The Art and Science of Reed


In “Reed Declares New Majors” (March 2015), you asked, “Are computers really compatible with Reed’s emphasis on the humanities?” You answered your own question with a “resounding Yes,” but the real question you should have asked is, “Why did it take so long for Reed to develop a computer science major given Reed’s emphasis on the sciences?” 

Every student at the college takes Hum 110. It plays a central role in socializing and orienting students to Reed. During the strategic planning process, faculty, students, staff, and alumni reiterated our commitment to the course. 

However, Reed’s national reputation has been largely built on its teaching and scholarship in the natural and physical sciences, particularly the historical success of these programs in producing PhD students. While every student’s career starts with Hum 110, every student’s academic career ends with the senior thesis. Many alumni will tell you that the thesis was the most important part of their Reed education. If you look at theses, it is quite clear that Reed College emphasizes the natural and physical sciences, mathematics, psychology, English, and the social sciences. In 2014, more than half (54% or 173) of Reed seniors graduated with degrees in MNS and HSS. Add to this total those seniors with degrees in linguistics, psychology, or interdisciplinary degrees in MNS, HSS, and environmental studies, and you’ve covered 70% of Reed seniors. (All data taken from Reed’s institutional research page.) 

The staffing requirements for Hum 110 mean that Reed has always had and will continue to have a strong foothold in the humanities. The new comparative literature major is a wonderful addition to our curriculum, welcome to many because it may start to rebalance disparities in upper division enrollments and theses. But it is long overdue that we recognize that the majority of Reed students after their first year take classes, take quals, and write theses in the sciences, mathematics, and the social and behavioral sciences. This is our emphasis. Our self-understanding as a community, even when it comes to tongue-in-cheek sentences in the magazine, should reflect this fact.

—Prof. Paul Gronke [political science]

Portland, Oregon

Out of the Shadows


Thank you, Paula Scott ’85 and Chris Lydgate ’90, for taking the trouble to write and to publish the letter “Out of the Shadows” in the March 2015 issue of Reed. I have been grousing about Reed mullahs and hope the following comments add something useful to considerations of gender and justice.

The closely defined personal roles of my 1966 cohort and the contemporary culture of rape make it difficult to hold the college accountable for faculty expectations of female students. I did have a keen sense of being a designated breeder. A faculty member stressed the importance of raising children at a time when I was sustaining an abusive relationship with a fellow undergraduate and not even close to recovering from earlier and all too common misuse. I did not know how to protect my body, my time, or my energies. Acquiring an engagement ring was as important as collecting a diploma. I will not list the dorm mates who sobbed about their unadorned third left fingers on graduation day. Female students paid the same fees as males. Whether they received equal value is worth questioning.

The long march since commencement has been punctuated by its share of outrages, a few of which I was lucky to survive. The details aren’t important, but the culture binding is. It might as well be binding feet, not to mention gagging the mouth. I prefer a fair contest. Title IX and Prof. Lloyd Reynolds’ [English & art  1929–69] 1973 advice to look to sports for enlightenment and ignore “these gurus who are coming over here by the boatload” pointed me, finally, to the nearest Y. Twenty years of training alongside accomplished athletes and street-smart Ave rats opened my eyes to my own fouls as well as to the many cheap shots I did not know how to identify when I was younger.

I find it most interesting to evaluate considerations of social justice by considering education and personhood rather than gender or race. It may be helpful to remember that, as I understand it, late-19th-century clergy were debating the very existence of women’s souls. The current campaign for an animal bill of rights is promising: the first successful child abuse prosecution was brought in New York City under animal cruelty law. Next summer’s alumni college discussion of diversity promises to be as fruitful as last summer’s look at religion.

—Chris Emerson ’66
Seattle, Washington


I was at Reed during the mid to late ’50s, and was romantically (sexually) involved with two professors. At the time I did not know that these relationships were as common as later they were characterized to have been. I knew of no other examples than my own. I thought of them as I thought of my relationships with other students. I was not traumatized, nor did I feel exploited. I never felt that the relationships were in any way connected with my academic achievements, but that they were in an entirely separate realm.

I see these ’80s women as attempting to rewrite history, from a time before many of them were born. I consider myself a feminist and I am fully in agreement with many of the more activist feminists’ positions. But I stop short of imputing motives to people that they didn’t have. I, myself, am a rape victim, if that matters. I was raped by a stranger who climbed into my bedroom window in the middle of the night, woke me up, robbed me of $13, and proceeded to beat and rape me for about two hours, until he heard a police siren (not an uncommon sound in a city) and left. This was true rape, and left me in bad shape physically for over a week and psychologically for the rest of my life. But many actions called “harassment” and therefore “as bad as” rape are not.

—Barbara Adams Bernhardt ’58

Lowville, New York

Prime Exponent


How apt is Prof. Joe Roberts’ description of his Math 111 as a cultural course, introducing students to the language and conceptions of mathematics (Reed, September 2014). When I began Reed in 1956, Math 11 both overwhelmed and inspired. Beginning with the logical calculus of Whitehead and Russell, proceeding to the axioms on succession by Peano, we created the number system as guided by H. A. Thurston in his terse work used as text on the very year of its publication. The aesthetic and logical coherence of that course was stunning. Math 11 remained my most favorite of all my courses through four years at Reed. But, I must add, I had as well the guidance of Prof. John Leadley [1956–93] leading our study group, who added that systematic sanity of an algebraist to complement the maverick genius of a number theorist such as Roberts, who gloried in the ingenuity of a proof. We must add the name of Prof. Lloyd Williams ’35 [mathematics 1947–81] to the duo, Leadley and Roberts. Roberts may have initiated that course, as pointed out in “Prime Exponent,” but that year Williams was the lecturer, to whom we listened three times a week before we attended our separate discussion groups, where I joined Prof. Leadley. In my junior year I attended Roberts’ Modern Algebra course, but after months of satisfactory performance, I decided I needed to drop it. To this day, I wished I had forced my way in Leadley’s Modern Algebra class, but I was arbitrarily assigned to Roberts and was not allowed to switch sessions. My comments about the difference between an algebraist and a number theorist are heartfelt. Blessed be both their endeavors. So captivated by such systems of thought, I became a philosophy–anthropology major at Reed, then, as an anthropologist studying Rajasthan, India, was inspired to analyze a natural number system on the base four in an article, “Gold Medallions: The Arithmetic Computations of an Illiterate” (Anthropology & Education Quarterly, Volume 15, 1984). The revered work of Thurston guided the task.

—R. Thomas Rosin ’60

Berkeley, California

The Pacifist Menace


The article by Raymond Rendleman ’06, “The Pacifist Menace” (March 2015), was a most excellent and informative piece of writing. The article was especially interesting to me, though I do not have a degree from Reed. I was among the soldiers in the premeteorology program in 1943–44 for training in another world war, incubated by the first, as notably predicted by President W.T. Foster [1910–19]. That year at Reed made me supremely aware of the excellence of Reed’s faculty in the courses they taught and the contribution Reed was making to the intellectual and moral strength of another generation of soldiers in training. After serving in World War II as a B-29 radar communications officer, I went to Stanford for graduate studies, where David Starr Jordan was of course also a familiar name. I was on the Reed campus only one time after leaving in 1944, to visit my former fellow company officer at TIAA-CREF, Paul Bragdon [1971–88], another remarkable Reed president.

—Francis P. King ’44

New York, NY 10021

A Tale from the Slopes


Terry Chase

Terry Chase ’59 and family.

I was saddened to read of the passing of Terry Chase ’59 in the March 2015 issue of Reed magazine. Beyond his academic background and professional accomplishments and recognitions, there is another side to his talents, which I shared with him, including an interesting tale that, to my knowledge, has never been documented.

We both were avid skiers, and Terry was excellent at it. In spring of 1958 a West Coast Intercollegiate Ski Meet was held up at Mount Hood, with teams from major regional universities such as Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, and (I believe) also perhaps Cal and Stanford. Besides the “biggies,” Portland State was represented and some other small colleges, including Reed.

The two-day meet was held up at Timberline Lodge and consisted of two events, slalom and downhill. The slalom course was set alongside a new chairlift that started about 3000 feet below the upper parking lot just in front of Timberline Lodge and ended just west of the lodge. (The bottom of the lift was near the start of the Alpine Trail, which people could ski down to Government Camp.) In those days racing gates were bamboo poles with sequential gates topped with colored red, blue, and yellow flags in this repetitive order. The downhill began about one-half mile above the lodge (to reach the start you took the Magic Mile chairlift to Silcox Hut and skied down to it) and ended near the bottom of the lower lift.

The format for the competition was that each racer had to complete two runs on the slalom course to get a time; downhill was just a single run—the same for both as is done in current ski racing rules. Skiers raced for their individual times, but team scores were calculated using the top four combined slalom and downhill times of that team’s members.

Terry, Eric Terzaghi ’58 (I believe he organized Reed’s team and got us entered), and I had three of Reed’s combined times that counted for team scoring. I regret that I can’t remember who the fourth member was whose time also counted, or the names of other members of our team (I think there were six or more in total).

When the dust (snow) had settled, it turned out that enough of the faster racers from the larger schools had disqualified (for missing a gate, most likely in the slalom event) that when team scores were calculated Reed came out in first place! The trophy was an ornate silver tray, about 24 inches in diameter, with the names of winning school teams from prior years engraved on it (I think the regional meet had been held for three or more years prior).

Sadly, there is no record of this small triumph recorded in the ’58 Gryphon. Anyhow, I believe that Reed College 1958 would be found inscribed on the plate to verify this tale (wherever the plate may be residing today). Some 58 years later I suspect this original trophy plate has been filled up and a subsequent one added. But regardless, this was one happy occasion putting Reed into the record books, so to say.

—Roger Moment ’59

Longmont, Colorado

Reedite Deplores “Reedie”


I guess I am an old intolerant troglodyte as the current March Reed magazine would seem to indicate, but when I find myself and other alumni, including elegant Italian Emilio Pucci MA ’37, lumped page after page as a “Reedie,” I have to comment. On page 8, I read, “Reedies are extraordinarily good at problem solving,” but this is a trend that I do not know how to solve. My classmates did not use this diminutive or think of President Dexter Keezer [1934–42] as “prexy,” though we did have some less polite names for him. I learned and worked and played and enjoyed my time at Reed, as did my husband, but this cutesy quality makes going to a holiday party with “more than 200 Reedies” (page 11) a hard fit.

—Rosina Corbett Morgan ’41

Lake Oswego, Oregon

Etching on Mount Neahkahnie


Regarding the letter from Vince Kelly in the September 2014 issue of Reed, T.S. and M.E. Eliot (Theodore S. Eliot ’21 and Mignon Eliot Eliot ’22) were my parents. My older brother was born in November 1924, and I was born in December 1925, so the description found by Vince must have been done between our births. My grandparents did have a house on the beach at Neahkahnie, which I was fortunate to spend the summer of 1933 in from our home in Tennessee. Quite an experience for a Mississippi River boy!

—Warner A. Eliot ’46

Winchester, Virginia

Dunning Divestment


On the occasion of my 50th reunion at Reed, I had planned to give a larger-than-usual gift to the college. Because of the trustees’ decision not to divest from fossil fuels, I am sending a check for $2 to Reed as a reminder of my loyal status as a contributor, and I am sending the balance to the Multi-School Fossil Fuel Divestment Fund (divestfund.org) in hopes that it will help persuade Reed of the seriousness with which some of its loyal alumni view this matter.

I am very disappointed not only in the decision not to divest but also in the mealy-mouthed defense of that position, as described in a recent Reed magazine. The pressure on the leadership of Reed College to divest from fossil fuel corporations does not present the same kind of question of academic freedom as the persecution of real or alleged Communists in the ’50s. I can tell the difference between the vilification and persecution of an individual for his or her political beliefs and a principled stand based on extensive scientific analysis. On the one hand, the action is taken by the powerful against individuals expressing their beliefs. On the other, it is against the powerful fossil fuel corporations that have been enriching themselves for centuries through the raping and polluting of the land, air, and water of this earth on which we all rely for our well-being and that of all future generations of the living environment.

—Cynthia Brodine Snow ’65

Brookline, Massachusetts

Editor's Note: Every time I write about divestment, I hear the distant echo of of a fresh batch of outraged correspondents sharpening their pencils. Nonetheless, I’ll point out that Reed launched a $5.4 million project in 2013 to save energy and water and cut CO2 emissions by more than two million pounds a year.

Dance and Trisha Brown


I am very pleased to read that Reed will be strengthening its dance program and adding a major, thanks to a grant from the Mellon Foundation. I wonder how many still in campus vicinity remember that Trisha Brown of the renowned Trisha Brown Dance Company began her teaching career at Reed? Trisha came to Reed immediately following graduation from Mills College in 1958. She offered a beginning dance class to faculty women and wives. We signed up, hired a Reed student to babysit our preschoolers, and came for once-a-week workouts. We were all pretty out of shape and never got to any artistic semblance of dance, but Trisha certainly knew how to make us move! She was a remarkable teacher, knew how to explain and expect what she wanted. She taught us a routine of warm-up exercises, which I still follow—well, most days. We were sorry to see her leave after two years, but were glad for her to have the opportunity to go to New York to dance with Merce Cunningham and others, then to found her own Trisha Brown Company, which still performs in New York and tours the world. I have followed her career with fondness.

—Bernice Livingston Youtz, honorary alumna ’68

Tacoma, Washington

Interstellar Odyssey


Many thanks to D.K. Holm for putting together your March cover story “Interstellar Odyssey,” complete with book review, analysis, email interview (“knowledge fiction” and “foreign countries” were particularly insightful), and the surprise bonus of comments from the artist. I did not read the book (yet) but I was surprised to find important themes completely absent from Holm’s article, even though they appear to be anticipated by classical motifs such as the water of oblivion/forgetfulness.

The modern prototype of the identity theme in SF is Body Snatchers, a thinly veiled expression of ’50s anti-commie hysteria (losing one’s individuality to the insipid group that claims to bring a peaceful world), which can also be viewed as adolescent angst about conforming to the mainstream. A more recent exploration of the critical question “who am I?” can be found in Total Recall (both the original and its mundane remake), which initially presents another eternal theme, “is this all just a dream?”

The latter theme is common in fantasy or morality tales, where a fantastical adventure teaches important lessons before the protagonist returns back to the starting point, as if nothing had happened. This is the theme of Jumanji and its quasi-sequel Zathura, as well as The Wizard of Oz, and, a century before that, The Saragossa Manuscript. However, modern psychology has brought the dream/reality conundrum into SF in films such as Flatliners, Matrix, Vanilla Sky, and Inception. Identity and the real/unreal duality have taken on an additional flavor with the advent of robots: Bicentennial Man, A.I., Transcendence, etc.

The Time Machine was presented by H.G. Wells as an exploration of “did it really happen?” with the flower at the end as affirmation. (And Borges once speculated whether Wells took that literary device from Coleridge, who was in turn modifying a passage from Jean Paul’s Geist.) With a nod to Sontag, it’s hard to avoid saying that time travel seems to have been reduced to a motif of remorse, ranging from personal regret (the 2002 remake of Time Machine, as well as the convoluted Predestination) to “the world took a wrong turn” (Star Trek IV, A Sound of Thunder, MIB 3), or both (Time Cop, Deja Vu, Loopers).

Kudos to Chris for highlighting the work of Brett and Benjamin.

—Martin Schell MAT ’77

Klaten, Central Java