In Memoriam

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William Joseph Kirsch ’50

William Joseph Kirsch ’50, March 25, 2009, in New York City, following a heart attack and stroke. From an oral history interview with Leslie K. Overstreet ’71 in 2004, we learned that Bill received his early education in an eight-grade, one-room school in Northern Wisconsin. The teacher boarded with Bill's family in their large farmhouse. Bill spent a year in the ROTC at River Falls State Teachers College in Wisconsin. In 1942, he entered active duty and served in the mechanized cavalry in Europe. “There I met a man who'd been at Reed, John MacKenzie ’50, and it sounded like a place I wanted to go. And I guess it sounded like that to a couple other people, too, because Gene Overstreet ’49 and Bill Baker ’50, who were comrades-in arms, also went there.” While in the army, Bill Kirsch also studied natural sciences and calculus at Pasadena Junior College, and then entered Reed with advanced standing. Intent on joining the diplomatic corps, he studied Russian and humanities, and received a BA from Reed in economics. “I think the academic value was in the freedom, in the tremendously passionate activists, in the political and economic world. We held very strong views, and today, you know, some of them just make my hair curl.” His friend Franz Friedrich ’50 suggested that Bill come to New York. Franz remembers: “We had known each other at Reed having met in 1946, and later shared an apartment on 1414 Lambert Street in Sellwood with other friends in ’49 and ’50.” Bill earned an MBA from New York University in 1963, and worked at the Institute of International Education. Later, Richard H. Sullivan, former president of Reed [1956–67], and then chairman of the board of the (Carnegie) Foundation Center, hired Bill in 1972 as foundation treasurer. Bill's career as vice president of administration and finance and treasurer lasted 18 years. In retirement, he enjoyed travel, especially to Hawaii and Mexico. Survivors include his sister and his friend, John Ballis.

Appeared in Reed magazine: November 2009

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