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Teacher for the deaf

Arthur Orbison Washburn ’57

A picture of Arthur Washburn

Arthur Orbison Washburn ’57, September 29, 2010, in Del Norte, Colorado.

Art grew up in Denver and enjoyed writing short stories in high school. While serving in the air force, he won a short story contest sponsored by the Air Force Times. From then on, he wrote stories and poems whenever he could.

Art spent three years at Reed; he edited the Quest, majored in philosophy, and wrote his thesis on the medieval theologian Richard Hooker. He also learned calligraphy from Lloyd Reynolds [English and art, 1929-69]; he practiced and taught the craft throughout his life. After Reed, Art dedicated himself to the education of the deaf.

He earned an MS in education from Gallaudet College, and a PhD from Columbia Pacific University, and taught deaf children for 45 years. Art taught at the state schools for the deaf in Colorado and Maine; at Riverside Community College in California, the Community College of Denver, and the University of Northern Colorado Lab School in Greeley; and in several public schools. He promoted the use of sign language for preschool children, taught workshops and classes, and wrote A Seeing Essential English Thesaurus.

Art's prose and poetry were published in three collections: Shadowmaker, with poetry depicting scenes from the San Luis Valley in California; Miss Lavington's Bomb, a collection of short stories and poetry; and Eye of the Heart. “Although philosophy did not frame my present career, all my life-thinking comes from Reed, from the broad regions of thought engendered there,” Art wrote. “And I cannot imagine what this thoughtful life would have been without the Reed experience.” “He was very proud of his time at Reed and felt that he had the best education,” said his wife, Pauline Greiner Washburn, to whom he was married for over 39 years. “He never failed to bring that into conversation, and talk about Reed with young people who he thought could benefit from an education there.”

Art was a faithful supporter of Reed and sent us several beautifully calligraphed letters, which adorn the editor's office to this day. Three weeks before he died, he spent an hour sharing his knowledge of calligraphy with a good friend. A celebration of Art's life took place, at which some of his paintings, calligraphy, and photographs were on display, in Del Norte in December 2010. There were readings from his books, and one of his poems, set to music by friends, was performed for the occasion.

Survivors include his wife; sons Christopher, Peter O. Washburn ’87, Eric, Kirk, and Jon; nine grandchildren; and a brother.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2011

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