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Susan Hagmeier ’75

February 22, 2017, in Portland, Oregon, from metastatic breast cancer.

An advocate for progressive causes in Oregon, Sue posthumously received the Wayne Morse Volunteer of the Year Award for her political dedication and years of service to the Democratic Party in Oregon.

A lifelong Portlander, she graduated from Jackson High School and started at Reed. She didn’t finish her degree, but for 13 years worked as director of mountain sports in the PE department, teaching mountain climbing and cross-country skiing.

“I tried to make the climbing class part of a liberal education rather than just a PE class,” she said.  “I would give a talk about clean climbing and another one about weather science. You can just teach people how to climb, or you can instill some of the ethics involved in doing that. For instance, there was a climbing area that everybody uses for beginning climbers—Horsethief Butte out near The Dalles on the Washington side. Some of the petroglyphs in various places there are being erased by climbing shoes. I don’t think that any of my students would have done that, because we went around and looked at the petroglyphs and kind of decried that there was tension between those who said, ‘You should climb clean and leave things the way you found them,’ and those who said, ‘If you can’t climb it without hammering a few times into it then you have to hammer.’”

Sue also taught skiing at Mt. Hood Meadows, at Timberline, and for the Mazamas program, but remembered that teaching Reed students was different. “You could stand in front of them on a pair of skis, explain to them why a stem turn should work, and then they’d do it,” she said. “Those technical explanations that you usually couldn’t get away with were very effective with Reed students. I would explain the mechanics and it was what they wanted to hear! That was a piece that they had to have.”

Before Reed, Sue participated in the first women’s course offered by Pacific Crest Outward Bound (now Northwest Outward Bound School), where she later became a course instructor. She was also an instructional aide in a multihandicapped program for the Education Service District and a member of the Mazamas, and spearheaded countless family hiking and camping trips. When hiking with children, she advised, “If the goal is to get to the top of something, make sure it’s the right something.”

Inspired by her own children, Sue ran for the Portland Public Schools board in the 1990s, was elected, and served two terms. Thus began a political dedication that included serving for many years as the communications chair for the Multnomah County Democratic Party. She believed strongly in the power of government, as well as individual action, to make people’s lives better. Sue attended the 2012 Democratic National Convention as an Oregon delegate and worked in the state legislature as Senator Lew Frederick’s campaign chair and chief of staff. She found humor in the absurdity and daily grind of modern politics and life, and will be remembered for her dedicated service to making lives better.

She leaves behind two daughters, Emily Liedel Omier and Julia Liedel.

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2017

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