Convocation 2012

Keith Todd, Dean of Admission

Keith Todd
Keith Todd

Good afternoon and salutations, families, friends, faculty and, most of all, our new students, to whom I exclaim: Just look at what you’ve done! I am sure that you have heard that phrase before from a parent, once or twice—but I mean it in a much happier sense.

Hi, I’m Keith Todd, dean of admission. What have you done? To start with, you have been admitted to Reed College. The nine admission officers who read your application materials read, thought, and argued about you—and each of you ultimately had to get past my own desk for a final decision. Out of nearly 3,400 total applicants, we admitted only 36 percent of freshman applicants and 22 percent of transfer applicants. We celebrate today 321 new freshmen, 24 transfer students, and 13 visiting exchange students. You impressed us, amused us, even moved us, and we were excited to choose you. Each one of you brings unique qualities and will make a difference in our academic and residential community.

I do have to mention one particularly Reed-tastic contribution from one of you. This student, along with his application, submitted a video of a supremely elaborate K’NEX ball course occupying the entire volume of his bedroom—and at the end of this K’NEX ball ballet, he demolished the course with an electric guitar like a true rock star. Don’t try this at home! I hasten to add that he also showed us superb intellectual skills to go along with his gifts for architecture and, well, rocking out.

Going back to my initial question, what else have you done? Well, four of you have worked as professional ballet dancers (three women and one man). One of you has acted in movies with Jessica Lange, John Malkovich, and Chloë Sevigny. Two of you are Eagle Scouts and at least one a high-ranking Girl Scout. One of you founded a knitting club, and another founded a Gay-Straight Alliance at your school. You were the only woman on an otherwise all-male basketball team. You commuted 45 minutes each way from small-town Oregon to pursue greater academic challenges—and one of you drove five hours for your Reed interview—we noticed. You gave tours of a historic home in full Victorian costume. You attended a boarding school near Johannesburg with young leaders from over 40 African nations. You were a cell-biology intern at the National Cancer Institute, presenting your work at a national conference, or you were an intern at an organic farm. You founded your school’s Unpopular Music Club. You started a “laundromat ministry” to help needy families get clean clothes. You did summer internships at the US Naval Academy, in leadership, and at the Rhode Island School of Design, in high fashion (not the same freshman!) We have at least two black belt holders and a triathlete. As I said, look at what you’ve done!

We chose you as individuals, but I’d also like to share a few facts about you as a group. Entering freshmen attended schools in 42 states, D.C., the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and 20 countries, ranging from the U.K. to Singapore, Switzerland to Mexico, Saudi Arabia to South Africa, Bolivia to Bulgaria, and from China to Canada to Kenya. The six largest states in order are California with 85 freshmen, then Oregon, New York, and Washington each in the 20s, and Massachusetts and Texas in the teens.

We tend not to have feeder high schools, but 23 percent of you are here today with at least one other person from your high school. Both Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and Grover Cleveland High School in Portland sent us a noteworthy five students each. The three next largest cohorts, with four freshmen each, are Ashland High School in Oregon, St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, TX, and Santa Rosa High School in northern California. With three new students each are the Archer School in Los Angeles, Santa Fe Prep in New Mexico, and Sonoma Academy in northern California. Twenty-one more schools sent us two students each, including many on the west coast but also places as diverse as Central High School in Springfield, Missouri; West Anchorage High in Alaska; Stuyvesant High in New York; Cherry Creek High near Denver; Phillips Andover Academy near Boston; and Jakarta International School in Indonesia.

Just for fun, I set up a fantasy dinner party with eight guests whose names are on the list of high schools for this incoming class. I’m inviting nineteenth century botanist David Douglas, who lent his name to Oregon’s beloved Douglas fir; British philosopher Edmund Burke; Maria Carrillo, a Latina pioneer and the first woman homesteader of Old California; novelist Robert Louis Stevenson; Sir Stamford Raffles, adventurer and founder of Singapore; African American jazz composer Eubie Blake; Leonardo da Vinci, and Charlotte Amalie, seventeenth century queen of Denmark, about whom I know nothing, but hey, queen of Denmark! You come from five schools named for bishops, twelve named for saints—in both English and Spanish—but only one named for a pope: Pope John Paul II High School in Tennessee. We have students from three different high schools called Central High School, in Georgia, Missouri, and Pennsylvania. We have ten freshmen from right here in Portland and two from that other Portland, in Maine, to whom we say: Welcome to your greener, hipper doppelgänger! (Don’t try saying that fast.)

Our transfer students come to us from Bard and Bates Colleges, Emory and Boston Universities, UC Santa Barbara, Colorado College, and Portland Community College, to name a few. We are glad you found us. We also welcome our yearlong exchange students from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, the Paris Institute of Political Studies Sciences Po, the Eberhard-Karls University of Tübingen, Germany, the Free University of Berlin, and from Great Britain, the Universities of Nottingham and East Anglia.

The freshman class is 55 percent women, 45 percent men, while the transfers are 46 percent women and 54 percent men. Among freshmen, the most common name for women this year is Katherine, with seven students in variant spellings. Next are six Hannahs, with or without the final h, five Emmas, and four each of Emily, Lauren, Leah, Madeleine, Natalie, and Nicole. For the men, Nicholas leads the way with eight freshmen, followed by five Michaels, four Maxes, and three each James and Christopher. We also have an entering Reedie with the first name Reed, and for mythological completeness, freshmen named both Zeus and Thor. The most common birthdates are March 9 and December 31, with four students each.

Thirty-two students, or ten percent of the class, are in the first generation of their families who will complete college—a wonderful milestone. Thirty percent of you identify as students of color, and six percent of you are citizens of other nations. Reed benefits from the diverse experiences, backgrounds, and points of view your each bring to our community.

I am confident that your Reed experience will positively shape the lives you are making for yourselves, and that you will also help shape Reed and each other.  We in the admission office are excited to shepherd you into the camaraderie of professors, staff, and fellow Reedies as you enter a college like no other. Welcome, and have a great time!