Board chair Roger Perlmutter ’73 hands President Kroger vial of Canyon water.

Board chair Roger Perlmutter ’73 hands President Kroger vial of Canyon water.

Kroger Inaugurated—with Iliad

By Randall S. Barton | December 1, 2012

Amid the call of bagpipes and the flourish of horns, roughly 1,500 people descended on campus in September to welcome John Kroger as Reed’s 15th president. 

Under the big top on the Great Lawn, Roger Perlmutter ’73, chair of the board of trustees, invested Kroger with the trappings of office—including a copy of the Iliad and a bottle of spring water drawn from the Reed canyon—in a grand inauguration ceremony.

Student body president Brian Moore ’13 hailed Kroger as “the ultimate prospie” for his infectious enthusiasm for all things Reed and for enrolling in Hum 110.

Delivering the keynote address, Bryn Mawr College President Jane McAuliffe called America’s elite liberal arts colleges a national treasure. “It is a rare privilege to attend a liberal arts college and be immersed in a collaborative learning experience with faculty,” McAuliffe said. “It is a sacred trust to sustain and enhance the qualities of such a place, and in John Kroger Reed has found a president worthy of that trust.”

In his inaugural address, Kroger took issue with the proposition that a liberal arts education isn’t practical. “At the end of the day the world needs more people who can think outside the box,” Kroger said. “The most practical education you can have is one that doesn’t prepare you for your first job. It prepares you for the next 60 years of your life.”

Kroger said that liberal arts colleges are coming under siege both from technology and from equality. The expense of such an education puts it out of reach of most American families, but thanks to the generosity of friends and alumni, 50% of Reed students receive financial aid, with the average award exceeding $36,000 a year. Roughly 19% of this year’s freshman class qualify for Pell Grants.

Concluding that much of American higher education is on a misguided trajectory, Kroger said he was thrilled to be at a college where people cared more about the physics department than the football team (a remark that provoked lusty cheers from the physics department).

Students and alumni welcomed Kroger as only Reedies can. A gargantuan rolling Griffin materialized in front of Old Dorm Block courtesy of master mechanic Rob Mack ’93. Senior Marie Perez ’13 drove  a homemade double-decker bus—a Blue Bird schoolbus with a VW Van welded on top of it—with a massive poster proclaiming “WELCOME KROGER!” New Orleans bluesman Davis Rogan ’90 played a blistering set in the Quad as students, alumni, and distinguished visitors generally made merry. Later in the evening students massed in front of Eliot chanting “KRO-GER! KRO-GER!” before a dazzling display of fireworks.

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