shape the lives you are making for yourselves. We in the admission office are excited to shepherd you as you enter this amazing place into the camaraderie of professors, staff, and fellow Reedies. Welcome, and best wishes!