Recent Obituaries
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Mark (Peter) Shaffer ’61

January 8, 2022, in Eureka, California.

Born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Mark moved with his family to the Los  Angeles area when he was seven. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, he made lifelong friends, among them Reed classmate Bob Ross ’61.

In high school he worked in theatre productions as stage manager and in set construction, discovered Eastern European and Israeli folk dancing, and developed a left-leaning interest in politics. He found ample scope for all these inclinations  at Reed. His interest in the German language, travel, and world affairs was greatly expanded during a summer abroad, where he experienced the Soviet-sponsored World Youth Festival in Vienna  and visited Eastern European countries.

Prof. Kaspar Locher [German 1950–88] advised Mark’s thesis on Robert Musil’s novel Der Mann ohne  Eigenschaften, and recommended that he pursue German studies rather than English literature in  graduate school. Mark received his MA in German from the University of Chicago.

In 1966, he began his life work, teaching German language and literature at Humboldt State College (soon to be Humboldt State University, and now Cal Poly Humboldt) in Arcata, California. He organized international student exchanges, started a tradition of language retreats in a youth hostel, went with a colleague to guide student groups in Germany, and taught or helped his colleagues teach innovative courses on European literature and culture.

After retiring in 1998, Mark pursued lifelong interests with renewed energy. He became a member of Humboldt Folk Dancers and bicycled with a group of friends,  exploring Humboldt highways and back roads. With his wife, Maggie, he traveled widely, notably to Mexico, Greece, and Vietnam, where the two taught  English under the auspices of Global Volunteers. He was married for 59 years to his Reed classmate, Margaret Oake Shaffer ’61, who survives him, as do his daughter, Erika, and son, Andrew.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2022

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