Bristling at Beard’s Mention?

I was amused by the article on Uncommons. My recollection was that our own cooking activities in the dorms were on a far more primitive scale, such as heating up canned soup on a hot plate. However, one tiny sentence in the article rang out as somewhat of a misstatement: Reed can hardly claim James Beard ’24 as “one of Reed’s famous culinary innovators . . . .” While he did attend Reed briefly, according to several biographies he was expelled after “a brief stay” due to homosexual activity. What a shame! Granted, it was 1922. Hopefully times have changed.

Wendy Horwatt-Mitchell ’69 and Andrea Horwatt-Mitchell

Los Angeles, California

Editor's Note: It was indeed a shame, and times have definitely changed. But the letter raises a fascinating point: was James Beard a true Reedie? He spent the bulk of his freshman year at Reed and cut a distinctive figure on campus. He won a prize for a Halloween dance costume in full drag, took part in operatic productions, was elected as the treasurer of the freshman class. Then, according to his biographer Robert Clark, he “became lovers with one or more male students and a professor” and was subsequently expelled. Unfortunately, we found nothing in the archives to shed further light on this episode, and Jim does not mention it in his autobiography. But there is little doubt that his time at Reed left a deep impression. After his death in 1985, he bequeathed most of his estate, including his collection of cookbooks, to the college, creating the James Beard Scholarship Fund. Reed presented him with an honorary degree in 1976. “There’s no doubt that Jim was expelled from Reed,” says lawyer (and former Reed trustee) Morris Galen, who represented Jim for the last 15 years of his life and helped draft his will. “But he wasn’t the kind of person to dwell on that. He held no animosity at all, not when I knew him. He felt very good about Reed, and was thrilled when he was awarded an honorary degree.” There is no absolute standard for declaring who is or who is not a Reedie, but we think Jim makes the grade!