Return to the Mother Ship

Alien species, or shamanic ritual? Davis Rogan ’90 leads a parade at Reunions.
Photo by Orin Zyvan

By Chris Lydgate ’90

A lot of people just don’t get Reed.

Having spent more than two decades living in Portland, I have encountered many amusing misunderstandings from local residents, most of whom are surprised to learn that Reed students study Homer, do six quarters of P.E., and write a thesis. The general perception seems to be that Reed is some sort of spaceship that crash-landed on Woodstock Boulevard 100 years ago and is still liable to take off.

At the same time, there is something different about Reedies. We are not an alien species, but—at the risk of arousing the ghost of the late anthro professor Gail Kelly ’55—I submit that we do constitute a tribe.

Over the past century, we have developed distinctive traditions. We have legends, from the Doyle Owl to the ghost of Prexy to the MG buried under the library. We have heroes and semi-mythical figures, from Lloyd Reynolds to Dorothy Johansen ’33 to Nick Wheeler ’55. We share rituals such as all-night Hum papers, scrounging, folkdance, and Thesis Parade. We maintain an epic kinship system (no examples necessary). We love big ideas, scientific revolutions, drums, and J.S. Bach.

Perhaps most important, we share a profound bond—a bond forged by the joy, sorrow, delight, and discovery that shaped our youth.

So, I contend, we are a tribe, with an ancestral homeland and an annual convergence known as Reunions. Whether we live in East Timor or Eastmoreland, it feels good to stroll across the quad or wander through the canyon. It feels good to reconnect with long lost classmates. It feels good to meet new classmates with whom we have so much in common. It feels good to rethink old experiences in the light of time and (maybe) wisdom. It feels good to belong.

Reed is a part of us, just as we are a part of Reed. We need one another. We belong to one another. Join us for Centennial Reunions June 6–12. It’s going to be out of this world.