Saluting Prof. David Tyack [history 1959–69]

When I applied to Reed from a small semiprivate school in Vermont, I said I definitely wanted an interview; when I learned the interview would be at Phillips Exeter Academy all the way across New Hampshire, and that acting dean of admission Alice Jones (Prof. Richard Jones’s [history 1941–86] wife) would not be conducting interviews that day, I was disappointed. Instead, I was told, a Reed faculty member, David Tyack, would be the interviewer that day. How little imagination I had! The switch in interviewers definitely worked to my advantage: It turned out I was the only female he interviewed (making me memorable at least for that); he also was familiar with my small school (a Harvard classmate of his, scion of a family my parents knew well, came from the town where the school was located). Not only did he apparently recommend I be admitted, but we became close friends at Reed. He sang in the Madrigal Group, as did I. He hired me as a babysitter for his two young sons. His enthusiasm and encouragement was a major factor in my decision to apply to Reed’s Master of Arts in Teaching program when I graduated. Later, when I was indeed teaching and one of my brothers was visiting, Dave took us on a memorable mountain-climbing excursion. (When he moved to the University of Illinois, he wrote he had taken to going into old mine shafts so he would have something to climb!) Later he taught at Stanford; I visited the family there.

At some point I gave Dave a copy of the official history of my high school alma mater, Thetford Academy; he reciprocated with a copy of one of his books on the history of education. What inspired me last fall to take that book off one of my bookshelves I do not recall (in the process I was reminded that I had more than one of his many books). Tucked inside the first book were several letters Dave wrote me when I was teaching in Germany, trying to figure out what to do with my life. Rereading those reminded me what an influential and supportive friend he had been, even though I never actually took a course from him. When I learned that he had died exactly a month before this nostalgic excursus of mine, I wished I had stayed in better touch. This letter is the best I can do by way of paying belated tribute to one of the Reed faculty who made a big difference to me.

Constance Putnam ’65, MAT ’66

Concord, Massachusetts