Farewell, Mela!

Alumni wrangler Mela Kunitz ’87 retires after 20+ years of service to Reed.

February 20, 2020

(Editor’s Note: After 20+ years of service to Reed, longtime alumni wrangler Mela Kunitz ’87 retired in December. This is adapted from her speech to assembled faculty, staff, and alumni at her going-away party.)


Here are the Top 10 things that I loved about working at Reed:

#10. Golf carts whizzing across campus to check on event set-ups, caterings, and everything in between.

#9. Our spectacular campus with the stunning canyon (thank you Zac Perry) and the sparkling front lawn adorned with giant pinwheels at Renn Fayre or decked out with a ferris wheel and hot air balloon at Reunions ’11. Magic happens from time to time.

#8 Meat Smoke, who keep the feast thriving with steadfast persistence and gastronomic love. Much thanks to Andy McLain ’92, Bear Wilner-Nugent ’95, Rob Mack ’93, Amy Hesse ’03, and crew.

#7 Student workers, who grew into Reedies becoming devoted volunteers like Kristen Earl ’05, Melissa Osborne ’13, and Jinyoung Park ’11.

#6 Faculty, who are always game to speak at alumni events and patiently guide zealous Q&As.

#5 Collaboration. I’ve been so very fortunate to partner with staff and faculty in the MRC; archives, gift planning; Information services; CEP; computing; CLBR; student engagement; res life; the history, music, poli sci, and theatre departments; admission; the president’s office; the bookstore; HR; and student life. Thanks for fighting the good fight with me!

#4 Alumni. With their fierce loyalty to each other and to Reed. Thank you for your tireless volunteer work and your loving support of Reed. There are too many alumni from the 1930s through the 2020s to name, so let me touch on some of their amazing projects. They:

  • imagined Centennial Reunions,
  • fashioned alumni college,
  • created the alumni board’s DIC committee,
  • synchronized class volunteers,
  • imagined new signature events,
  • steered chapter committees,
  • provided the wisdom of past presidents,
  • guided the alumni board,
  • revamped prexy,
  • directed the Foster-Scholz Club Steering Committee,
  • captured alumni stories,
  • designed reunion images,
  • delighted us with their melodies,
  • and so much more . . . 

We Reedies keep you on your toes, ask a lot of questions, and may exasperate you from time to time poking holes in arguments and asking for clarification. But we will keep turning it up to 11! Keep reaching out to older and younger alumni, donors and non-donors, BA-Xers and grads, and engaged and not yet engaged. Give them time. Who provides a great suggestion, makes a large gift, or becomes a stellar volunteer may surprise you.

#3—Events and projects. I will mention just a few:

  • Centennial Reunions ’11, a packed week with dazzling fireworks, a tent the size of a football field; 2,635 attending; and put on by an Alumni Relations staff of four.
  • These burgundy staff and faculty name badges began with Kristin Holmberg and I pushing for them, department by department.
  • Alumni Relations became Alumni & Parent Relations, and we grew the parent program to what it is today with Parent Orientation, Parent & Family Weekend, and the parent directory.
  • This nice jewish girl put on a Christmas dinner, selecting a theme, guiding the boar’s head procession, and keeping all the merry elves headed in the same direction at the Alumni Holiday Party.
  • I went through four clipboards, countless binder clips, three cell phones, plenty of choice swearwords, many miles run, weekly baked goods to soothe the wild beasts, and numerous baskets of chocolate and candy.

#2 Alumni Relations. Much gratitude to:

  • The Olde Reed of Florence Walls Lehman ’41, Caroline Horner Locher-Stein ’67, Laura Paxson ’80, Laura Miller ’92, Marsha Large, Kathy Rose, Harriet Watson, Nadine Fiedler ’88, Rachel Fredericks, and Alison Olsav.
  • The Many Reunions Ringers and Annual Fund/Alumni Programs staff over the last 3 1/2 Years: Mary, Katie ’04, Breesa ’01, Carlie ’13, Akilah, Jenn, Meg, Jeremy, Haley ’17, Marina, Alex ’12, Wendell ’13, Tanya, Erin, Anne, Sabrina ’18, Olga, Claire ’19, Amy ’03, Rachel, and Calyx ’17.
  • And to my people:
  • Mike Teskey, honorary alumnus: who drove me crazy with missed deadlines, balancing my details with his brainstorming. More than “just details” or the big picture; it’s the full picture, which we created. Mike asked me at my three-month review if I was having fun; I did.
  • Robin Tovey ’97, aka the velvet hammer: who edited so many of my words, kept me looking put together, and provided recaps of the events I couldn’t get to.
  • Todd Hesse: who made me laugh teasing me like the brother I never had, always had my back, and was the best rant-listener prepping for events over baked goods.
  • Rob Rutledge-Shryock ’12: who calmly guided us, devised innovative events, and creatively motivated alumni.
  • Christine Hanolsy: who knew exactly what I was going to say, starting at her interview, patiently answered alumni questions, and brought so much laughter and graciousness.
  • They could read my expression from across the room and know exactly what I was thinking, who I spoke to in shorthand, and who became family.

You have my heart!

#1 Staff. I could always reach out to coworkers across campus with any questions from the bookstore, to student life, to the president’s office, and so many more. For grammar and clarification, news and pubs (now public affairs). So very often, I called CEP. Heartfelt thanks to the team. A shout out to Leah E., Leah M., Megan Callero, and Todd Pangilinan. Finally, much appreciation to my lunch buddies for your friendship and support. Our talks provided much needed decompression and merriment. And one led to the Reed Community Pantry. I’m passing the torch to Santi Alston, David Gruber, and Amy Schuckman to continue the humor, sarcasm, and cross-divisional lightning in a bottle.

Staff are intentionally #1 on my list because we are the ones behind the curtain like in The Wizard of Oz:

  • directing college celebrations during good times,
  • navigating difficult staff transitions, and
  • rising together after many spring semester crises.

My role was dealing with 5,001 details and herding cats. John Sheehy ’82 so aptly described it as: “weaving together the many threads that comprise the alumni body, a group that famously resists all attempts to fall into line.”

Please raise your glasses high. It has been my great honor to work at Reed College. Thank you all so very much, and . . . Love Reed!

Tags: Alumni