Reed Community

The New (Olde) Reed Almanac

An irreverent compendium of the ideas, episodes, people, and traditions that have shaped Reed in the last 100 years.

Edited by Chris Lydgate ’90 | December 1, 2011

1 + 1 = 2

Almost nothing is as simple as it looks, not even the elementary statement 1 + 1 = 2. Sure, it seems obvious. But, go ahead and prove it. This fiendish problem—demonstrating the simplest equation of all time—was the killer question on the final exam of Math 113, Construction of Real Numbers, which introduced generations of Reedies to the thrill of rigorous mathematics. Created by Lloyd Williams ’35 [mathematics 1947–81] and John Leadley [mathematics 1956–93], Math 113 was long considered one of the most demanding freshman courses taught anywhere in the country. (We recently dug up a sheaf of old notes and were soon hopelessly mired in the Peano-Henkin-Lawvere Axiom.)

12 Noon

For many years, Reed faculty decreed that theses were due on the last Friday in April at noon—no exceptions. However, Ellen Knowlton Johnson ’39 [registrar 1945–81] hated to turn away frantic seniors who dashed in a few minutes late. On occasion, she was known to unplug the office clock just before noon and accept theses “on time” until she went home for the day.


An arbitrary compendium of fact and fancy compiled by fortune-tellers, magazine editors, and other harmless cranks. Not to be confused with serious works of reference such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, or even worse, official histories.


A subterranean network of far-flung visionaries poised to take over the world. President William T. Foster (q.v.) took a surprisingly dim view of the whole concept of alumni, believing that they kept colleges handcuffed to tradition and “seem to feel that their chief business is to keep the college exactly as it was in the halcyon days of their youth.” Of course, that was before the invention of Reed alumni, whose halcyon days lie in the future. Seriously, though, Foster does not seem to have anticipated the enormous role alumni would eventually play in shaping Reed’s destiny, both by their accomplishments and by their contributions.


The study of the human family and its misbehavior. The discipline did not actually gain its own department until 1948, roughly coinciding with the (re)arrival of David French ’39, a pioneer in the field of linguistic anthropology. Classic courses have included Systems of Magic, The Anthropology of Millenarianism, Time and Space, and The Moral Symbolism of Eating (we feel hungry already). Anthro majors at Reed undergo a blindfold initiation rite in which they are paraded through the canyon and drink the blood of their ancestors (actually V8, we think). Influential profs (q.v.) have included Alexander Goldenweiser [1933–39], David French ’39 [1947–88], Gail Kelly ’55 [1960–2000], Claude Vaucher [1963–94], Kathrine (Kay) French [1981–2006], John Haviland [1986–2005], Robert Brightman ’73 [1989–], Rupert Stasch ’91 [1998–2009], Charlene Makley [2000–], and Paul Silverstein [2000–].


A rigorous and uncomfortable discipline requiring students to stand in a room and stare at a naked body. Art was offered in Reed’s early years but then disappeared from the catalogue, not rematerializing until 1935, when the college began to offer courses on sculpture, drawing, materials and methods, and of course, art history, where the naked people can’t stare back at you. Intriguing courses have included Medieval Manuscript Illumination, The Book as Sculptural Object, Visual Art in Cold War Culture, and Iconoclasm. Influential profs (q.v.) have included Lloyd Reynolds [1929–69], Marianne Littman [1945–51], Charles Rhyne [1960–97], Willard Midgette [1963–71], Robert Palladino [1969–84], Peter Parshall [1971–2000], Scott Sonniksen [1975–82], Greg Ware [1979–89], Michael Knutson [1982–], William Diebold [1987–], Geraldine Ondrizek [1994–], James Van Dyke [2000–07], Dana Katz [2005–], and Akihiko Miyoshi [2005–].

Asylum block

A dysphemistic term for the Foster-Scholz dorms, built in 1955. (Also sometimes applied to MacNaughton.) While many inmates have shuddered at the spare design and the long hallways, others remember the dorms fondly and feel they promote solidarity because they are impossible to traverse without bumping into someone. Architectural historians consider Foster-Scholz a strong example of modernist design. Of course, they never had to live there.


See communism.

Ballantine, Duncan [Prez 1952–54]

MIT historian who came to Reed bent on reforming the college’s old-fashioned governance structure and reining in its unruly students. He nullified the faculty constitution and pursued an active role in student discipline, traditionally the domain of the student council. These attempts aroused fierce resistance from professors and students. Tension was further inflamed when three Reed professors were publicly denounced as communists. Ballantine suspended art professor Lloyd Reynolds and fired philosophy professor Stanley Moore, outraging the faculty, which passed a motion of no confidence. Ballantine resigned and went on to serve as president of the American College for Girls in Istanbul, Turkey.


Science involving dilly-dallying with worms, slime, frogs, spiders, ferns, fussy microscopes, and monster textbooks. Biologists fall into two distinct species: those who study whole organisms, and those who focus on transactions at the cellular and subcellular levels. The whole-organism camp appears to have had the upper hand in the early days, offering courses on physiology and embroyology, but the microscope mob struck back in 1918, teaching courses on histology, cytology, and bacteriology. Other intriguing courses have included Exercise Physiology; Cambrian Zoology; and Osteology of the Reptiles, a class on the crucial subject of dinosaurs and how cool they are. Influential profs (q.v.) have included Harry Beal Torrey [1912–20], L.E. Griffin [1920-45], Milo Clare [1925–37], Ralph Macy [1942–55], Frank Hungate [1946–52], Lewis Kleinholz [1946–80], Helen Stafford [1954–87], Laurens Ruben [1955–92], Frank Gwilliam [1957–96], Gabriel Lester [1961–72], Bert Brehm [1962–93], Peter Russell [1972–2011], Steve Arch [1972–], Maryanne McClellan [1981–], Bob Kaplan [1983–], David Dalton [1987–], Steven Black [1989–], Janis Shampay [1990–], Keith Karoly [1994–], and Jay Mellies [1999–].

Black studies

The study of the history, politics, culture, and literature of Africa and the African diaspora. Various departments at Reed offered courses on these topics over the years—the anthro department taught a class on ethnic relations in the forties—but never in a unified or systematic way. In the ’60s, however, concerns over “relevance,” combined with a rising number of black students on campus, sparked a student campaign for black studies, culminating in the occupation of Eliot Hall in 1968. Proponents argued that black studies were essential to a modern curriculum. Opponents argued that black studies, however important and desirable, were simply not a fundamental component of the liberal arts, from which Reed strayed at its peril. The faculty narrowly approved the program by a vote of 55-53 and hired Portland journalist and historian William McClendon to run it. The program offered courses in literature, history, politics, philosophy, sociology, and anthropology, but was never fully merged into the curriculum, and was discontinued in 1975. Since then, courses on the subject have migrated back to their original departments, e.g. English 356, The Art of the African American Short Story; or History 369, Slavery and Freedom in the Native American Southeast.

Bragdon, Paul [Prez 1971–88]

Bragdon arrived at Reed in an atmosphere of financial crisis. A lawyer and Marine Corps veteran, Bragdon had served as press secretary to Mayor Robert Wagner of New York City, and worked as vice president of New York University. Inheriting a meager endowment—at $4.4 million, it was barely half of Amanda Reed’s original bequest, adjusted for inflation—Bragdon sought to shore up finances while prudently investing in academic expansion. Achievements during his tenure include departmental status for Spanish, majors in Asian studies along with art and history, restoration of the senior symposium, new visiting professorships and faculty chairs, enlargement of Hauser Library and establishment of the Cooley Gallery, construction of Vollum College Center and a studio art building, and pioneering programs in computing and educational technology. Toward the end of his presidency, Bragdon had to grapple with the fractious issue of divestment (q.v.). Although investment decisions were actually made by the trustees, Bragdon became the target of much student ire, and in 1985 his office was occupied by student protestors. Nonetheless, his Campaign for Reed raised $65 million, and he left the college with a remarkable 16-fold increase in endowment. By the time he retired, Bragdon had handed diplomas to 40 percent of all Reed graduates. Bragdon later served as president of the Oregon Graduate Institute and was then called out of retirement to be interim president of Lewis & Clark College. He and his wife, Nancy, an educator and author, continue to make Portland their home.


From the Greek καλλιγραϕία, literally “beautiful writing.” A practice brought to the college by visionary professor Lloyd Reynolds [English and art 1929–69], whose humanistic philosophy and sweeping, interdisciplinary approach to education and life continue to influence the Reed ethos to this day. Reynolds was exacting in his approach, relentlessly drilling students on proper letter forms, pen angle, and the significance of text in design. Students responded to the challenge with enthusiasm, embracing the convergence of art, history, literature, and philosophy inherent in Reynolds’s teaching. For decades, Reedies hand lettered an extraordinary number of banners, cards, programs, menus, and posters all over campus, leading to a Zen-like reverence for the art of letter writing. Reynolds’s successor, Robert J. Palladino, carried the torch for an additional 15 years, until the faculty voted to drop the course in 1984. A very brief list of notable devotees would include poet Philip Whalen ’51, software guru Peter Norton ’65, type designer Chuck Bigelow ’67, and computing pioneer Steve Jobs.


From its humble beginnings as a waterlogged cow pasture, the Reed canyon now flourishes as a centerpiece of campus life. Home to an extraordinary variety of plants and wildlife, the canyon contains the headwaters of Crystal Springs Creek and Reed Lake—deemed the oldest natural lake in Portland. The 28-acre watershed, which runs east to west through the heart of campus, was the site of a community swimming hole (dug in 1915 and enhanced in 1929 by the dam whose vestiges make up the land bridge), a swimming pool, muddy tug-of-war bouts, short-lived canoeing expeditions, ice skating, and thesis research. Since 1913, students and staff have come together to get their hands dirty on Campus/Canyon Day to preserve and restore its beauty. The college has also mounted an extraordinary effort to restore the canyon’s ecology to a self-sustaining condition by clearing invasive species, building a fish ladder, meandering the stream, and improving the culvert underneath Southeast 28th Avenue. As a consequence, many of the canyon’s original inhabitants have returned, including blue herons, steelhead trout, coyotes, and bald eagles.

Catalogue of Ships

Monstrous passage in book two of the Iliad listing the various Greek ships, crews, and captains who joined the great expedition to Troy. Although many alumni will admit they skipped the section, the title remains powerfully evocative and functions as a nostalgic talisman when Reedies encounter one another in faraway places.


Science investigating the interaction of matter and energy at the atomic level with an eye to blowing things up. For many years, Organic Chemistry had a particularly fearsome reputation, possibly because it was a requirement for bio majors and premed students. Scanning through the catalogue, it is hard to think of a discipline with more intimidating course titles. Some of our favorites include Economic Chemistry, Chemical Thermodynamics, Organometallic Chemistry, Polymer Chemistry, and Environmental Chemistry. Influential profs (q.v.) have included William Conger Morgan [1911–20], Ralph Strong [1920–34], Arthur Scott [1923–79], Walter Carmody [1926–41], Frederick Ayres [1940–70], Frank Hurley [1942–51], Joseph Bunnett [1946–52], Arthur Livermore [1948–65], Marsh Cronyn ’40 [1952–89], John Hancock [1955–89], Frederick Tabbutt [1957–71], Michael Litt [1958–66], Tom Dunne [1963–95], William Weir [1968–83], Larry Church [1973–80], Ron McClard [1984–], Dan Gerrity [1987–], Arthur Glasfeld [1989–], Alan Shusterman [1989–], Pat McDougal [1990–], and Maggie Geselbracht [1993–].

Cherry Blossoms

Beacons of floral hope to generations of students, the Japanese flowering cherry trees of Eliot Circle put on a spectacular show each spring when the gloom of winter finally relaxes its grip. For a few precious weeks the circle explodes into a wonderland of pale pink petals, which fall earthward in snow-like flurries, drifting ankle-deep on the sidewalks. The five trees closest to Eliot make up the original planting of Prunus serrulata, which occurred sometime in the 1980s. More trees were planted the following decade.


The language and culture of the greatest civilization ever known. Courses on Chinese history, religion, art, and anthropology were offered at Reed for many decades, but it was not until 1990 that Chinese got its own department, thanks to gifts from benefactors and the Andrew J. Mellon Foundation. Intriguing course titles include Uses of the Supernatural in Classical Chinese Literature, Text and Tradition of the Book of Change, Visions of a Madman: Modern Chinese Fiction in the Republican Period, and The Social Life of Poetry in the Tang Dynasty. Influential profs have included Charles Wu [1988–2002] and Hyong Rhew [1988–].

Chunk 666

Postapocalyptic bicycle gang renowned for welding highly unstable, excessively terrifying, frequently flaming tall bikes, choppers, and other velomutations. Often seen riding the streets of Portland clad in salvaged kitchen equipment, spandex, and bucket helmets. Tall-bike jousting remains a staple of Renn Fayre, thanks to founding member Megulon-5 (also known as Karl Anderson ’95).


The language and culture of the greatest civilizations ever known. From the beginning, Reed has boasted an outstanding tradition in the classics. In 1914, Antigone was actually presented in Greek. For many years, only Greek was offered as an elementary course since it was expected that students would have learned Latin in high school! Beyond the hallowed names that echo down the millennia, the department at Reed has offered intriguing courses such as Comedy, Epic, Satire and Tragedy; Gender, Sexuality, and the Ancient World; and Greek Sanctuaries and Festivals. Influential profs (q.v.) have included Kelley Rees [1912–20], Laurence Hartmus [1930–39], Frederic Peachy [1956–82], Richard Tron [1961–2003], Wally Englert [1981–], Nigel Nicholson [1995–], and Ellen Millender [2002–].

Cogito Ergo Sum

I think, therefore I am. Influential declaration by René Descartes that only philosophy majors understand

Coleman, Norm [Prez 1925–34]

One of Reed’s first professors [English 1912–20], Coleman coined the phrase “Comrades of the Quest,” which fit the new college so well that the students named their newspaper for it. Played key role in developing Reed’s faculty constitution, which gave professors a strong voice in the running of the college. Coleman left Reed in 1920 to serve as president of the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen, but returned after the death of President Richard Scholz (q.v.) to become Reed’s third president. Coleman successfully raised almost half a million for the endowment and oversaw construction of the Hauser Library. After retiring as president, Coleman went back to teaching English at Reed until 1939.

Columbus Day Storm

Generally reckoned to be the most powerful extratropical cyclone to hit the United States in the 20th century. Starting October 12, 1962, with peak gusts of 100 miles per hour, it rampaged through California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, killing 23 people, destroying 84 homes, severely damaging 5,000 more, and wreaking overall havoc estimated at $170 million. Sometimes attributed to divine retribution after Reed defeated Columbia Christian College 19–7 on the football field, which may be true. Sometimes blamed on the mock crucifixion staged by Reedies at halftime, which is probably false; most sources place that blasphemous reenactment (in which a student actually dragged a cross along the field) several years earlier.


See free love.


Plato told Socrates in Protagoras, “There is far greater peril in buying knowledge than in buying meat and drink.” But Plato never had to eat in commons. Perhaps it was the urge to find ways to evade the tedium of commons in the old days that turned so many Reedies into foodies and inspired Jay Rosenberg ’63 to write his classic, The Impoverished Student’s Book of Cookery, Drinkery, and Housekeepery, which many credit with demystifying the science of the kitchen. Our gastronomic alumni are far too numerous to list, but for example’s sake, we cite author James Beard ’24, Genoan Amelia Hard ’67, kitchen kaboodler Lynn Becraft ’75, barbecue baron Steven Raichlen ’75, restaurateur Kurt Huffman ’94, and salt shaker Mark Bitterman ’95. It will be interesting to track the progress of Reed epicures in the future now that the chow in commons is so much better.

Creative Writing

Art form based on the elements of blood, toil, tears, and sweat. Although courses in composition were taught in the 1910s, the first real creative writing class was offered in 1920 within the English department. After long, peripatetic years, staffed by itinerant faculty, the program finally found a home in the English department and hired two tenure-track professors around the turn of the century. Intriguing course titles over the years have included Screenwriting, The Personal Essay, From Shaft to Stimpy: Cultural Iconography and Idiom as Poetic Muse, and Found Poems. Influential profs (q.v.) have included Crystal Williams [2000–] and Peter Rock [2000–]. Many other well-known writers have taught at Reed, including James Dickey ’51 [1962–64], Donald Justice [1962–63], Galway Kinnell [1966–67], Kathleen Fraser [1972, 1994–95), Gary Miranda [1979–87], Maxine Scates [1989–2006], Henri Cole [1992–93], Vern Rutsala ’56 [1992–93, 1999–2000, 2006–07], Carolyn Kizer [1992–93], and Debra Ginsberg ’85 [2002–03].


Cornelia LeBoutillier [dean of women 1941–43] had a reputation as a defender of feminine propriety. One evening as she was patrolling campus, she ran into J.J. Brownlee, the night watchman. As she said goodnight, she said, ‘“Oh, Mr. Brownlee, listen to all those crickets.” And he said “Boolyă! Those ain’t crickets, those are zippers!”


Built between 1959 and 1962, when the modernist bloom was still on the rose, the cross-canyon dorms (Akerman, Coleman, Sisson, Chittick, Woodbridge, Griffin, and McKinley) have been home to thousands of students who came to savor living at the edge of a wooded glen. The architects doubled up the rooms facing into the canyon to allow as many students as possible a view, according to Neil Farnham ’40, partner in the firm that designed the dormitories. The use of glass and sloping roofs were attempts to tie the buildings to the landscape. The buildings featured innovations such as radiant floor heat and tilt-out vents for fresh air, with single, double, and triple rooms clustered around common living areas to promote interaction. In 1997, Akerman, Coleman, and Sisson were razed to make way for Bragdon Hall.


Kinetic sculpture. Reed has a long tradition of dance (offered as a P.E. class in 1911). The discipline got its own department in 1949, disappeared a few years later, and reappeared in 1964. The curriculum at Reed is a mix of theory and practice, offering instruction in basic techniques, design, theory, criticism, and composition. Intriguing courses have included History of Dance; Analogous Forms; Improvised Performance; Dance and Technology; and Queer Dances: Gender, Sexuality, and Identity in Modern and Contemporary Concert Dance. Key figures in dance at Reed include Elfi Hosman [1963–68], Judith Massee [1968–98], Pat Wong [1975–2009], and Carla Mann ’81 [1995–].

Dean of Students

In the early days, there was no dean of students, only a dean of women. (Perhaps the idea was that male students would look after themselves—a proposition as unrealistic then as it is now.) So the herculean task of guiding, counseling, cajoling, and comforting students was left to professors, presidents, spouses, and classmates. The role of the dean broadened during and after World War II. No title can fully describe the job. No words can express our gratitude. But let us salute those who have had the courage and compassion to take on one of the toughest jobs in the world: Eleanor Harris Rowland [1911–17], Maida Rossiter Bailey [1912–42], Ada Chenoweth McCown [1929–31], Cheryl Scholz MacNaughton [1938–43], Cornelia LeBoutillier [1941–43], Robert Canon [1948–54], Ann Shepard ’23 [1950–68;], Josephine Grannatt Davis ’41 [1958–63], Pat Hanawalt [1959–82], Les Squier [1955–62], Jack Dudman ’42 [1963–85], David Groff [1983–87], Paula Rooney [1981–85], Susan Crim [1985–89], Jim Tederman [1990–99], Regina Mooney [1999–2002], Mary Catherine King [2002–07], Jerlena Griffin-Desta [2008–09], and Mike Brody [2009–].

Dean of the Faculty

Chief academic officer, guardian of Reed’s educational mission, and fundamental point of contact between the faculty and the president. For the first 60 years, Reed had no such officer, in part because the faculty’s sway over every aspect of the college was so great it saw no reason to send a delegate to the remote and relatively unimportant office of the president. As the operation of the college grew more complex, it was perhaps inevitable that this would change. The first provost (as the title was originally) was Marvin Levich [philosophy 1953–94], appointed in 1972 by President Paul Bragdon (q.v.).  Other provosts and deans of the faculty include: Frank Gwilliam [1979–82], Marsh Cronyn ’40 [1982–88], Douglas Bennett [1989–93], Linda Mantel [1993–97], Peter Steinberger [1997–2010], and Ellen Keck Stauder [2010–].

Diver, Colin [Prez 2002–]

Diver came to Reed from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the dean of the law school. Earlier, he taught at Harvard and Boston University and was featured in the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Common Ground by Anthony Lukas. Diver has helped Reed become more diverse, boosting the proportion of minority students from 14 percent to 26 percent, while at the same time doubling the college’s budget for financial aid to $22.5 million a year. During his tenure, Reed added 13 professors, made significant improvements in the performing arts, launched an environmental studies major, built several new dorms, and spearheaded the most ambitious campaign in Reed’s history, the Centennial Campaign. Diver retires in 2012; we leave detailed analysis of his legacy to future almananglers.


How to define diversity in the context of Reed? The standard response is to look at the students. Ethnic minorities now comprise 26 percent of the student body, first-generation students 13 percent, and international students 9 percent. But there are many other dimensions to consider, such as the ethnic, intellectual, and experiential diversity of faculty and staff. Reed’s  diversity statement, adopted in 2009, states that “Reed embraces the inherent value of diversity. It is committed to attracting the best and brightest from every group, including those who have historically experienced discrimination and prejudice, for it recognizes that dialogue between people with different perspectives, values, and backgrounds enhances the possibilities for serious intellectual inquiry.” The college appointed its first dean for institutional diversity in 2011.


Withdrawal of college assets from morally questionable investments. In the ’80s, the term was synonymous with student campaigns to get colleges and universities to withdraw their endowments from companies doing business in South Africa, such as General Motors, Mobil, and IBM. At Reed, the trustees claimed such action would violate the college’s policy of political neutrality. In the face of escalating student protests, the trustees in 1986 adopted the Sullivan Principles, a set of corporate guidelines intended to encourage responsible conduct in South Africa, but this did not satisfy protesters. More than 100 students occupied Eliot Hall demanding full divestment. The trustees stood firm. Further protests followed until 1990, when Nelson Mandela was released from prison and South Africa began to dismantle apartheid.


Canis lupus reedus. Distinct canine subspecies, sometimes suspected of being the reincarnations of former students (or professors). For many decades, dogs roamed freely on the Great Lawn, harassing squirrels, interrupting romantic moments, and stealing edibles. They attended classes, slunk in the library stacks, leapt on visitors, slept in dorms, scrounged in commons, and slobbered on distinguished members of the community. The advent of a dog policy in the ’90s cur-tailed (arf!) some of their more outrageous antics, but their grace, intelligence, and loyalty have proved endearing to many campus figures, including Amanda Reed, A.A. Knowlton, and Marion Patullo, who endowed a drinking fountain for dogs and humans in memory of her trusty terrier Angus.

Doyle Owl

Strigidus cementus. Unofficial mascot of Reed College (the official mascot being the griffin (q.v.). While the griffin is a mythical beast, the Doyle Owl is concretely real, although most of the tales of the owl are myths. The original owl was a local piece of garden sculpture, which was carried off as a prank by students living in House F (later renamed Doyle). Since then, there have been many incarnations of the Doyle Owl; the present avatar is owl number 23, plus or minus 11. Almost all of them are made of concrete and weigh over 100 pounds (although there was at least one anti-owl, made of papier-mâché). Contrary to prevalent myth, the Owl was never one of the animals adorning the roof of Old Dorm Block; those are and always have been beavers.

The owl is the paradigm of a trophy, defined by Jay Rosenberg ’63 as “a heavy object of absolutely no intrinsic value whose only purpose is to be possessed and shown by its possessors in public places, without loss of possession.” In the full exercise of the owl tradition, it is painted, shown spectacularly, successfully defended from would-be possessors, and shortly thereafter left unobtrusively but openly to be discovered by a new ownership group.

Most showings have been on campus, although the owl has been documented in settings as far afield as the New York World’s Fair (1939) and the Top of the Mark [Hopkins Hotel, San Francisco]. The solidity of the concrete has been evidenced by a showing at the bottom of a swimming pool, presumably in the San Fernando Valley or possibly Beverly Hills. The owl has been known to spend the occasional quiet weekend at the ski cabin. It has appeared at a campus seder when the door was opened to admit the prophet Elijah. It has substituted for Boris during the Boar’s Head procession of the annual alumni holiday party. It was once displayed in commons, and escaped only after someone cut the electricity and plunged the room into darkness.

Capturing the owl has become increasingly daunting in recent years. Those releasing it back into the wild constantly seek to trump the efforts of their predecessors. This has led to the owl’s being airlifted off campus by helicopter, rising like a specter from the steam tunnels, dangling from a tree whilst being set aflame, and trundling forth from Sallyport encased in a massive block of ice. (This particular incident required the combined efforts of 20 students, a flaming papier mâché decoy, and the strategic use of the walk-in commons freezer.) The resulting owl fight lasted a good seven hours as teams struggled back and forth with the chilly prize, some attempting to defrost it, others simply bent on wrestling the beast into a getaway vehicle as quickly as possible.

The most notable side effect of exposure to the owl is, of course, owl fever—a disease so virulent that it can turn even the most demure Reedies into a howling mob who will stop at nothing to secure their feathered prize. Alumni, faculty, students, staff—all are caught in the inescapable sway of the owl. The question of why a nondescript garden statue from Eastmoreland still inspires such passion remains unanswered.

Doyle, A.E. (1877–1928)

Protean architect of Reed’s iconic buildings, including Eliot Hall, Old Dorm Block, the gymnasium (razed), Prexy, the Woodstock language houses, Anna Mann, and commons (now the SU). Despite humble origins and scant formal education, Doyle played a dominant role in shaping the architecture of Portland, particularly at Reed (House F was named after him in 1935). The epitaph set in the south entrance of Eliot Hall describes him well: “Lover and Creator of Beauty.”


For many years, the J.K. Gill Company in downtown Portland had a giant sign that read “CALL GILL’S! Your Office Supply and Office Equipment Headquarters.” One night in 1959, Reed students scaled the Gill Building with ropes and converted an “L” into an “R.” Unfortunately, the perpetrator, who was hanging upside down from a rope by one foot, painted over the wrong “L,” resulting in a sign reading “CALL GILRS!” Ensuing press coverage heaped scorn on the Reedies’ inability to spell. Classmates on campus were equally unmerciful; a sign appeared in commons, warning “THE COSP ARE COMING!” Malefactors later braved increased police surveillance of the site to correct their paintographical error. Shortly thereafter, the company modified its sign to read “PHONE GILL’S!”


The study of a mythical creature known as the Rational Actor—no wonder it is so dismal. Economics became a stand-alone department in 1922. Intriguing courses have included Game Theory; History of Economic Thought; Innovation and Technological Change; and The Economics of Reed College. Influential profs (q.v.) have included Hudson Hastings [1911-20], William Ogburn [1912–17], Clement Akerman [1920–43], Adelbert Friedrich [1921–29], Blair Stewart [1925–49], Arthur Leigh [1945–88], Carl Stevens ’42 [1954–90], George Hay [1956–83], Jeff Parker [1988–], Noelwah Netusil [1990–], Denise Hare [1992–], and Kim Clausing [1996–].

Eliot Bug

Scutigera eliotopedia. Arthropod denizen of Eliot Hall, possible relative of the centipede. Legend states that the Eliot bug was the result of a freak accident in the chemistry lab on the fourth floor in the early years of the college. It boasts monstrous antennae, at least 15 pairs of legs, and astonishing bursts of speed as it dashes into dark corners to avoid being called upon in conference.

Eliot, Thomas Lamb (1841–1936) 

Unitarian minister and outspoken social progressive who urged Simeon and Amanda Reed to found a college. Hailing from a storied family with roots in Boston and St. Louis, Eliot arrived in Portland in 1867 and soon became one of the pioneer city’s leading figures. He founded the First Unitarian Church, the Oregon Humane Society, and the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society. He worked to improve conditions in the county jail; ministered to orphans, the poor, and the mentally ill; and championed public schools, the public library, and women’s right to vote. He enjoyed the confidence of many of the city’s leading citizens, including Simeon and Amanda Reed, who sang in his choir. Eliot sowed the first seed for his greatest ambition in 1887 when he wrote Simeon Reed a letter, proposing a “Reed Institute of Lectures,” and joked that it would “need a mine to run it.” Not only was Eliot instrumental in persuading Simeon and Amanda to found a college, but he was also responsible for shaping its character, arguing that the institution should teach the liberal arts and sciences as opposed to technical vocations. At the college’s first commencement, in June 1915, he was honored with the degree of Doctor of Letters. He continued to be intimately involved in Reed’s operations until 1924, when age and ill health compelled him to resign from the board. Eliot was an insomniac who rose at 3 a.m. He was also plagued by eye trouble, possibly the result of a teenage episode of measles. Nonetheless, he was a voracious reader, committing to memory the psalms, the sonnets of Shakespeare, and long passages from Milton, Wordsworth, the Iliad, the Odyssey, and Don Quixote. He oversaw the purchase of books for the public library, and read all the major articles in the ninth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, volume by volume, as they were published.

Eliot, T. S.

Obscure vaguely poetical nephew of T.L. Eliot (q.v.).


The gentle art of producing an analysis six times longer than the original text. Early courses at Reed included Public Speaking and Argumentation, The English Bible, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and The Novel. Other intriguing courses have included Narratives of Slavery and Freedom; The Emblematic Eye; Caribbean Re-writings; New York, New York; Frontier Literature; The Death of Satan; Graphic Novel; Film Noir; and The Victorian Marriage Plot. Influential profs (q.v.) have included Norm Coleman [1912–39], V.L.O. Chittick [1921–48], Barry Cerf [1921–48], Ruth Collier [1933–52], William Alderson [1943–64], Donald MacRae [1944–73], Frank Jones [1949–56], Kenneth Hanson [1954–86], William Halewood [1959–67], Charles Svitavsky [1961–98], Roger Porter [1961–], Fred Hard [1962–70], Tom Gillcrist [1962–2001], Jon Roush [1964–70], Howard Waskow [1964–72], Jim Webb [1965–71], Simon Friedman [1971–77], Peter Sears [1974–80], Robert Knapp [1974–], Lisa Steinman [1976–], Christina Zwarg [1979–85], Gary Miranda [1979–87], Gail Berkeley Sherman [1981–90], Ellen Stauder [1983–], Chris Zinn [1985–92], Nathalia King [1987–], Laura Leibman [1995–], Pancho Savery [1995–], Jay Dickson [1996–], Michael Faletra [2001–], and Maureen Harkin [2002–].

Financial Aid

Assistance provided to needy students to offset heartstopping cost of tuition (q.v.). Comes in bewildering variety of grants, loans, and work study, funded by the government and by the college itself. About 52 percent of students currently receive financial aid; average package is $34,200 per year. Reed meets the full need of all continuing students who maintain satisfactory academic progress (six units annually and a GPA of 2.0) even if their family income suddenly collapses. Reed also tries to meet the full need of freshlings and transfers. Each year, however, a small number of applicants are not admitted because the college’s financial aid budget (now about $22.5 million) has been exhausted. If you are outraged by this, please see philanthropy.

Folk Dancing

International folk dancing (IFD), or doing dances from many different cultures, became popular at Reed in the ’50s, peaking in the ’60s and ’70s. Originally, the dances of IFD represented major ethnic groups in the United States, with an early dominance of Scandinavia, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Hungary, Greece, and the British Isles. Later, dances of Israel and the Balkan countries became popular. Begun as a social event, IFD was first taught by the physical education department in 1959, when Pearl Atkinson [P.E. 1959–77] joined the faculty. Pearl nourished IFD, providing opportunities for enthusiastic students to teach specialized dance classes, and beginning a faculty and staff group that continues to this day as the Kyklos Dancers. IFD appeals to Reedies because it combines nativistic styles and movements with an intellectual approach. This spirit was captured in a haiku by Jim Kahan ’64:

Ethnic folk dancers

Unlike urban amateurs

Never need lessons.

Foster, William T. [Prez 1910–19]

The “masterbuilder.” A brilliant prodigy from Bowdoin, Foster was just 31 when he was appointed Reed’s first president. Scornful of the “sheep-dip method of education” that permeated college life in that era, he set out to create a new kind of college where the Socratic ideals of critical examination and intellectual freedom were dominant from day one. He banned grades, intercollegiate sports, fraternities and sororities, and imposed high standards in the senior thesis and oral exam, and for faculty advisers. Professors would focus on teaching, not research. Students would discipline themselves and choose their own course of study. With an evangelist’s zeal, Foster recruited professors and students to join him in this visionary project. Unfortunately, his revolutionary fervor rubbed many Portlanders the wrong way, as did his enthusiasm for simplified spelling (q.v.). The collapse of property values in the 1910s wrought havoc on Reed’s endowment and spelled an end to many of his ambitious plans. His outspoken opposition to American involvement in World War I made matters worse. Many people confused him with communist leader William Z. Foster (just as they confused shipping tycoon Simeon Reed with communist journalist John Reed). Money grew so tight that Foster was forced to drop his beloved humanities disciplines in place of vocational courses. Facing financial crisis, failing personal health, student discontent, and a lack of confidence among the trustees, he resigned in 1919 and moved to Newton, Massachusetts, where he directed a foundation for economic research and published a series of influential books on economics. When he died, his ashes were scattered over the canyon.

Free Love

The third part of the trinity that makes up the official unofficial motto of the student body. Adopted as defiant satire sometime in the 1920s, the slogan has been repurposed ever since with varying degrees of irony—irony typically lost on outsiders who only see the T-shirts and shudder. Certainly catchier than the phrase suggested by T.L. Eliot (q.v.) from Matthew 5:15, Ut luceat omnibus (“That it may shine on all”). Try putting that on a T-shirt.


The language, culture, and theory of the greatest civilization ever known. Courses over the years have naturally reflected contemporary issues: in 1916, for example, the college offered Soldier’s French. In recent decades, Bill Ray’s classic Introduction to Literary Theory has held enduring appeal. Other intriguing courses have included Masterpieces of the Last Three Centuries, French Drama, French Lyric Poetry, Belgian Literature, Surrealism, and Francophone Literature. Influential profs (q.v.) have included Benjamin Woodbridge [1922–52], Cecilia Tenney [1921–63], Sam Danon [1962–2000], Paul Antal [1968–75], Bill Ray [1972–], Jane McLelland [1974–81], Doris Berkvam [1975–2001]. Gerard Gasarian [1982–89], Hugh Hochman [1999–], Ann Delehanty [2000–], Luc Monnin [2004–], and Catherine Witt [2005–].


The language and culture of the greatest civilization ever known. In Reed’s early days, German was for some reason taught alongside Greek under the department of Germanic languages. Intriguing course titles have included Scientific German, Sturm und Drang, Rationalism and Irrationalism, Exile, The Holocaust and the Limits of Representation, and Mythos and the Daemonic. Influential profs (q.v.) have included Charles King [1926–41], Heinz Peters [1940–59], Kaspar Locher [1950–88], Alan Logan [1953–60], Werner Schlotthaus [1960–67], Vincenz Panny [1963–84], Dieter Paetzold [1963–86], Ottomar Rudolf [1963–98], Ülker Gökberk [1986–], Marion Doebeling [1990–97], Katja Garloff [1997–], and Jan Mieszkowski [1997–].


After 100 years, Reed has produced remarkably few tales of curious campus revenants. There are, however, reports of a ghost that pleasantly haunts the third floor of Prexy. “Students would refer to it from time to time, and I heard those sounds too,” says Bonnie Garrett [director of applied music 1988–2010]. According to Bonnie, the ghostly activity seemed to emanate from the third floor attic, a vast undeveloped space “with wee windows and a turn-of-the-century aura.” A few years ago, a staffer was in the act of unlocking room 302 when he noticed that the doorknob rotated before he turned the key in the lock. In British and American tradition, a ghost is typically cast as a soul with unfinished business or one whose life has been cut short. It is also true that President Richard Scholz (q.v.) lived in Prexy when he rose from his sickbed following an appendectomy to deal with a crisis on campus. The resulting strain led to more surgery and his death in 1924. No one is suggesting that Scholz still haunts Prexy, but how to explain the strange phenomena? Bonnie says that theatrical costumes were once stored on the third floor. Perhaps costumes from an old production of Gilbert & Sullivan had come back to life? “There were no recognizable Gilbert & Sullivan tunes, however,” she says. “Of course strange noises could be attributed to a building that is nearly 100 years old. But that doesn’t make for a very good story.”

Grade Inflation

Vile phenomenon in which mediocrity marches to the front of the alphabet. Virtually unknown at Reed. The average GPA for Reed students is 3.08 and has scarcely budged in 26 years. In that time, only 10 students have graduated with a perfect 4.00 GPA.

Graduation Rate

Reed’s graduation rate was never exactly stellar for a host of reasons, including sunshine deprivation, the grueling workload, and Reedies’ propensity to drop out and pursue their dreams. (Can you say Apple?) In the early ’80s, only 28 percent of students graduated in four years. Since then, the figures have shown dramatic improvement, thanks to a sustained effort to improve student life and boost academic support. Today the four-year rate is 70 percent and the six-year rate 79 percent.

Great Lawn

A vast expanse of green, ideal for dogs, Frisbee, softball, commencement, hot air balloons, physics experiments, and reading Plato. In A.E. Doyle’s original master plan, the lawn was envisioned as a giant grassy quadrangle criss-crossed by walkways and flanked with Gothic buildings.


Enemy of ignorance and official mascot of Reed. The griffin, a mythical beast, half eagle, half lion, was taken from the coat of arms of the Simeon Reed family. From Under the Green Tiles, by Beatrice Olson ’24: “The griffin has from time immemorial symbolized a guardian and protector of man and the beasts of the earth. In its early habitat in Asiatic Scythia, it was credited with the protection of gold and precious stones. Thus, in familiar tradition, it has gained, through centuries, the attributes of swiftness and strength in the service of protection.”

Herodotus (484–425 BCE)

Sometimes dubbed the father of history (q.v.). Of course, the same has been said of Confucius (551–479 BCE).


A discipline dedicated to proving that the past is not what it’s cracked up to be, and never was. First courses at Reed focused on Greece and Rome. By 1916, the college was offering courses on the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Protestant Revolt, and the French Revolution. Far more classes have been taught over the years on British and European topics than on American. Fascinating courses have included The History of the Pacific Northwest (taught by Dorothy Johansen ’33), The Third Reich, History of Zionism and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Peasants and the State in China and Japan, Jewish Mysticism, East Asian Business History, Technology and Society in America, and Marx and Jesus. Influential profs (q.v.) have included Rex Arragon [1923–62], Dorothy Johansen ’33 [1934–84], Richard Jones [1941–86], Owen Ulph [1944–79], Charles Bagg [1946–74], Frank Smith Fussner [1950–75], John Tomsich [1962–99], George Fasel [1963–70], T.C. Price Zimmerman [1964–77], John Strawn [1970–77], Christine Mueller [1973–2005], Ed Segel [1973–2011], David Groff [1976–87], Ray Kierstead [1978–2000]. Richard Fox [1981–90], David Sacks [1986–], Douglas Fix [1990–], Jacqueline Dirks ’82 [1991–], David Garrett [1998–], Tony Iaccarino [1999–2007], Michael Breen [2000–], and Benjamin Lazier [2005–].

Hum 11(0)

History as understood by poets, literature interpreted by philosophers, philosophy explained by artists, and art seen by historians. Welcome to Freshman Hum. The broad outlines of the course were originally laid down by President Richard Scholz (q.v.), but his untimely death in 1924 derailed his dream for almost two decades. The first true humanities course at Reed arrived in 1943 under the leadership of Rex Arragon [history 1923–62]. Then as now, the course focused on Greek and Roman civilizations through the prisms of politics, art, history, religion, philosophy, and literature. Hum 110 was later expanded to the Middle Ages and beyond, but this was felt to be too burdensome, and in 1993 its focus returned to Greece and Rome. Reed has also employed the framework of the humanities to approach other crucial periods and cultures. Since 1995, for example, the college has offered Hum 230, focusing on the foundations of Chinese civilization.

Hum Play

Annual slapstick production occurring after the final Hum lecture of the year. Hum Play follows the adventures of the hapless Student, who journeys through the Hum syllabus in a desperate attempt to learn a year’s worth of material the night before his final. The show features bedsheet togas, cardboard spears, and an inexcusable number of bad puns. Guided by Greek gods, epic poets, and fearless professors, Student runs across several characters from the syllabus before arriving at Enlightenment. The play began as the brainchild of Greg Lam ’96, who staged the first production in 1994. Since then, the script has been passed down from one generation to the next, each adapting it to create more outrageous iterations.

Human Hamster Wheel

Behemoth roller bearing that materialized in the SU in 2010. Over 12 feet in diameter, the wheel was constructed of lumber, plywood, and skateboard components, and was big enough for a student to run inside. Student group named “Defenders of the Universe” claimed responsibility.


Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus.

Keezer, Dexter M. [Prez 1934–42]

Educator, journalist, and New Deal economist, Keezer arrived on campus at the nadir of the Great Depression. Believing that Reed was too intellectual, Keezer worked on improving student life with initiatives such as the ski cabin on Mount Hood. After Reed, he worked for the federal government on the war effort.

Koblik, Steven [Prez 1992–2001]

Koblik came to Reed from Scripps College, where he served as the dean of the faculty. A historian known for his friendly demeanor and emphasis on transparency, he took student pranks, many of which were directed at him, with grace and humor. He was credited with reuniting a faculty that had suffered a rift. Koblik’s 10-to-1 initiative sought to improve the student–faculty ratio by adding 15 new professors. Although he inherited a budget deficit of over $1 million, by the time he left, the endowment had tripled to $349 million. Although he often said he didn’t want to be a “construction president,” the face of Reed’s campus changed dramatically during his tenure with the addition of the Educational Technology Center, the Gray Campus Center, Kaul Auditorium, and the Bragdon, Naito, and Sullivan dorms. Koblik also decided to stop participating in U.S. News & World Report’s annual “best college” rankings, a courageous move that drew national attention to the survey’s capricious methodology. After Reed, Koblik become president of the Huntington Library.


Persistent intermittent presence haunting the radio dial. Origins date to 1954, when students organized the Reed Radio Club to pursue “the technical and programming aspects of radio broadcasting.” A year later, KRCB-AM, the Radio Voice of Reed College, debuted at 660 AM to the delight of students and a few neighborhood residents. Broadcasting from the basement of Doyle, Radio Reed from its beginnings played the music no one else was playing. The club later persuaded the FCC to grant an FM license and became KRRC-FM 89.3 in 1958. Equipment—including the transmitter and antenna—was built, donated, borrowed, and generally cobbled together by students. An Oregonian article noted that “austerity vies with ingenuity” in the studio, where “egg cases and an old ice box play important roles in achieving a high quality of low fidelity.” In the early decades, highlights from the station’s program included poetry, film reviews, news, the Kinks playing live at Reed, and the Epistemology of Rock with Marvin Levich [philosophy 1953–94]. Still, austerity and ingenuity have been ongoing themes, as the station has faced frequent technical difficulties, financial troubles, and sometimes contentious interactions with the FCC. After losing space in the airwaves to a Christian station in the 1970s, KRRC moved to 104.1 FM, where it remained until the 2000s, when it was bumped to its current perch at 97.9 FM. Nonetheless, the station has prevailed. While the signal—when it is working—barely extends past Woodstock Boulevard, its limited range allows student DJs to take full advantage of the joy of radio without too much fear of getting into hot water with the authorities. It is hard to think of a musical genre the station has not explored. From Gregorian chant to psychedelic funk to Hungarian gypsy bagpipe, KRRC plays it all—and then some. Thanks to the advent of digital radio, the station has escaped into cyberspace and can now be heard at


The art of misunderstanding many languages at the same time. Linguistics was first formally taught at Reed in 1955 under anthropology (q.v.). Intriguing course titles have included Psycholinguistics, Signs, and the rather intimidating subject of Morphosyntactic Typology. The linguistics qual consists of a long passage in an unidentified language, accompanied by a translation, and asks the aspiring linguist to describe the characteristics of that language. Have a nice day. Influential profs (q.v.) have included Edwin Gerow [1985–96], John Haviland [1986–2005], and Matt Pearson ’92 [2001–].

MacNaughton, E.B. [Prez 1948–52]

Prominent Portland businessman, one of the original members of the board of regents (later merged with the board of trustees). As president, “Mr. Mac” focused on Reed’s finances, securing numerous gifts, forging key relationships, and rescuing the college from the brink of insolvency. One of his first actions was to hike faculty salaries, which gained him popularity among professors. MacNaughton also served as chairman of the board of the First National Bank and president of the Oregonian. A typical day included mornings at the bank and the newspaper, and afternoons at Reed. MacNaughton was utterly dedicated to the “greatest little college in the world” and refused to accept any compensation for being president. In 1944, he married administrator and instructor Cheryl Scholz, the widow of Richard Scholz, who also devoted many years to Reed.

Magic Grove

Cluster of flowering cherry trees designed and planted by early professors on the Great Lawn.

Manorial Documents

A staple of Hum 11 in the ’50s and ’60s. A standard assignment would be to write a paper on these documents, which were extracts from the Domesday Book.


“A subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true” (Bertrand Russell). Reed has taught the discipline in dimensions both theoretical and applied. In 1918, the department taught a course on war mathematics. On the theoretical side, there was Construction of the Real Numbers (see 1 + 1 = 2). Other intriguing courses have included Astronomy, Probability, Automata and Languages, and Computer Architecture. Influential profs (q.v.) have included Frank Loxley Griffin [1911–56], Jessie May Short [1920–39], Robert Rosenbaum [1939–53], Louise Robinson [1940–53], Lloyd Williams ’35 [1947–81], Joe Roberts [1952–], Jack Dudman ’42 [1953–85], Burrowes Hunt [1953–77], John Leadley [1956–93], Hugh Chrestenson [1957–90], Dorothy Williams [1959–65], Thomas Dennehy [1962–79], Tom Wieting [1965–], Rao Potluri [1973–], Ray Mayer [1974–2002], Joe Buhler ’70 [1980–2005], Albyn Jones [1986–], Jerry Shurman [1989–], David Perkinson [1990–], James Fix [1999–], James Pommersheim [2004–], and Irena Swanson ’87 [2005–].


The literature and linguistics of a wordless language. Music has always played a vital role in campus life, but was not part of the academic curriculum until 1935, when the college offered a course, Introduction to the History and Appreciation of Music. The tempo increased with the advent of Herb Gladstone [1946–80], who for many years was the department, teaching academic courses, supervising theses, and leading the orchestra. Reed has offered some fascinating courses over the years, including Wagner, Brahms, and Mahler; Song; Jazz; Music Since 1968; The Madrigal; Music and Science; The Music of Duke Ellington; and Bebop. Besides Herb, influential figures have included Edna Chittick [1931–39], Frederic Rothchild [1968–78], Leila Birnbaum Falk [1969–2009], David Schiff [1980–], Mario Pelusi [1982–89], Bonnie Garrett [1988–2010], and Virginia Oglesby Hancock ’62 [1991–].

Nightmares, recurring

Fantasy writer David Eddings ’54 was haunted by a question on an ethics final by Ed Garlan [philosophy 1946–73]: Explain the difference between Right and Good. “I had nightmares about that one for years,” Eddings said.


You can’t see it. You can’t smell it. You can’t taste it. It doesn’t burn, explode, alter consciousness, or make you talk funny. It is anything but rare. In fact, it may seem rather dull. Yet this underrated element gets the recognition it deserves at Reed, which has celebrated Nitrogen Day since 1992, when a group of science majors (including Dave Weinstock ’92, Rob Mack ’93, Nick Kaplinsky ’93, and Al Kun ’95) staged the first celebration of the seventh element. The original N-Day featured a brass band, a barbecue, and an ode to the triple bond. Subsequent bashes have featured nitrogen-infused beer and ice cream cooled by nitrogen.

Odegard, Peter [Prez 1945–48]

Political scientist who taught at Williams, Ohio State, and Amherst before becoming Reed’s sixth president. Odegard worked to shore up faculty salaries, hire more professors, and expand Reed’s geographic draw. He also boosted attention to the arts and oversaw upgrades to campus buildings. Students and faculty alike saw Odegard as a champion for the community and its intellectual history. Declaring that a college “must be something more than an intellectual delicatessen store,” he insisted that Reed “serve as an island of free inquiry, for only by free inquiry can the frontiers of knowledge be advanced.” Odegard left Reed to join UC Berkeley as chair of the political science department.


Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns.

Olde Reed, last year of

When you are a student, it’s the year you arrived minus 1. When you are an alumnus, it’s the year you departed plus 1.

Open Door

Policy maintained by Reed deans since World War II. From the introduction to the letters of Ann Shepard ’23 [dean of students 1944–68], we read: “Miss Shepard’s door was always open and unguarded—no appointment necessary. This was sometimes a nuisance, but it encouraged the impulsive visit, so frequently the crucial one. She courteously and instantly dropped the work on her desk, leaned back comfortably in her chair, crossed her legs, and, eyes smiling through a cloud of smoke, settled down to really listen as if the visitor were her only concern for the rest of the day. Ann Shepard combined a realistic skepticism in theory with complete trust in action. She made the leap of ethical faith. To the irresponsible campus bad guy, she calmly gave the keys of her new car when he needed transportation. He met her trust. The car was back on time and freshly washed besides. In this woman the skeptical realist lived comfortably somehow with the believer in the ultimate perfectibility of Reed students.”

Paradox Café

Student-run coffeehouse in the SU famous for its paint-peeling brew.


Term coined 2,500 years ago by the author of Prometheus Bound to describe a love of humanity, as demonstrated by the eponymous titan who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humankind. Philanthropy is also the cornerstone of Reed, which was founded with a bequest from Amanda Reed. When her will, stipulating an “institution of learning,” was made public in 1904, it caused a sensation. Rather than secure the wealth of her own family, Amanda chose to strengthen the community and alter the fabric of the society in which she lived. After an epic legal battle, her nephew, Martin Winch, transferred $1,821,560 (approximately $44 million today) to the Reed Institute. Gifts are crucial to Reed’s existence and its growth. Big gifts make good copy, but all gifts make a difference. Of the 336 grads of the class of 2011, roughly 52 percent received financial aid, with the average award weighing in at $34,196. Gifts have also allowed the college to break ground on a long-awaited $28 million performing arts facility and launch an ambitious environmental studies program.


A game played with extremely high stakes, the objective of which is the discovery of its own rules. Philosophy has been taught at Reed since 1911, including a course titled Logic and College Life (which seem like totally incompatible subjects). Although all Reed students gain some exposure to the discipline through Hum 110 (q.v.), they have also had the opportunity to deepen their misunderstanding in courses such as Aesthetics, Metaphysics, and Epistemology. The department has at times offered courses on both the history of philosophy and the philosophy of history. Other intriguing courses have included Social Philosophy; Philosophical and Religious Thought of India; and Minds, Brains, and Machines. Influential profs (q.v.) have included Edward Octavius Sisson [1911–43], Edwin Garlan [1946-73], Stanley Moore [1948–54], Marvin Levich [1953–94], Bill Peck [1961–2002], Robert Paul [1966–96], George Bealer [1975–90], David Reeve [1976–2001], Neil Thomason [1980–88], Mark Bedau ’76 [1991–], Mark Hinchliff ’81 [1991–], Steven Arkonovich [1998–], Paul Hovda [1992–], and Margaret Scharle [2003–].

Physical Education

A field of exertion. Contrary to popular misconception, P.E. has been a mandatory part of Reed’s curriculum since the founding. Unusual courses have included cricket; captain ball; advanced exercises with Indian clubs, dumbbells, and wands; Physiology and Hygiene; Anatomy, Anthropometry and Kinesiology; Theory of Play and Playgrounds; and Playground Leadership. Influential figures have included Charles Botsford [1912–52], Dorothy Elliott [1918–30], Evelyn Hasenmayer [1930–46], Jerry Barta [1956–88], Pearl Atkinson [1959–77], Jack Scrivens [1961–99], Angela Dreher [1976–88], and Ann Casey [1990–2006].


The study of things bumping into other things, occasionally producing electricity. The range of courses offered at Reed over the years is astonishing: Theoretical Mechanics, Mathematical Physics, The Electron Theory of Matter, Signal Corps Physics, Electronics, Atomic and Nuclear Physics, Solid State Physics,  Classical Field Theory, Astrophysics, Elementary Particles; Molecular Biophysics, and Scientific Computation. Notable experiments at Reed have involved catapulting water balloons across the Great Lawn, lighting fluorescent bulbs from a distance with a Tesla coil, and placing your head in the path of a bowling ball suspended by a rope at an angle of 45 degrees. Influential profs (q.v.) have included A.A. Knowlton [1915–48], Marcus O’Day [1926–45], Ken Davis [1948–80], William Parker [1948–79], Jean Delord [1950–88], Byron Youtz [1956–68], Dennis Hoffman [1959–90], Robert Reynolds [1963–2002], Nick Wheeler ’55 [1963–2010], David Griffiths [1978–2009], Richard Crandall ’69 [1978–], Johnny Powell [1987–], Mary James [1988–], John Essick [1993–], Darrell Schroeter ’95 [2003–05 and 2007–], and Joel Franklin ’97 [2005–].


Late Iron Age Celtic people living in what is now Scotland. Also a ferocious horde of unclad Reedies covered in blue paint. Picts are commonly found roaming campus during Renn Fayre doing battle with the notorious Copts—clothed assailants wielding squirt guns filled with orange paint. Ritual and Renn Fayre have long gone hand in hand, but signs point to Lynn Rosskamp ’95 as the progenitor of this tribe.

Political Science

The study of human nature in action. By the time they graduate, poli sci majors have gained an understanding of what this entails and developed a suitable sense of despair. From the Student Handbook: “Welcome to Political Science. There’s no reading fun books written by pundits or professors of pop or whatever. You want to read Steven Levitt’s Freakonomics? Good. Only after you’ve read his Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime. This is Reed. Accessibility is for the weak.” Originally lumped in with history, poli sci spun off its own department in 1913 and has been busy plotting revolution ever since. Classic courses have included Machiavelli, Marxism, New Marxism, Hegel and Marx, Approaches to Violence, The Internet and Politics, Power and Money, Torture and Democracy, and Nuclear Politics. Influential profs (q.v.) have included Charles McKinley [1918–60], George Bernard Noble [1922–48], Maure Goldschmidt [1935–81], Frank Munk [1939–65], Kalesh Dudharkar [1959–88], Richard Frost [1960–69], Kirk Thompson [1964–71], Peter Steinberger [1973–], Stefan Kapsch [1974–2005], Darius Rejali [1989–], and Paul Gronke [2001–].


Mythical realm said to lie somewhere to the north of Steele Street.

Powell, James [Prez 1988–91]

Originally a geologist, Powell arrived from Franklin and Marshall College with the goal of safeguarding Reed’s accomplishments, rather than changing its direction. Powell worked to hike faculty salaries and also created a stronger administrative presence on campus, imposing stricter policies on drugs and alcohol: no more free beer at Reed socials! However, Powell clashed with the faculty and departed to become president of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.


Intensive one-year program set up by Army Air Corps in 1942 to relieve acute shortage of meteorologists for airborne operations in World War II. Professor A.A. Knowlton [physics 1915–48] ran the program at Reed, which was notoriously demanding. “It had nothing to do with weather,” says Lyle Jones AMP ’44. “We took math, physics, history, and humanities, all taught by Reed professors.” Premeteorology was a godsend for Reed and other colleges, which were starved of students because so many college-age men were serving in the armed forces. Federal revenues from the program helped Reed scrape through the duration.

Professors, easy

Purely theoretical category never populated at Reed.

Professors, influential

Defined in this almanac as those who taught at Reed for more than six years. We salute them for demanding more of us than we thought we could give, and showing us that we were capable of more than we knew.


Discipline that first lost its soul, then its mind, and then consciousness. Amazingly, it gained them all back and still behaves. Psychology has deep roots at Reed and was taught from 1912, but only a handful of courses were offered until the ’40s, when interest appears to have exploded. By 1947, students could pursue courses in abnormal, social, comparative, genetic, experimental, and educational psychology. By the mid-’50s, most courses had a behavioral flavor, but the advent of Neural Basis of Behavior in 1965 and of Cognitive Psychology in 1987 heralded intellectual  diversification. Classic courses have included Sleep and Dreaming; Human Sexual Behavior; Psycholinguistics; Self-Experimentation and Self-Control; Stereotyping and Prejudice; Stress and Coping; and our all-time favorite, Problems in Psychology: Gender. Influential profs (q.v.) have included Eleanor Rowland Wembridge [1911–17], Monte Griffith [1926–54], Frederick Courts [1945–69], Leslie Squier [1953–88], Carol Creedon [1957–91], Bill Wiest [1961–95], William Devery [1963–70], Richard Katzev [1967–91], Allen Neuringer [1970–2008], Dell Rhodes [1975–2006], Daniel Reisberg [1986–], Marion Underwood [1991–98], Enriqueta Canseco-Gonzalez [1992–], Kathryn Oleson [1995–], and Jennifer Henderlong Corpus [2000–].

Quest, the

Beacon of press freedom, bane of administrators, fiercely independent student newspaper published more or less weekly since 1913. Named for the famous phrase of Norm Coleman (q.v.), “Comrades of the Quest,” referring to the intense camaraderie at Reed among students and professors alike. Early editions of the paper demonstrate an admirable level of journalistic skill; indeed, the Quest is the sole source for many episodes in the college’s history, since no other record remains. The first edition, for example, describes a “tong war” in which the denizens of House F repelled an invasion by House H by drenching the attackers with a three-inch fire hose “and quenched an accumulation of ardour with a well-directed stream.” In addition to reporting the news, the Quest has sometimes created the news. In 1967, for example, it ran a story about a nude “swim-in” in the gym, with a photo deemed so provocative that Dean Jack Dudman ’42 begged the editors to black it out. (They did so, but the story got out anyway.) Because of the peculiar system at Reed in which editors are elected, the quality and character of the Quest has varied dramatically over the years. One week, it reads like the New York Times. The next, like the Revolutionary Worker, the Weekly World News, and the Sellwood Bee—sometimes all at once. Nonetheless, the paper’s longevity is a testament to generations of editors who have sweated over its inky pages for nothing more than the thrill of seeing their work in print.

Quest, first editorial

Excerpt: “Our chief concern is not with bricks and stone nor with landscape architecture. The few of us who are here, teachers and students alike, are working not for the Present, nor even for ourselves, but for the Future. As Comrades of the Quest we have set out, as President Foster has expressed it, ‘to do something significant in the realm of Higher Education.’ We do not feel that our enthusiasm and purpose are commonplace or ordinary and we shall not be satisfied with mediocre results.”


Uncouth term for the meteorological phenomenon known in Oregon as “liquid sunshine.”

Reed, Amanda Wood (1832–1904)

Founder of the college that bears her name. Born to a wealthy and prominent local family in Quincy, Massachusetts, the youngest of nine children, Amanda was married at 18 to an industrious young storekeeper named Simeon Reed (q.v.). They went west to seek their fortune and settled in Portland. In contrast to Simeon, who chomped cigars and swirled brandy while building a legendary fortune, Amanda loved music, sewed her own dresses, and was deeply concerned with charity and spirituality. She and Simeon joined the Unitarian church under the leadership of T.L. Eliot (q.v.) and sang in his choir. It was Eliot who encouraged them to found a college, to the fury of their heirs, who challenged the will in court and almost certainly would have prevailed but for the extraordinary efforts of Amanda’s nephew Martin Winch (q.v.). Amanda’s will mandated an “institution of learning, having as its object the increase and diffusion of practical knowledge,” but was vague on key details. Eliot and Winch later battled over the question of whether Reed should focus on the liberal arts or technical instruction.

Reed, Simeon Gannett (1830–1895)

Shipping, mining, and trading tycoon who amassed the fortune that built Reed. Born in East Abington, Massachusetts, Simeon was an infant when his father died; his mother married his father’s brother, a small landholder who dabbled in lumber and flour milling. Simeon attended a local academy, learning arithmetic, penmanship, and bookkeeping, until he was 15 years old. Restless, he worked as a clerk in a dry goods store, cut shoes, and milled flour. At 18, he moved to Quincy, Massachusetts, and set up shop as a grain merchant; there he met and wooed Amanda Wood (q.v.). In 1852, he sailed for California to see if he could set up a profitable trading business, but lost many of his goods in a fire that swept the tent city of Sacramento. Undaunted, he sailed north to Oregon and eventually became a clerk for pioneer trader William Ladd. Soon he was investing in steamships, particularly the Oregon Steam Navigation Company, which proved a fantastically lucrative venture. Reed branched out into mining iron ore, railroads, and real estate. The quintessential self-made man, Simeon had a quick wit, a round belly, and a knack for making friends—and deals. Fond of poker, cigars, and bourbon, he raised thoroughbred race horses and loved to hunt (he shot off two of his fingers in a hunting accident). In 1892, his kidneys failing, he and Amanda retired to Pasadena. He died of a paralytic stroke three years later. In his will, he left his fortune to Amanda and urged her to spend it on “a suitable purpose of permanent value that will contribute to the beauty of this city and the intelligence, prosperity and happiness of its inhabitants . . . all the details I leave entirely to the good judgment of my wife in which I have full confidence.”


A discipline that introduces students to the major sacred traditions of the world and demands that they go beyond small talk. Although religion was an important part of the curriculum in the first years of the college, it did not earn departmental status until 1969, despite dire prophecies from some quarters that the establishment of a department at Reed portended a disaster of biblical proportions. The apocalypse failed to materialize, however, and the department has flourished. Intriguing courses have included Classical Mythology; Egyptian Christianity; Women in Buddhism; The Qur’an; Early Chinese Cosmology and Its Ritual Response; Deep Time and Biblical Narrative; and Christian Philosophers, Poets, Historians, Magicians, and Burners of Books. Influential profs (q.v.) have included Dan Deegan [1957–69], Simon Parker [1968–75], John Staten [1969–76], John Kenney [1980–95], William Long [1982–89], Edwin Gerow [1985–96], Steve Wasserstrom [1987–], Michael Foat ’86 [1996–], Ken Brashier [1998–], and Kambiz GhaneaBassiri [2002–].

Renn Fayre

Annual bash held after theses are submitted. Organized and named by Linda G. Howard ’70 [trustee 1988–] in 1968 as the First Annual Reed College Renaissance Faire, Renn Fayre has evolved far beyond its roots to include spectacles such as bug-eating contests, parachute jumps, fireworks, water slides, and glo opera. Still, some medieval flavor persists: Renn Fayre still features a human chess game and jousting (admittedly on bicycles).

Rosenblum, Victor [Prez 1968–70]

A passionate teacher, lawyer, and political scientist, Rosenblum arrived from Northwestern University with a plan to strengthen the humanities but was quickly sucked into a raging controversy over whether Reed should establish a program in black studies (q.v.). Soon after he arrived, student protestors blockaded themselves in Eliot Hall. Rosenblum was caught between the demands of students and the misgivings of senior faculty who had lived through the Stanley Moore affair (q.v.). The faculty eventually approved black studies, but student dissatisfaction remained strong. In December 1969, approximately 100 students went on a tuition strike over tenure and curriculum issues. Somehow Rosenblum managed to persuade about 60 to come back, but meanwhile many other smoldering issues had burst into flames: a chronic shortage of money; a bitter debate over “relevance” in the curriculum; changing cultural mores; and sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll generally made Reed a difficult place to govern. After Reed, Rosenblum returned to Northwestern, where he earned numerous teaching awards.


A game played by men (and women) with odd-shaped balls. First known games at Reed took place in 1974; early players were refugees from the crew team. The sport has flourished ever since (though we’re not sure why). In particular, the women’s team, sometimes known as the Badass Sparkle Princesses, has produced several outstanding national players.


The language and literature of the greatest civilization ever known. First introduced into the Reed curriculum in 1939 with a single class on grammar. Intriguing courses have included Formalism and Structuralism, Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (in the original Russian!), Russian Symbolism and Decadence, Horror and the Sublime in Russian Culture and Literature of Destruction. Influential profs (q.v.) have included Vera Krivoshein [1949–72], Ieva Vitins [1970–77], Lena Lencek [1977–], Judson Rosengrant [1979–90], Charles Isenberg [1985–97], and Evgenii Bershtein [1999–]. Former professor Judson Rosengrant organizes popular Paideia tours to Russia for Reed alumni.

Scholz, Richard F. [Prez 1921–24]

Reed’s second president took the helm when the future of the college hung by a thread. His immediate task was to restore a sense of purpose to a college shaken by war, misfortune, and friction with the community. Adamant that Reed should maintain its commitment to intellectual rigor, he balanced the academic program by requiring broad readings in the humanities for the first two years, followed by specialization in a chosen field. In this sense, he is the godfather of the Reed curriculum. He hired a cadre of iconic professors who would shape the college for generations to come. He led a fundraising campaign that eased an acute financial crisis brought on by the recession in the 1910s. Unfortunately, Scholz never got a chance to pursue many of his long-term goals. Following an appendectomy in 1923, he rose from his sickbed, against medical advice, to deal with a student rebellion over smallpox vaccinations. (See spring crisis.) This led to a series of complications and further operations from which he never recovered. After his death, students published a heartfelt tribute: “Dr. Richard Frederick Scholz, a man among men, in whom nature fused the noblest of human attributes and to whom she gave a deep sensitiveness to the full meaning of life, freely and without thought for himself, gave his life to his ideals.”

Scott, Arthur [Acting Prez 1942–45]

A graduate of Colby and Harvard, Scott taught chemistry at Reed from 1923 to 1979 (albeit with a gap of 11 years). He served as president during World War II, a difficult time for Reed because the war diverted so many male students into the armed forces. Nonetheless, “Scotty” led the war effort on campus and was pivotal in the development of Reed’s nuclear reactor. On his 75th birthday, the chemistry department gave him a blue three-speed bicycle. Scotty had never ridden one before, but gamely mounted the saddle and proceeded to pedal. “A little wobbly, but not too bad for a beginner,” said one student. The bike—and the chemistry building now named for him—testify to the community’s enduring affection.

Scott Tissues

Maggie Scott ’19 [registrar 1923–62] was notorious for curt notices alerting students to their paperwork deficiencies. These missives became known as Scott Tissues, as revealed in this bit of doggerel:

My name is Margaret Scott.

I’m a keeper of records and rot.

If you’re making an issue

I’ll give you Scott’s tissue

That’s not worth a tittle or jot.


The tragedy of the commons.

Seventies, The

Charles Svitavsky [English 1961–98] once reflected on the campus mood of this turbulent decade. “In the ’60s, when I walked into class in the morning and said, ‘Good morning,’ the students wrote it down. When I walked in and said ‘good morning’ in the ’70s, students would say, ‘Oh, I don’t know about that, it doesn’t seem that good to me.’”

Shelley by Moonlight

After World War II, the GI Bill helped many veterans go to college, including Tom Kelly ’48. One night, while waiting for a bus on Woodstock Boulevard, Tom stood under a streetlight reading a book of poems by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Passing police officers stopped, found his reaction to their questioning suspicious, and hauled him down to the station. The following night, 100 students gathered at the bus stop to read poems in protest, making national headlines.

Simplified Spelling

When Noah Webster published his first volume on spelling and grammar in 1783, he wanted nothing less than to shape the character of a nation. Both his textbooks and, later, his dictionaries reflected his conviction that America’s language—its spelling, its grammar, even its definitions—played a key role in its identity. A century later, the simplified spelling movement posed a similar connection between language and politics. Attracting luminaries such as Andrew Carnegie and Mark Twain, the movement tried to build common sense into the spelling of English so people could learn it more easily; a universal language, they reasoned, would help bring about world peace. Reed’s first president, William T. Foster, was a passionate adherent who brought his convictions about spelling—and world peace—with him, encouraging simplified spelling in Reed’s early publications. Conservative Portlanders were aghast, deriding Reed—and its nonconformist East Coast radicals—for spellings such as hav, enuf, tung, buro, and maskerade. Foster continued to champion the movement as an example of Reed’s resolve to “stand staunchly—and if necessary, stand alone—for whatever was right.” Nevertheless, the practice didn’t stick, and by 1918, Carnegie himself gave up on the idea. “I think I hav been patient long enuf . . . I have a much better use for twenty-five thousand dollars a year.” If only they had been around for Twitter.


A science whose practitioners take commonsense propositions, translate them into impenetrable argot, perform strange experiments, and draw far-reaching conclusions that no one else understands. Intriguing courses have included Theories and Problems of Social Ethics; Neighborhood Progress; Economic, Social, and Political Problems of the Northwest; Ethnic Minorities; Technology and Society; and The Collapse of Communism. Influential profs (q.v.) have included William Ogburn [1912–17], Alexander Goldenweiser [1933–39], Howard Jolly [1949–70], John Pock [1955–98], William Tudor [1973–2009], Alexandra Hrycak [1998–], and Marc Schneiberg [2000–].

Sound Experiments

First launched by professor Herb Gladstone [music 1947–80], the monthly performances took place in the old student union before a blazing fireplace. Innovation was the watchword. The very first was billed as “Jazz from tailgate-trombone Blues to Bebop, in two hours and twenty-three numbers.”


The language and culture of the greatest civilization ever known. First offered at Reed in 1912, Spanish was taught both as language and as literature, but disappeared from the curriculum after 10 years. It staged a valiant comeback in the 40s, when five classes were listed, but vanished again after another decade. Restarted in 1967, Spanish has gained ground ever since. Intriguing courses have included Chicano Literature and Popular Culture; The Epics of the Conquistadors; Borges, Vallejo, Lezama, and the Limits of Expression; Chronicling America; Crime and Detection; Sexual Imagery from Medieval Manuscript to the Printed Text; and Realism and Magic. Influential profs (q.v.) have included Benjamin Woodbridge [1922–52], Roger Oake [1959–74], Robert Johnston [1977–86], Sharon Larisch [1986–], Lourdes de León [1987–97], Libby Drumm [1995–], Katharine Jenkes [1997–2004], Diego Alonso [2001–], and Ariadna García-Bryce [2001–].

Spring Crisis

Annual campus controversy typically taking place in March or April, just as sunshine deprivation is reaching its nadir. (See rain.) An early example involved the explosive charge that female students were smoking cigarettes. In 1924, the issue was smallpox vaccination—a quarrel that grew so heated that President Richard Scholz (q.v.) rose from his sickbed in an effort to quench the flames (the strain contributed to his death). By 1940, the eruption of a vernal controversy at Reed had become so predictable that students actually staged a vaudeville show dubbed The Spring Crisis. The 1940 show involved pompous senators investigating communism at a “Pinkweed College.” Another show spoofed the tale of Noah’s Ark (whose vessel collapsed during rehearsals, fortunately harming no one). The tradition of the spring crisis continues, having revolved around issues as contentious as intervisitation and as obscure as departmental pay equity, and shows no sign of flagging, despite efforts to nudge it into May, when the occasional appearance of the sun makes things seem less dire.

Stanley Moore Affair

In 1954, at the height of anti-communist hysteria, the House Un-American Activities Committee summoned three Reed professors—Leonard Marsak [history 1953–55], Lloyd Reynolds [art and English 1929–69], and Stanley Moore [philosophy 1948–54]—to testify about their alleged ties to the Communist Party. They declined, inflaming local suspicion that Reed was a den of pinkos. In response, President Duncan Ballantine [1952–54] and the board of trustees suspended Reynolds from teaching his summer course on art history and demanded that the professors explain their political views in private. Moore refused, arguing that the board had no right to question him about his political beliefs. The board fired him, despite the fact that he was tenured. Although professors at other institutions were fired under similar circumstances with little protest, the episode shook Reed to its core because it cast doubt on the college’s commitment to academic freedom. Students, professors, and alumni were appalled. Ballantine lost the confidence of the faculty and resigned. In 1981, after years of controversy, the trustees issued a statement of regret. In 1997, Moore, then near death, participated in a campus forum on the affair. “I think what we’ve learned is that colleges should be more careful in the selection of trustees,” he said.

Steam Tunnels

Network of subterranean passages emanating from the massive central boiler in the physical plant, designed to transfer steam heat to campus buildings. Spelunking in them has been a popular Reed hobby from the founding. Betty Hines Holzer ’29 recalled picnicking with friends in the “Dutch ovens.” Steve Yeadon [facilities 2006–] points to two remarkable features: the montage of graffiti done by students over the years and the footprints in the cement floor—evidence of the workers who set the forms and poured the concrete in this first campus infrastructure. All tunnel openings are locked, but students still manage to find a way in, as fresh examples of graffiti attest. Rumor holds that a considerable number of garden gnomes have also found their way in over the years.

Student-Faculty Ratio

For most of its history, the college’s ratio hovered around 10–1. In the early 70s, facing a financial crisis, the faculty raised the figure to 12–1. This lasted until 1999, when President Steven Koblik led a campaign to add more professors and get the ratio back to 10–1. That effort, combined with support from Reed’s centennial campaign, has driven the current ratio down to 10.2–1.

Sullivan, Richard [Prez 1956–67]

During his 11-year tenure—unusually long by Reed standards—Sullivan was able to do what many presidents could not: expand. A Harvard graduate and World War II veteran, Sullivan hiked faculty salaries, hired new professors, and implemented (for the first time) a sabbatical program. This helped make Reed a national institution and bolstered its reputation. Sullivan oversaw the construction of several buildings, including new biology and physics labs, residence halls, a sports center, the commons, bookstore, and a library addition. He also tried to establish a grad school (“Reed U”), which ultimately went nowhere. After Reed, he became president of the Association of American Colleges.


The study of the world as a stage. It never metaphor it didn’t like. Theatre played a key role in student life from the founding of the college, but Reed did not offer formal instruction until 1936. The discipline gained its own department two years later. Fascinating courses over the years have included Radio Broadcasting, Theatre and the Media, Plays and Playhouses, Experimental Theatre, Stagecraft, and Gender and Theatre. Influential figures have included Kay Stuurman [1928–42], Frank Kierman [1941–46], Seth Ulman [1959–73], Cara Carr [1975–2005], Craig Clinton [1978–2010], Kathleen Worley [1985–], and Max Muller [1988–2006].


A graduation requirement since the very beginning; the library’s collection now numbers about 14,325 (the exact figure depending on whether the thesis of Gary Snyder ’51 has been stolen again). The rules regarding formatting, deadlines, penalties for late submission, and the composition of orals committees were informal in the first years; President Dexter Keezer had them codified in 1937. Theses must be submitted to the registrar by the last Friday of classes. The shortest thesis (Kenneth Tomlinson ’15, Losses in the Electro-Analysis of Copper Sulphate Solutions, chemistry) runs four pages, while the longest (Carl Washburn ’66, A Sometimes Great Nation: A Story of American Politics, poli sci) runs an astonishing 506. Don Green ’54 took 50 years to complete his economics thesis, receiving his diploma in 2004 for Principal Agent Theory: Case Study of the Presidio Trust. (He wrote a perfectly adequate thesis in 1954, but was dissatisfied, ditched it, and did not find another topic until decades later.) Olin Balch ’73 delivered his psychology thesis, The Restoration of Avoidance Responses, on horseback. On thesis day, Olin galloped across the front lawn, dismounted, walked his horse up a flight of steps in Eliot Hall, remounted, and submitted his thesis to President Paul Bragdon.

Thesis Parade

First organized in 1961 by Priscilla Watson Laws ’61 and Jerry Millstein ’61. “In previous years many of us watched seniors straggle up to the registrar’s office one by one and then slink off quietly to collapse,” they later wrote. “Having worked hard on our projects, we decided that the delivery of our senior theses should be conducted with proper ceremony.” On the appointed day, a rumpled band of barefoot seniors convened in front of the library accompanied by trombone, accordion, recorder, and drum, and proceeded to march to the registrar’s office. Since then, the tradition has grown more elaborate but no less exuberant. Students have tossed pages of notes from the roof of Eliot or burned them in a fire pit in front of the library. The parade has been led by marching bands and punctuated by the blast of cannons. Glitter, champagne, or rose petals—it’s always raining something. The trappings may vary, but the exhilaration never wanes.


Ancient Greek concept of “honor,” which Reedies encounter in their first week of Hum 110 as they try to figure out why Achilles, Hector, and Odysseus are acting so weird. Students also earn timê for scrounging, rugby, stealing the owl, and pulling off a double major.


The buck stops here.


Currently $42,540 a year; add $11,050 for room & board. See financial aid.

Underwater Basket Weaving

It was a joke, of course. Since the ’50s, “underwater basket weaving” has been used to refer to obscure or absurd college courses. Naturally, Reed students thought it would be fun to actually teach such a course at Paideia. A classic photo of a snorkeled student suspended in the pool weaving a basket still appears in the viewbook. You might think that after 40 years, the joke would wear out. Not at all. Several times a year, interns from peripheral news outlets dedicate roughly seven minutes to writing uncredited feature stories about absurd college courses. Inevitably, tucked between The Physics of Star Trek and The T’ao! of Homer Simpson is Underwater Basket Weaving at Reed College—now held up as an example of the very trend it was supposed to lampoon. Mother Nature Network provided a typical example of shoddy journalism in its “15 Weird College Courses.” “[U]nderwater basket weaving actually involves making baskets by dipping reeds into water and letting them soak—at least that’s how Reed College of Portland in Oregon taught it.”

Winch, Martin (1858–1915)

Nephew of Simeon and Amanda Reed (q.v.), who came west to live with them at the age of 12 and became a surrogate son and business manager. At Amanda’s deathbed, Winch vowed to carry out her wishes. He withstood a furious legal challenge from the other heirs, who tried to break her will. Thanks to his efforts, the will was ultimately upheld and the college was born. Unfortunately, Winch clashed with T.L. Eliot (q.v.) over the character of the institution. Winch wanted a technical school, believing that was consistent with the Reeds’ wishes; Eliot insisted on a liberal arts college. Eliot won; Winch resigned from the board and entered a physical and emotional decline, dying a few years later. The bronze plaque dedicated to him in the Capehart room in Winch is a masterpiece of understatement: “He rendered valued aid in the founding of this college.”


Mighty son of Kronos, marshal of thunderheads, father of gods and men.

Special thanks to Jim Kahan ’64, Gay Walker ’69, Patty MacRae ’71, Lauren Lassleben ’75, John Sheehy ’82, Sally Brunette ’83, Tonio Andrade ’92, Ian Gillingham ’94, Catherine Hinchliff ’10, Brandon Hamilton ’11, Lucy Bellwood ’12, Randall S. Barton, Ted Katauskas, Stacey Kim, Mark Kuestner, Laurie Lindquist, Kevin Myers, and Aimée Sisco for their outstanding contributions. Errors and omissions are the fault of Chris Lydgate ’90. Please send clarifications, corrections, or seething jeremiads here.

Tags: Reed History, Performing Arts, Academics, Professors, Alumni, Campus Life, Business, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Giving Back to Reed, Research, Cool Projects, Diversity/Inclusion, Students, Financial Aid, Sports & Adventures, International