President’s Office

President’s speeches, letters, and articles

Subject: An Update from Reed College

January 25, 2021

Dear Alumni members,

Today is the first day of spring-term classes at Reed. It also marks 368 days since our first email to students, faculty, and staff about the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). To say that the past year has been challenging would be an understatement, yet what I have witnessed daily within the Reed community fills me with pride and profound hope.

It is an honor to be a part of this community of formidable thinkers who are tackling some of our world's biggest problems. Reed Magazine has written about some of you who are addressing various dimensions of the COVID-19 crisis, and we know that many more of you have contributed. I am also overcome with a deep appreciation for the everyday challenges you are facing. All of you are demonstrating the value of a Reed education, which brings to mind my favorite phrase: the world needs more Reedies.

In just three-and-a-half months, another cohort will complete their theses and earn their degrees. Many will have the chance to finish their time at Reed on campus, which signals Reed’s ongoing commitment to caring for the community.

While many of you have closely followed Reed's response to the pandemic, you may be curious for more details. What was the fall like at Reed? How did we plan for spring? I take this opportunity to share with you a few highlights—while acknowledging that all of the planning and work to keep the community safe has had a significant financial impact on the college. It has, of course, also been entirely worth it. My gratitude goes to the planners, implementers, and those with philanthropic hearts, including the donors who committed more than $30 million over the last fiscal year and the more than 3,000 alumni who have made gifts to Reed during the pandemic. You have made a Reed education possible for our students.

“My gratitude goes to the planners, implementers, and those with philanthropic hearts . . . You have clearly made a Reed education possible for our students.”

Fall: Making a Reed Education Possible

To get a feel for what it has been like at Reed, I encourage you to check out this short video about the fall semester. You can also thumb through this gallery to see what I see—a hardworking and caring community doing what Reedies do best: learning together no matter the circumstance. I take heart in Reedies having fun together, from roller skating to pumpkin carving.

We are in debt to the leadership of our COVID-19 Risk Assessment Group (CRAG), co-chaired by Kathy Oleson, dean of the faculty and professor of psychology, and Hugh Porter, vice president for college relations and planning. We also would not be where we are today without the expertise of Reed’s COVID-19 response coordinator, epidemiologist Madison Riethman. Because of their work, we can point to the trainings, health monitoring, contact tracing, and robust testing plan that have played, and will continue to play, a significant role in the health of our on-campus community.

In the midst of change, some things remain the same—Reed faculty and students are celebrated for their achievements; faculty and alumni are lauded in the media; and we welcomed an impressive group of new faculty members to Reed.

Watch this video to see what I see—a hardworking and caring community doing what Reedies do best: learning together no matter the circumstance.

Spring: Cautiously Optimistic

Although national trends regarding the virus are concerning, we made the assessment that Reed’s prevention and response plan and our community’s adherence to health protocols will allow us to proceed, albeit cautiously, with offering a mix of in-person and online education this spring. CRAG continues to meet weekly to monitor public health data points, including cases, testing capacity, hospital capacity, vaccine availability, and the metrics shared on Reed’s COVID-19 dashboard. As circumstances change, we will continue to make adjustments to the plan. Nothing makes me more optimistic than seeing members of our community starting to get vaccinated. We announced just a few weeks ago that Reed’s health and counseling staff and select employees in community safety are eligible for vaccination under Phase 1A of the Oregon Health Authority's vaccine prioritization.

While it will be another term like no other, I appreciate that traditions continue. I hope you were able to join us virtually for one or more of the 95 classes taught during Paideia 2021. I had the pleasure of teaching a class, "What's So Funny about Humor?"

While there is a great deal to celebrate, there are certainly disappointments. I specifically regret that we will not be able to host in-person Reunions in June. Nevertheless, we will all make the best of the opportunities ahead. I look forward to seeing you at Virtual Reunions, June 7–13, 2021, or at one of the upcoming Reed Remote gatherings. Most of all, I look forward to welcoming you back to campus after the pandemic.

I am keenly aware that the pandemic has impacted many of you, and I send you my deepest wishes for peace in the new year.

With hope,



Audrey Bilger

PS The heart above is one of the many ceramic hearts my wife, Cheryl, and I placed in trees around campus as a symbol of love for Reed and our care for each and every one of you.