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Carol Margaret Burns ’62

A picture of Carol Burns

Carol Margaret Burns ’62, April 22, 2014, in Olympia, Washington. A resident of Olympia who longed for an academic challenge equivalent to her abilities, Carol entered Reed in 1956 and was well rewarded for her college choice. During the winter break of her junior year, however, she was severely injured in an auto accident. Recovery slowed her progress at Reed in time only; she remained involved in the campus community and in Portland, and completed a degree in history, writing the thesis “The Polish Conflict and the Origins of the Second World War,” with Prof. Frank Fussner [history 1950–75]. Two faculty members stood out in her experience, she said in an interview with Joan Soderland ’70 in 2009: Vera Krivoshein [Russian 1949–72] and Dorothy Johansen ’33 [history 1934–84]. Carol was editor of the Quest and a resident adviser in Westport. “My most interesting activities were in association with [the student group] FOCUS,” she wrote. “We sponsored speakers from different socialist parties and progressive movements. We showed films. We presented performers, including Pete Seeger, Miriam Makeba, Brownie McGhee, and Paul Robeson. We joined the Portland organizations in demonstrating support of civil rights activities in the South and ‘Ban the Bomb’ against nuclear testing in the atmosphere.” She and others went to jail for demonstrating on behalf of striking newspaper guild workers at the Oregonian. 

“Most important of all,” she noted, “is the Reed education. I remember that our first reading assignment for humanities was from two sources describing how the transition occurred from tribal culture to what we call ‘civilization.’ It was not until the instructor began the discussion that I realized these were two different theories about the origin of civilization. There was not just one right answer. I can’t tell you how exciting this was to me!”

Carol did psychedelic light shows in Seattle, San Francisco, and New York in 1966–68 as part of the group the Union Light Company, earned an MA in communications from Stanford in 1970, and became a filmmaker. Her work includes the acclaimed documentary As Long as the Rivers Run, as well as Crimes of Imagination, PeaceTrees Vietnam, and Know Our People. She was a founding member of the organization that successfully advocated for public-access television in Olympia. In 1986–94, she worked for Thurston Community Television, and then returned to production work and to collaborate on a number of other projects. “I feel I have a fair amount to be proud of. I have in fact, in small ways, locally, fulfilled my original dream of enlarging people’s understanding,” Carol said. “The study of history is still a great background for any kind of journalism. It has to do with the experience of looking at conflicting sources of information and sorting out what makes sense, what doesn’t make sense, how you evaluate information, and how you then put it all together in a way that seems coherent.” Carol was passionate about the Russian language and its people, her flower garden, Green Cove Creek, and reading. Survivors include her daughter Lucia and son-in-law, David Bouffard; two grandsons, Cole and Adrian; and her brother, Roger.

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2014

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