Professors playing dice

Distinguished professors R.K. Strong, Monte Griffith, L.E. Griffin, and F.L. Griffin were captured apparently shooting dice in the Arts and Sciences Building (now Eliot Hall) in this photo taken in spring 1932 by F.F. Coleman ’29. Does anyone care to suggest what’s going on here? Many thanks to David C. Coleman ’60 for sending us the photo.

Carnival of Errors


From the Editor: Readers across the globe alerted us to a carnival of errors in the last magazine. In “Quadrivial Pursuit.” on the multiple choice, the answer to question 2 was mismarked as A, the 1968 occupation of Eliot Hall; in fact, it should have been B, students wanted a black studies program. Second, we said that Prof. Stanley Moore refused to appear before HUAC; in fact, he did appear but refused to answer questions. Third, we claimed that the Columbus Day Storm of 1962 was divine retribution for Reed staging a mock crucifixion at a football game; however, it appears more likely that if divine retribution was involved, it was caused by Reed thumping the team from Columbia Christian 19-7 (historical evidence suggests that the mock crucifixion was staged in 1959). Fourth, in “Prime Exponent,” we mangled an equation, thereby inadvertently overstating Prof. Joe Roberts’ stay at Reed by 192 years. Finally—finally—we ran the wrong photo of Vern Rustala ’56. We extend our apologies for the errors and our gratitude to everyone who wrote to us about them.

UnMoored from Our Bearings


The editor’s admonition (“Letters,” December 2012) that “the roads of human history (do not) invariably converge on the Stanley Moore affair” might be more effective if he avoids publishing more disinformation about the late professor of philosophy. When he does so, I’m obliged to call on us to set off again down that perilous road. In the “Quadrivial Pursuit” challenge heralded on Reed’s cover (September 2014) you ask, “What did professor Stanley Moore do in 1954?” Unfortunately, the answer you designated correct, “Refused to appear before the then-popular House Un-American Activities Committee,” is as wrong as the other humorous choices. Prof. Moore [1948–54] did appear on June 2, 1954, in Washington, D.C., before HUAC, whose committee members demanded to know whether he was a Communist in California in 1947 or in 1954 and whether he ever taught at the California Labor School. He refused to submit to their political interrogation on constitutional grounds. When Moore was asked if he intended to return to Reed that fall, he cautiously replied, “The option is mine. I have, for whatever it is worth these days, ‘tenure.’” Moore later maintained his refusal to engage in similar questioning when demanded by the Reed trustees, and a baker’s dozen of them fired him after rejecting the nearly unanimous advice of the faculty, students, and alumni of the time. Now that those facts are once again settled, we must await a similar backdoor opportunity to remind the Reed community of its owners’ capitulation to McCarthyism and their violation of academic freedom.

—Michael Munk ’56

Portland, Oregon

Prime Exponent


As a budding physics major, I took Math 11 in 1955 as one of my first required courses. It was common knowledge that the Reed math courses were not going to help us solve physics problems, so practical math also was taught. I never did well at math department offerings. I believe my supreme agony occurred under Prof. Joe Roberts’ patient nurturing the following year). Nevertheless, I did learn some useful rules along the way. Let me stylize 2 squared as 2^2 and 2 cubed as 2^3 = 2 x 2 x 2. The article “Prime Exponent” noted that Prof. Roberts retired after teaching 2^(2^3) - 2 years. However, 2^3 is 2 x 2 x 2 = 8, and 2^8 now becomes 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 256, so 2^8 - 2 = 254 years. I’d like to think that the purity of mathematics could lead to such longevity, but suspect that what you meant was (2^2)^3, or (2 squared) to the 3rd power = (4 x 4 x 4), or 64 – 2 = 62. With exponents you work backwards, or downwards, from the last one. Simple as this all seems, it is perhaps one of the few times I did anything correct with reference to math and Reed.

—Roger Moment ’59
Longmont, Colorado


Our postman brought the September 2014 Reed magazine to our house on his motorcycle this morning. Skimming through, I noticed something rather odd in the article about Prof. Joe Roberts: he taught at Reed for 254 years! Yes, that is the figure indicated in the subtitle, because 2 cubed = 8 and thus 2 to the 8th minus 2 = 256 - 2 = 254. Then again, perhaps we should be embarrassed, rather than amazed, that the writer, headline editor, and you all seemed to think 2 to the 2 to the 3 = 2 to the 6th or 64. This is what happens when our society at large disses basic calculation as mere “bean counting.”

—Martin Schell MAT ’77

Klaten, Central Java

Divest from Fossil Fuels


The trustees’ position on divestment (“Reed Won’t Divest,” September 2014) is not quite bullshit in the way Harry Frankfurt defined that term, but it’s awfully close. Note the claim that the board cannot divest from fossil fuels because, to quote Reed’s account, its “primary investment objective is to safeguard the value of the endowment so that it can support the mission of the college.” This is neoliberal claptrap designed to make us feel good about doing something unconscionable in pursuit of a higher ROI. (The same plea served to justify continued investment in apartheid-era South Africa in the 1980s.) It also is simply false: when implemented in so narrow and self-serving a way, the trustees’ objective still arguably violates the mission of the college, since Reed’s investments currently contribute to environmental depredation and, in so doing, militate against the welfare not only of potential donors (i.e., future graduating classes) but also of the planet as a whole. 

I see little evidence of Reed’s much-vaunted difference at a time when it actually matters. Rather, I see a kind of vague hope for complacency—a hope that is perhaps is most evident in statements by President Kroger concerning the commencement speech by Igor Vamos ’90 (“Grads Unleashed, Yes-Man Pulls Prank”). The speech did technically constitute a prank, but President Kroger’s remarks minimize the importance of Vamos’ actions and the cause in which he took them. To speak, as President Kroger did, of “a great guerrilla artist” is to construct a convenient pigeonhole, one that provides a convenient narrative by means of which readers may consider the matter closed: Igor misbehaves, rich people deny his claims, and then we all get back to business.

People should, as President Kroger notes, engage in “robust and far-ranging debate.” But the time for such debate regarding fossil-fuel investment has largely passed, particularly given how robust the science is concerning climate change. There’s nothing like genuine action, and in this case calling for debate is nothing like genuine action. Rather, it’s the sort of thing that has killed all kinds of environmentally and ethically sound ideas.

Better, I think, to keep people from getting back to business. It’s time to withhold donations to the Annual Fund, and to be clear why we do so. Reed’s endowment is large enough for the institution to behave in an ethically sound manner and still remain in rude health. As Vamos said in his speech, “Do what you must.” 

—Bret Rothstein ’89
Bloomington, Indiana


In the September issue of Reed magazine,  Roger Perlmutter ’73, chairman of the board of trustees, announced that Reed would not divest its $500 million endowment from fossil fuels as requested by the student group Fossil Free Reed. It appears that the main reasons for this decision are 1) that morality should not intrude on financial decisions, and 2) that divestment could have a negative impact on the earnings of the endowment. I disagree that moral considerations should be excluded from financial decisions, but my argument here is that the trustees appear to have overlooked two major risks involved in refusing to divest from fossil fuels.

First, the value of fossil fuel stocks is based in large part on their holdings of known fossil fuel reserves. Current expenditures by oil companies are heavily weighted to acquiring even more reserves. Yet the best scientific consensus is that 70% to 80% of currently proven reserves must remain untapped if the planet is to avoid catastrophic runaway warming. The risk is that, at some point, the obvious impacts of global warming will trigger action to limit fossil fuel use. Deduct the value of the unusable reserves (stranded assets) and the stocks will be seen to be grossly overvalued. The cynical response would be that we should wait and enjoy the profits now before dumping the stocks, but since many stockowners will have that same strategy, a run might happen faster than the stocks could be profitably dumped.

Second, this risk is unique to Reed and other institutions of higher education. Alumni of the generation that occupied Eliot Hall to demand a divestment from South Africa are reaching an age when they are making legacy decisions. A decision to leave a portion of their estate to Reed would be equivalent to leaving a legacy of support to the fossil fuels industry. Given the recent decision not to divest, it is a certainty that some will decide to make other choices for their legacy donations, choosing instead to stand with Fossil Free Reed and the future generations that must live with the results of our decisions. The amount of this risk is impossible to determine, but it could be very large.

The board of trustees should reevaluate their decision not to divest in view of these risks. I believe the wise decision would be to proceed with an orderly divestment. 

—Roger Gadway ’67
White Salmon, Washington


Until Reed implements a plan to divest from fossil fuels, I will not be making any more gifts to the college. The need to limit climate change and its disastrous effects is a “widely held . . . moral position.” In fact, it is “almost universally held” by those who are not in outright denial of the evidence. Is Reed College still a progressive institution? My gifts to date have been small, but I promise that when Reed has begun divesting with a reasonable time table, I will increase them by at least five times.

—John Gusdorf ’67

Taos, New Mexico

Editor's Note: I sense little disagreement among Reedies about whether burning coal, oil, and gas is making the planet hotter. There is, however, genuine disagreement about whether divestment is an effective way to fight global warming. It seems to me that our esteemed correspondents do not squarely face one of the trustees’ central concerns—whether divestment might erode academic freedom at Reed. The bitter lesson of the Stanley Moore affair is that academic freedom is threatened when Reed takes an institutional stance on a political issue. Is fossil-fuel divestment such an issue? Will divesting from fossil fuels lead to pressure for divestment based on other issues? Does the decision not to divest constitute a political stance? Does any of this pose a genuine threat to academic freedom? Arguments on these points will be more persuasive to the trustees, I suspect, than calls to boycott the Annual Fund.

Neahkahnie Mystery



The Eliot kids in spring 1919, at the W.G. Eliot vacation cottage in Hood River, Oregon (left to right): William G. Eliot III ’19, Calista Eliot ’20, Craig Eliot ’24, Ruth Eliot ’21, Mignon Eliot ’22, and Ted Eliot ’21.

In the latest issue of the Reed magazine, I read the letter to the editor “Etched into the Rocks.” The author, a parent of a current Reed student, alludes to carved initials on Neahkahnie Mountain: “T.S. + M.E. Eliot, 1925.” He was wondering who they might have been. This piqued my curiosity, so I looked through the T.L. Eliot family file this morning and found a possible answer. My best guess is Theodore Sessinghaus Eliot ’21 married to Mignon Hoover Eliot ’22—Ted was T.L. Eliot’s grandson and William G. Eliot Jr.’s son. 

—Mark Kuestner

Special Collections, Reed Library