REED HOME Gryphon icon
reed magazine logoAutumn 2007

Talkback: Reedies Respond to Times

On September 30, the New York Times Magazine published an article that asked hundreds of recent Reed alumni, as well as alumni of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan, to assess their undergraduate experience. Reed alumni from the classes of 2001–03 were solicited to participate; 381 Reedies completed the poll. Overall, Reed respondents expressed higher satisfaction with the quality and rigor of their education than did their peers at other schools. (See the article and complete poll results at:
.) In October, we emailed the article and poll results to all Reed alumni and asked them what they now most value about the education they received at Reed. Below are edited excerpts from some of the responses.

I’m starting to be able to say where I went to undergrad without explaining it. My Reed education was invaluable for developing critical thinking skills that I use daily at work. Reed provided the freedom to exercise my interest in running things—allowing me to handle a budget, organize events, and serve on the student senate.

—Amy Ulrich ’97

At the Alumni College I attended a dozen or so years ago, a number of us stayed in dorms. One memorable evening, people from different class years gathered in the common room. We asked something like: “What especially did you get from the Reed experience?” To a person, we all agreed that above all, “Reed taught me how to think.”

—Lu Ann Darling ’42

I recently gave a talk to a group of CASAs (volunteers who work as educational advocates for foster kids), and they asked where I’d gone to college. When I said Reed, there was a collective—and positive —“ooh” of recognition. I’m not used to that (either the recognition or the positive response). It’s a far cry from the reaction I got from an elderly Brandeis alum who told me, “Well, my granddaughter’s going to Reed and she used to be a nice girl. Now she’s come home with piercings and tattoos and a really bad attitude. But it looks like you turned out all right, so maybe there’s still hope for her.”

Debra Ginsberg ’85

My experience at Reed long ago may be somewhat different from the respondents for this article, but the distinctive use of the Socratic method was certainly in place, not only in small groups, but on the steps of the library, at lunchtime in the commons, and in various other places where students gathered. It was pretty different from our experience at Cornell where my husband, Frank ’43, was a professor for over 30 years. Few students appeared to be interested in discussions of ideas, class subjects, or other serious subjects, outside of their classes. Cornell is a fine university with a great variety of offerings for its 25,000 or so students, but there was very little focus on academics in their casual discussions with one another.

—Charlene Welsh Miller ’42

I get nightmares when I think of Reed. Please take me off your (e)mailing list.


Reed was very intensive, but I question how useful this sort of education is professionally in the work world. I like to think, innovate, and build; but there is so little place for this in the workplace and so much inertia and resistance to new ideas and change.

—Diran Majarian ’70

I’m teaching at a four-year school that seems far more interested in ratings and appearances than in actual learning. At Reed, there was rigor and challenge, and an assumption of independence. Here and now, these qualities seem very hard to come by, in a situation that seems more like customer service than education. This may be a trend—if so, rather dire—in education throughout the nation.

—Joel Zablow ’84

The only thing I would change about Reed was the fanatical assumption that “smart people” went on to graduate school. I went, as did many of my friends, only to find it wasn’t what I really wanted to do—but with no real idea of what I did want to do. Now, like the majority of other Reedies, I work in a completely different field than I studied and have realized how many paths there are for “smart people.” It would have been healthier, I think, to have realized that at age 21.

—Susan Snyder ’91

Every Reedie I have ever met has remarked on the sense of being at a place that was safe for the nonconformist, and largely accepting of everyone. Also, I was interested to see that 52 percent of Reedies found the school’s size to be very important—much more than the rest of the sample. Apparently, there continues to be a good market for the small, selective liberal arts college.

—Bill Nicholson ’78

reed magazine logoAutumn 2007