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Dorothy Shumann Stearns ’45

A picture of Dorothy Shumann Stearns

Dorothy Schumann Stearns ’45, July 21, 2013, in Portland. Dorothy grew up in a German-speaking family in Sellwood and attended Lincoln High School, where she met many students who went on to study with her at Reed, including her good friend Aileen Young Yip ’45. “I felt right at home in the humanities and I also had absolutely no problem with math,” Dorothy said in an interview in 2004. “Dr. Griffin [F.L., mathematics 1911–56] used to make little poems. I just loved that math class.” She suffered from amblyopia, which proved challenging when studying long hours or earning P.E. credit in conventional ways. Evelyn R. Hasenmayer [physical education 1930–46] allowed her to fulfill the P.E. requirement with daily walks home. Dorothy enjoyed classes with Victor Chittick [English 1921–48] and loved his modern literature course. “I did not enjoy writing the thesis but, of course, I got it done in record time. It was not long. It was done on exactly the day it was due. On that day the death of Hitler was announced. And I was coming to Reed from the bus stop and Madame C.L.M. Pouteau [French 1934–49] was walking across the campus. She was quite a ways away from me and she was swinging a paper and I was the only person in sight, and she yells at me, ‘Hitler is dead. The war is over!’ It was just an unforgettable memory.” Dorothy and Aileen were Lloyd Reynolds’ [English & art 1929–69] first calligraphy students and they worked with Reynolds informally. “He hadn’t started a class yet, so we’d meet with him after school.” Dorothy also worked in the Hauser Library during her four years at Reed, including the first summer. By the second summer, she had taken Reynolds’ drafting class—she was the only woman in the class—and was hired in the drafting department at the Kaiser Shipyards in Vancouver, Washington. “At the end of the summer my father said, ‘You quit now and you go back to Reed. You’ll regret it all your life if you don’t.’ He was absolutely right.” Dorothy earned a BA in German and then went on to earn a certificate in business administration from Harvard-Radcliffe in 1949. She was later acknowledged as an alumna of the Harvard Business School and she remained friends with her peers in the program. She also earned an MSW at the University of Southern California in 1953 and did field work at the Los Angeles County Hospital polio ward. Another student in the master’s program was Gerry Stearns, who was attending school on the GI Bill. They married in Portland in 1954. Dorothy was a professional public servant for the state of Oregon in the ’50s. Her skill and drive enabled rapid progression through a variety of positions, including frontline caseworker, compliance investigator, and senior-level administrator. Dorothy and Gerry then moved to Berkeley for other positions in social services—Dorothy supervised first-year social work students at UC Berkeley, established new social service organizations and programs, and was a fair hearing officer for federal aid programs. They welcomed a son, Charles. In the ’80s, Dorothy worked as an arbitrator for human resources grievances at the UCB and volunteered as an arbitrator for the Better Business Bureau. Her skill and savvy earned her the bureau’s National Arbitrator of the Year award. Dorothy loved to travel, spearheading multiple trips to Europe. With her background in German and French, she never shied away from conversations with those she met; many conversations became part of her family’s lore. In 1996, Dorothy and Gerry returned to Portland and reestablished relationships in the community. Dorothy delighted in actively participating in Reed alumni dinners, lectures, and other social events, and in volunteering at the Portland Art Museum. Dorothy became a grandmother in 2001 and experienced the joy of imparting stories and love to her grandson. Survivors include Gerry, Charles, daughter-in-law Ellen, and grandson Max, who remember her as a forceful, playful, and caring individual who could be relied on to drink a single glass of wine and hold forth on the effect Goethe had on the work of Thomas Mann.

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2013

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