Win McCormack.
Win McCormack.
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Win/Win

Tin House founder and New Republic editor becomes Reed trustee.

By Randall S. Barton | May 23, 2018

Win McCormack first learned of Reed College as an undergraduate studying government at Harvard. He was intrigued with Reed’s celebrated reputation for having the largest number of Rhodes Scholars per capita of any college in the country. As Reed’s newest trustee, McCormack is interested in maintaining the storied quality of the college’s liberal arts curriculum.

“At various levels and in various places, liberal arts education is sort of under siege right now,” he says. “Reed is well situated to counter that. A liberal arts education teaches you to write; it teaches you to think. It gives you the ability to project yourself into other people and empathize with them. It makes life more enjoyable.”

 The founder and editor in chief of Tin House magazine and Tin House Books, McCormack is also the owner and editor in chief of New Republic magazine. Describing his path from Harvard to a career in publishing and politics, he concedes, “So many of the things that happen in life are accidents.”

 After getting his bachelor’s degree, he worked for three years teaching and doing social work. He decided he wanted to write, and, after visiting a friend at the University of Oregon, signed up for their masters of fine arts in creative writing program in 1970.

As he was finishing his MFA, someone suggested that he apply for a job running a congressional campaign in Oregon’s Fourth Congressional District. He got the job, and when the campaign was over, a coworker asked him for financial help in acquiring Oregon Times magazine. McCormack’s mother had just died, and, having inherited some money, he went into business with his friend. Though he had never contemplated being in the magazine business, he took to it with alacrity. He published Oregon Magazine from 1976 to 1988 and has been involved in publishing Oregon Business, Oregon Home, Travel Oregon, Military History Quarterly, and Art and Auction magazines.

In 1999, he founded Tin House, a literary magazine that has become enormously respected as a platform for writers starting their careers. In 2005, Tin House expanded into a book division. In addition to the many magazine articles he has written, McCormack has authored two books, including The Rajneesh Chronicles, about the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his followers. He won the William Allen White award for his investigative coverage of the Rajneesh cult from 1982 to 1986.

In 2003, Tin House began an annual summer writers’ workshop at Reed. The Great Lawn and the Cerf Amphitheatre were ideal venues for readings and literary discussions. At Tin House, McCormack got to know Reed through its graduates working as interns.

“I was always struck by the similarity between Reed students and Harvard students,” he says. “They had the same level of intelligence and intellectual curiosity that I found as an undergraduate at Harvard, more than other representatives of colleges that I’ve seen. The undergraduates at Reed are a very impressive group.” 

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