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reed magazine logoAutumn 2008

Convocation—Class of 2012


On the afternoon of August 27, President Colin Diver welcomed an incoming class that represents a significant landmark for Reed. “You are, in a rather literal sense, the centennial class at Reed College,” said Diver. “The college was established in 1908 under the will of Amanda Reed, and it opened its doors to its first entering class in 1911. So, you arrive here exactly 100 years after our creation.”

Noting the youth of most incoming students (ages range from 16 to 44), Diver wondered at the achievements of such child progenies as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Blaise Pascal. “So, what have you done with your life?” he asked, to cheerful applause. “My guess is that every one of you has within you the germ of a question or a crazy idea that can—believe it or not—change your world,” he said. “Our job is to help you nurture and develop that germ, to give you the tools, and the perspective, and the knowledge, and the chutzpah to turn a nagging question into an insight. To turn an insight into an idea. To turn a crazy idea into an obvious idea.”


  • Freshman 330, from 20 countries and 39 states, plus the District of Columbia
  • Women 195
  • Men 135
  • Reporting an ethnic background 92
  • International 23
  • First generation college students 38
  • Most common girl’s name (Emily) 7
  • Most common boy’s name (Matthew) 7
  • Most common surname (Lee) 4, followed by (Edwards) 3
  • Mothers named Susan 16
  • Fathers named Michael 18
  • Students named Matthew Edwards whose mother is named Susan and father is named Michael 1
  • Students with the email name “Flamingsporkofdoom” 1

This year’s winner of the Howard Vollum Award for Science and Technology is a case in point. Dr. B. Kenneth Koe ’45, along with Pfizer chemist Willard Welch, developed the antidepressant Zoloft. Introduced to the U.S. market in 1992, Zoloft has become the most prescribed antidepressant in the country, with 29,000,000 prescriptions given in 2007. Koe is the fifth Reedie to receive the award, established in 1975 in honor of C. Howard Vollum ’36 and presented each year to a scientist at opening convocation ceremonies. Winners are selected for their perseverance and creativity in the field.

“I and my colleagues have been awed and gratified that we have discovered a world-class drug that helps sick people,” Koe said.

Another perennial of Convocation, the Odyssey lecture, was given by English professor Gail Berkeley Sherman. Her presentation, “Echoes of Ancient Laughter,” gave a new interpretation of laughter in Homer’s Odyssey. “Laughter can signal, possibly even enable, new life, new growth and change…at Reed or wherever our own odysseys take us,” Sherman said.

Reed welcomed 368 new students—including 330 freshmen, 29 transfers, and 9 exchange students—at its 98th annual convocation. The event, which took place on the south lawn, began with a procession of the current faculty, followed by introductory remarks from Diver; Jerlena Griffin-Desta, vice president and dean of student services; Paul Marthers, dean of admission; Lisa Manson ’09, orientation-week coordinator; and Molly King ’09, student body president.

reed magazine logoAutumn 2008