Alumni Profilesautumn2006

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Ellie Boettiger Seagraves ’49, Van Seagraves ’48, and Ruth Wetterborg Sandvik ’38

An Alaskan Reunion

While planning for an adventure in Alaska in June, Van (’48) and Ellie (Boettiger ’49) Seagraves contacted the Reed alumni office. Were any Reed grads living among the islands of Southeast Alaska? Yes, came the reply, there was one alumna in Petersburg (as it turned out, the home port for the boat they were to charter), Ruth Wetterborg Sandvik, Class of 1938.

“First, I asked our ship’s skipper if he knew Ruth and inquired about her health,” Van Seagraves writes. “He said everyone knows the ‘Purple Librarian,’ and she is sharp as a tack.” Seagraves explains that Sandvik has a preference for purple and dark blue, and for many years was the Petersburg High School librarian— hence the nickname. Her 90th birthday was a front-page feature in the Petersburg Weekly in February, and she credits a daily hour of Tai Chi for her physical and mental health.

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Ellie Boettiger Seagraves ’49 and her son, David Seagraves


While enjoying a blueberry buckle at Sandvik’s home (made from wild berries picked nearby), Sandvik reminisced about her years at Reed. She says Reed was controversial in 1934 when she graduated from Portland’s Grant High. A Presbyterian minister warned her mother, “Reed is a hotbed of communists, atheists, and free love.” (“And, I didn’t get any,” Sandvik told the Seagraves.) Sandvik was a day-dodger, like a majority of Reed students before World War II, and Lloyd Reynolds was one of her favorite teachers; she still practices her calligraphy today.

In 1941, Sandvik (then Wetterborg), moved to Petersburg—current population 3,300—to teach in the community, which was developed at the turn of the century by Norwegian fishermen. She met and married Oscar Sandvik, who owned commercial fishing boats. After their three children were grown, she returned to the high school as librarian.

Not content to check out books to Alaskan teenagers, Sandvik developed a sideline as a local DJ. With her friend, Alice Longworth, she hosted a show—“Hodge Podge”—from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Monday night on public radio station KFSK-FM. “We played big band music of the ‘30s and ‘40s, plus a variety of this and that,” Sandvik recounted several years ago in an interview for the Reed Oral History Project. The show, which debuted in the late 1970s, had a 26-year run on the air.

In addition to visiting Sandvik, the Seagraves’ expedition (with two sons and daughters-in-law also onboard) included an eight-day cruise aboard a 65-foot converted fishing boat among the islands off the Alaskan panhandle, where, by the way, they did not meet any additional Reedies. Now back home in Washington, D.C., Ellie Seagraves is involved with the Woman’s National Democratic Club, gardening, and reading, and Van says he stays out of trouble by “biking an 18-mile loop before breakfast, tending the vegetable garden, and attempting to make sufficient profits in the financial markets to share a little of it with Reed.”