Dan Greenberg ’62 (center) surrounded by Reed students who won the President’s Summer Fellowship, which was established by Dan and his wife, Susan Steinhauser, in 2012.
Dan Greenberg ’62 (center) surrounded by Reed students who won the President’s Summer Fellowship, which was established by Dan and his wife, Susan Steinhauser, in 2012.

Remembering a Titan of Reed

Entrepreneur Dan Greenberg served on the board of trustees for more than 45 years.

By Randall S. Barton | March 12, 2021

Emeritus trustee Daniel Greenberg ’62, whose wise counsel and unwavering support guided the college for more than 45 years, died February 23, 2021, in Los Angeles, California.

Dan served on Reed’s board of trustees from 1975 to 2020, including eight years as chair. His careful stewardship, business acumen, and insistence on excellence helped transform every area of the college. During his tenure, admissions became more selective, graduation rates went up, the curriculum expanded, and many notable campus buildings were constructed. In 2009, as board chair, he launched the most ambitious fundraising campaign in Reed’s history, which attracted donations totaling more than $200 million.

“Being asked to join the Reed College Board of Trustees turned out to be one of the most exciting moments of my life,” Dan said. “I found Reed to be one of the most extraordinary places I’d ever known. Having the opportunity to serve as chairman of the board was something I dreamed about doing.”

By every measure, Reed grew vastly stronger during Dan’s time on the board. The endowment rose from $5.8 million to more than $600 million, the faculty expanded from 91 professors to 145, and the six-year graduation rate improved from 43% to 77%.

“Dan joined the board at a very challenging time in Reed’s history, and his support and guidance can be felt throughout the college,” said President Audrey Bilger. “We will take time to remember Dan for his dedication to the college and his enthusiasm for its academic mission. For today, I will remember him for the kindness he showed me during my transition to Reed and for his boundless energy and intelligence. Reed is a better place because of him.”

Dan was born in 1941 in Minneapolis but moved to California when Dan’s father Mayer Greenberg [trustee 1971-74] joined Dan’s uncle Lou to form Telecor, a company that eventually became the distributor for Panasonic in the Western United States.

Dan’s mother, Ruth Greenberg, was an artist, conchologist, and lifelong traveller who sculpted in wood, traveled by canoe in the South Pacific, and ran the Tidepool Gallery in Malibu. A generous supporter of Reed, she established the Ruth C. Greenberg Chair of American Indian Studies. She also inspired Dan’s life-long interest in art; he is recognized as a major collector and contributor of art to J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art, California Institute of the Arts, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Corning Glass Museum, and many more.

Having skipped several grades, he started at Reed at the age of 17. His cousin had liked the college and Dan was looking for a school far enough away to prevent weekend visits home. “That was a must,” he said, “and I was looking for a place with some intellectual rigor.”

He found it. Reed was sparkling with brilliant minds exploring an intense curriculum. Dan was one of the first students to move into the new Cross Canyon dorms, where he lived all four years. He quickly encountered leading faculty. His “dorm dad” was Prof. John Hancock [chemistry 1955–89], and he reveled in conferences led by Prof. Rex Arragon [history 1923­–74]. “He would pierce you with his eyes and ask if you were prepared to participate in discussion,” Dan remembered. “You really got your hands around some of the material, and it was a great experience learning how to participate in a fundamentally different kind of way.”

“Dan was a man of many dimensions,” said his classmate and fellow trustee Don Engelman ’62. “Art, flowers, wine, and food commanded his attention and drove his activities along with a zeal for service and strength as a businessman.  His art collections in glass, photography, wood, and ancient jade have seeded many leading museum collections, and his garden blossoms with orchids, begonias, fuschias and ranunculus. He was fond of treating his friends to fine meals with excellent wine, and delighted when the food was completely consumed. My anticipation of future times with him must now devolve to the fond memories I will carry forever.”

He wrote his thesis, “A Study of the American Radical Right: 1961–1962,” advised by Prof. Kalesh Dudharkar [political science 1959–88] and went on to law school at the University of Chicago. While he was in Chicago, President Kennedy was assassinated. The martyred president’s inaugural call, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country,” set a tone for the times.

“I was part of a generation,” Dan said, “who really believed that service to one’s country was paramount.” After law school he served in the air force reserve, then worked as an attorney with the California Department of Water Resources. This experience sparked a lifelong passion for protecting the environment; he later served on the board of EarthJustice and other nonprofits.

At the urging of his father’s business partners, he joined Telecor as president in 1967. Before long, he turned a Telecor subsidiary named Electro Rent into one of the nation’s largest companies in the business of short-term rental and leasing of personal computers, engineering workstations, and electronic test equipment.

Susan Steinhauser entered his life in 1974 and was welcomed to Reed when President Paul Bragdon and Nancy Bragdon hosted their engagement party. Susan and Dan’s marriage in 1985 formalized a dynamic partnership that included visits to the campus, generally three times a year, often by both Susan and Dan.

Dan played many crucial roles as trustee. He served as chair of the board; member of the executive committee; and member of presidential search committees in 1991 (President Steve Koblik), 2001 (President Colin Diver), and 2012 (President John Kroger). He and Susan provided leadership and financial support to Reed’s campaigns, which would not have succeeded without their advocacy and generosity. Their support was instrumental to several essential programs and initiatives, including the environmental studies program; the Performing Arts Building; the Gray Campus Center renovation project; the President’s Summer Fellowship; the Greenberg Distinguished Scholar Program; technology infrastructure; admission; and the Annual Fund.  

In April 2020, the board honored Dan with the title of trustee emeritus: 

During some of the college’s—and the nation’s—most tumultuous economic times, Dan stepped in with confidence and optimism... A candid and compassionate voice, Dan provided common sense, a focus on results, and historical perspective. Dan has kept the board and the administration focused on Reed’s academic mission and its fundamental commitment to student learning. This ethos informed his wise counsel, leadership, and unwavering support. He cared deeply for the board as a whole, working diligently during his time as chairman to strengthen the Trusteeship Committee, and remained an important voice in governance issues as a member of the committee during the remainder of his time on the board… On behalf of the entire Reed community, the Board of Trustees gratefully recognizes the dedicated service and extraordinary leadership of Daniel B. Greenberg ’62 by conferring upon him the status of trustee emeritus. 

At the heart of Dan’s engagement with the college was his faith in the power of Reed’s educational model and his hope that the intense intellectual environment would support students as well as challenge them. He often recalled how many of his classmates left Reed before they graduated, and he loved the opportunity to help students succeed. His final gift to Reed will establish the Greenberg Steinhauser Summer Fellowship for students to engage in ambitious summer projects and the Greenberg Steinhauser Research Fund to support student-faculty collaborative research.

Dan is survived by his wife, Susan, and his brother, Philip Greenberg.


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