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Thomas W. Casstevens ’59

February 12, 2022, in Spokane, Washington, from heart failure.

Tom was born in Missouri and lived most of his formative years in Iowa. He came to Reed from Washington, D.C., where he graduated from Capitol Page School after serving as a page in Congress and previously in the Iowa state legislature. 

Tom was active in student government and campus politics at Reed and lived in what he called “the Cardboard Castle,” the old Foster-Scholz dorms fashioned from World War II barracks, which stood above where the science buildings are today. He wrote his thesis, “British Political Elites: A Study of Selected Social and Political Characteristics,” advised by Prof. John Rue [political science 1958–60].

Tom also met his future wife, Jeanne Savery ’60, at Reed. Both came from Iowa, and Tom had hoped to meet Jeanne after seeing her picture among the incoming freshman photos at the college switchboard. They married while at Reed, leaving after Tom’s graduation to go to Michigan State University, where Tom earned a doctorate in political science and Jeanne completed a BA in psychology.

As a graduate student in Michigan, he met Gerald Ford at the 1960 state convention in Grand Rapids. At the time, Ford was interested in ideas for how he might “politely squeeze” Nixon to put him on the ticket as a running mate. Tom suggested that Ford try a last-minute effort to get write-in votes in Oregon as a way of raising his profile—an idea that got Ford’s attention but probably came too late. Over the ensuing years, one of Tom’s students rose to a position in the Ford White House, from where he would call occasionally for advice.

“He would ring me up and ask about this, that, and the other thing,” said Tom. “Our younger daughter would answer the phone and call down the hall, ‘Daddy, Daddy, it’s the White House calling.’”

​​Tom’s subsequent academic career was mainly as a professor of political science at Oakland University in Rochester Hills, Michigan, where he taught for more than 30 years. Originally interested in “mathematical political science,” Tom gradually shifted his focus from the American government to international governments and politics.

He became a Fulbright Scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India, during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency. He went on to tour India and southeast Asia, lecturing for the United States Information Service, then returning to the United States. In the mid-’80s, Tom served as special advisor to the administrator in the U.S. Agency for International Development in Washington, D.C. In that position, he traveled across north Africa and into Turkey. He and Jeanne later spent time at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia.

They loved to travel, and one of their most memorable journeys together was dubbed the “Hum 11 cruise,” which took them  to Venice and as far east as Odessa via Istanbul before concluding in Athens at the foot of the Parthenon. They later took the transatlantic cruise they had dreamed of since their undergraduate days at Reed.

Jeanne preceded Tom in death. He is survived by his two daughters, Willa J. Casstevens ’82 and Margot L. Casstevens.

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2022

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