Dancing with Judy Massee


I appreciate all the stories you collected in the June issue for your remembrance of Judy Massee [dance director 1968-98]. I’d like to add one more. I studied with Judy in the ’70s. She gave me my first teaching job, but more importantly, gave me a sense that I could find a place in the dance world. At that time there were very few spaces on campus that would work for performance: we usually set up theatre lights and wings in the gymnasium for our department shows at the end of the term, but when Judy had the chance to bring a duet company to Reed for a performance she commandeered the student union for the weekend. We hauled our equipment in, climbing up the walls to hang lights and string cable, and then perched up in the balcony to run the show. At the end, after we’d loaded out all our gear, she was so pleased that we’d been able to transform the space into a “real” theatre. I’ve done almost every job you could name in dance, and many of the skills that I’ve used were jump-started by Judy Massee. I am still a grateful girl.

—Sandra Kurtz ’78

Seattle, Washington

I am delighted that dance, through Judith’s efforts, has found a place of respect at Reed. I had to leave Reed to become a dancer, but while there formed a lasting friendship with Trisha Brown [dance director 1958-68], who had just graduated from Mills. No facilities—but we did find a place to dance. We would sneak into the gym, with Richard Levin ’60, and improvise. I still relish the confusion, challenge, and delights of my time at Reed. It did not train me as a dancer or choreographer (The Electric Company, Grease). What it did do: taught me to think critically, access information, listen to others’ diverse opinions, gain a sense of self, and tackle the unknown. Trisha went on to become one of the most important innovators in modern dance. I went on to become the artistic, then executive director of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and later the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, where I had the privilege of supporting Trisha through commissions and presentation. By the way, another important contributor to the new dance movement, Simone Forti ’57, was a Reed alumna.

—Liz Lauter Thompson ’61

West Stockbridge, Massachusetts

The Art of the Conference


I was the lonely, only son of an Air Force command pilot when I attended Reed from 1965–69 as Vietnam and the anti-war movement were heating up. Lacking confidence and prone to reticence in large groups, I benefited in conferences by listening intently, but rarely participating. Owing to my isolation, the system was somewhat wasted on me at the time. The atmosphere in the room felt too judgmental toward my still developing, fragile world-view, so I got more from casual conversation and through personal relationships outside class. My professors were at once charismatic, energetic, insightful, well-versed, highly skilled verbally and some, even wise. Nonetheless, no one made me feel the way reading the dialogues of Plato did. 

The feature on “The Art of the Conference” in the September issue touches on ‘cultivating inclusiveness’—i.e. overcoming ‘feeling silenced’, maintaining an ‘encouraging environment’, providing a ‘forum for all voices’, balancing the ‘overly talkative’ student with those who rarely speak—but only tangentially. Prof. Minardi comes close when she talks about arranging the furniture differently, or dividing the class into smaller groups. Prof. Makley’s focus on ‘creating space’ for marginalized participants in such ‘high-stakes performances’ is right on. The group experience needs to be one of, not merely being ‘simultaneously present’, but actually enjoying shared time together. As she so aptly puts it, content and subject matter become less relevant when our ‘intellectual personae’ are on display. Getting to know each other by name, feeling supported emotionally without fear of error, not to mention mutual trust and respect, are basic to any meaningful conference. 

After working 30 years as a psychologist with groups of young people, one thing I have learned is that, before the “art” of the conference can be practiced effectively, first the “science” of group dynamics must be applied. Here, there are a few simple, well-established rules to help facilitate the right conditions. First, no more than eight (8) people in a group; whenever that limit is exceeded, communications begin to break down, shy students withdraw and more assertive ones dominate. Next, comes the “elevator effect,” i.e. silence always prevails in a densely crowded elevator. A convenient formula for this is roughly 50 sq. ft. per person, so an adequate floor area for an ideal group would be… well, you do the math! 

—Ed Fisher ’69

Pine Bush, NY

Regarding your cover story on successful conferences [September 2015]: I want a do-over. At least on my Hum 110 and Hum 220 conferences. I was really not listening in 1970 and ’71. Your article is profound and available at once, and will affect any training I do from now on.

—Mary F. Byrkit ’74

St. Johns, Oregon

Pete Gilpin ’55 and The Fonz


When I opened the June issue of Reed, the first thing I saw was the name Peter Gilpin. It hit me like a blow. 

Peter Gilpin ’55 was an important figure in my time at Reed. He, Bob Gillespie ’55, Glen Shipley ’55, and I shared the upper floor of a home owned by Ms. Ferguson on the hill above campus. We shared the kitchen with her. Ms. Ferguson supplemented her income at a bakery with student rent after her husband died.

Pete was the “Fonz” to us. He seemed to have a handle on life, moving through it as smoothly as a trout. Pete was a good poker player. I remember marveling how his poker winnings enabled him to fly to Hawaii over one vacation break.

He was scheduled to begin my education in shooting pool one evening at a local bar. At the time, I was too young to even be in the place. A short time later, a large truck pulled up outside the bar and parked. I ran for my car, screamed away, and missed a corner on the way home, ending up on someone’s lawn. Pete was unfazed. The truck turned out to belong to a utility company.

Pete owned an immaculate 1939 Mercury convertible. More to the point, it had dual pipes and an Edelbrock manifold with three Stromberg 97 carburetors. In those days, performance comparisons were made by lining up two cars in contention, side by side, facing toward the library at the beginning of the school street; on a signal, both cars would accelerate toward the library and the hard left turn at the end of the drag strip. I had a stock 1941 Ford two-door. Pete had me for lunch.

Pete used to make funny little clay creatures. I can’t remember what he called them. At one time or another, I think all of us tried to make them, but the only ones that looked right were Pete’s. 

Pete’s girlfriend was Louise Palmer (Gerity ’55). He used to have long conversations with her while seated on the throne. Many people used to compliment Pete on his aftershave. This was from a bottle of air freshener in the bathroom.

We all shared the refrigerator, and we all used to leave nasty notes to each other on food containers left in the refrigerator. All of which were purported to be from our landlady, Ms. Ferguson.

Glen Shipley was a quiet pre-med student. One night, some guys were talking tough to us at a table in a bar. Glen didn’t say anything, but he quietly crushed a beer can with one hand (this was before aluminum cans), and the toughness left the conversation.

A few years after graduation, Pete came to the apartment my wife and I were renting in San Francisco. I had cooked a batch of barbecue spare ribs—some were good, but I had burned some. These were not displayed to Pete. After we finished the good ones, Pete allowed that he could eat a few more with no discomfort. I apologized for burning the first batch, but we could not serve the burned ones to our guest. I will never forget his response: “Look away for a few minutes.” He then ate every remaining rib.

Before the 50th anniversary of our graduation in 2005, I called Pete in Hawaii to try to get him to come. He explained that his health did not allow him to fly. That was the last time we talked.

I will never forget him.

—Joe Hadden ’55

Ojai, California



Author Deborah J. Ross ’68 was incorrectly and inexplicably listed as Deborah Ross Wheeler in the Reediana column of September 2014. We apologize for the error.