Mightier than the Pen


Let me compliment you on the December 2016 Reed magazine. I was delighted to find that it had zero references to calligraphy or to Prof. Lloyd Reynolds [English and art 1929-69]. (I didn’t do an electronic search. Please don’t tell me I am wrong.)

Reed has a creation myth and tales of lost greatness. Stories are repeated time and time again, without giving the old farts time to die so that the stories can seem new to new ears. Repeating these tales must provide some survival benefit, I suppose.

There is no part of the mythos more annoying to this reader, and less valuable to the future of Reed students, than the calligraphy element. Calligraphy combines a unique combination of deluded self-appreciation and utter lack of value to society. By any metric relating to speed of reading or depth of comprehension of text written in this sort of script, calligraphy is a dead loss. As a bonus negative, the writing itself is slow. I place calligraphy on par with teaching a pig to waltz, or teaching oneself to tie a bow tie 13 different ways. (Oups! Sorry about your cover art!)

Please carry on with your good works. I know you will backslide. It’s hard to break a bad habit.

I forgive you in advance. It’s no real problem with me. When I see an article with mention of calligraphy or Reynolds, I just throw the magazine away and carry on. No donation that year!

Lawrence Butcher ’75

Mountain View, CA

Editor's Note: For many years we have maintained an unofficial policy of mentioning Lloyd Reynolds at least six times in every issue (it used to be six per article, but we decided to ease up). I have no idea how an entire issue slipped through the copy desk in this lamentable Lloydless state, but I’m glad you enjoyed your reprieve. It will be brief.

Raindrops Keep “Fallen” on our Head


I, too, winced at the use of the euphemism “fallen” when honoring our fellow classmates, professors, and friends. So I smiled when I saw John Cushing’s friendly but clear protest letter about the euphemism. I also understand it’s a tricky topic for many people. In response to your asking for suggestions as to how to word these announcements, I suggest something along the lines of “Honoring the recent death(s) of fellow classmates, professors, and friends.” This avoids the use of the word “dead,” which is graceless and heavy handed, in this context, but which does look at the subject without blinking.

I don’t think we need euphemisms, but we do need some grace when it comes to remembering them.

Respectfully, and in honor of Reed College, and fellow classmates, professors and friends, dead or alive,

Elizabeth Donnally Davidson ’70, MAT ’71

Bainbridge Island, Washington



I agree with John Cushing ’67’s letter regarding the use of “fallen,” but would not support his suggested use of “departed.” That sounds too much like someone just left campus or an airport, although I understand the use of “dearly departed.” “Deceased” is appropriate and accurate, but just “In Memoriam” is sufficient and clear without further explanation.

Jim Temple ’66

Berrien Springs, Michigan



I don’t doubt you are hearing from lots of Reedies in response to your request in response to John Cushing’s letter protesting use of “fallen” for deceased Reedies.  Here’s my proposal. Like the computer in Red Dwarf I want to say “They’re dead, Dave. They’re all dead.” I have long hated the use of “fallen” with regard to soldiers or anyone else who has died. “In Memoriam” is for those members of the Reed community who have died. So why not say so? They didn’t fall down. They died.

Richard McClelland ’70



“Departed”? By which train?

“Deceased”? Fancy-shmancy!

Can’t we finally get rid of 19th-century euphemisms & recognize that death is the inevitable end of mortal life? What’s wrong with “dead” and “died”? They imply nothing about any postdeath state, other than complete separation from interaction with the “living.” [This does bar discussion of ghosts, but Reed Magazine has a supposedly knowledgeable readership.]

Wm. D. Fountain ’61

Carlsbad, California

“More Rigor!” They Cried


President Kroger is quoted (December 2016, p. 7) as saying “the graduation rate for all Reedies is too low.” Hogwash. Reed used to be synonymous with academic rigor and repute; Reedies who could not hack it did not graduate. Perhaps Kroger should destroy the declining academic reputation of Reed completely and just offer a diploma when parents cut the check? The current grade inflation has already rendered Reed grades as useless as those of its peers. Should students feel they are owed a diploma like they apparently are entitled to a 4.0? Students should not expect to graduate simply because they got accepted.

As for your request for a better alternative to “fallen” . . . seriously? From a Reedie? I can’t believe you did not consult Mr. Praline:

“He’s not pining! He’s passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! He’s expired and gone to meet his maker! He’s a stiff! Bereft of life, he rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed him to the perch he’d be pushing up the daisies! His metabolic processes are now history! He’s off the twig! He’s kicked the bucket, he’s shuffled off his mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleeding choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!”

Choose any of the above when I have entered my final slumber to see what dream may come.

Philip Wilk ’95

Germantown, Maryland

Editor's Note: I applaud your lively defense of rigor (and rigor mortis), but your underlying assumption about grade inflation is off the mark. According to the registrar, the average GPA for all Reed students in 2015–16 was 3.11 on a 4.00 scale, a figure that has increased by less than 0.15 of a grade point over the past 31 years—hardly a collapse of standards. Does academic rigor mean that Reed is fated to have a lower graduation rate than other colleges? Probably. But I am convinced that Reed can improve its graduation rate without sacrificing rigor, if it provides students with the right support. Perhaps we should install a parrot in Commons?



Although the stories in Reed Magazine are always well written and interesting, my favorite section is “What is a Reedie?” The graduates’ stories and impressions prompt appreciative tears: in this era where stupid seems to reign, it’s wonderful that Reed continues to challenge students with the highest academic standards. The variety of personalities, interests, thesis topics, and outside pursuits demonstrates that Reed is striving for diversity. Unleashed into the world, these graduates promise to provide the leadership and progressiveness we so desperately need. There is hope.

When I was in high school, I wanted to attend Reed, but a variety of obstacles (mostly financial) prevented that. As a higher education reporter for the Oregonian in the mid-1980s, I became familiar with the MALS program (then directed by Toinette Menashe MALS ’72) and promptly sought acceptance into the program. Later, I took a year’s leave of absence from the newspaper to study at Reed full time. My undergraduate classes included a full year of Hum 110, as well as a smattering of history and literature, and I continued to take the MALS courses at night. My thesis was on the Hitler Youth movement before and during World War II. Attending Reed was the best educational move I ever made; the experience gave me the confidence to delve thoroughly into any project that came my way.

Ten years ago, I moved to Cannon Beach, which, it seems, is a mecca for Reedies. I have spent most of my time as an editor of local weeklies and a reporter for the local daily newspaper. In November, I was one of three city council candidates; two of us were Reed graduates. I will start my new “education” as a city councilor in January.

What I also find interesting in Reed magazine are the Class Notes. The accomplishments achieved by Reed graduates who have pursued their destinies throughout the world demonstrate how thoroughly they were taught to be curious and to trust their instincts. They have kept the promise.

Thank you for producing a magazine that reassures its readers that there are still educated, well-rounded thinkers out there, propagating the world with wisdom.

Nancy McCarthy MALS ’92

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Remembering Louise Sather ’61


Reed lost an inspiring exemplar with the passing of Louise K. Sather ’61. So many talents reconfigured through the years in so many creative ways! She was deeply probing and brought warmth as well as understanding when friends turned to her for wise counsel.

The profile of Louise in Reed Magazine is a gift to all who knew her. She and husband Cliff  Sather ’61 were wonderful partners. And she delighted in son Tom and family.

Joella Werlin, friend

Also Remembering Louise Sather ’61


The obituary for Prof. William Couch Jr. [English 1953-55], interested me because I had a part in his hiring by Reed. I was a graduate student at the University of Chicago from 1951–54 working part time in Harper Library. I became acquainted with Bill Couch, either because he also worked in the library or because he was there for many hours doing his doctoral research in English literature.

He asked many people, including me, where he might apply to teach. I suggested he try Reed with some trepidation because I knew Reed had no black faculty members. Also I remembered the unhappy experience of two students, the only African Americans enrolled; she was in her 20s and he a young 17- or 18-year-old. She said everyone assumed they should date one another, and she was too mature to be interested in him. She stayed only one year; I don’t remember whether he returned.

What I did not know then about Bill Couch was his many other accomplishments and interests. It makes me appreciate him even more.

Annice Mills Alt ’51

Southern Pines, North Carolina

Race, Class, and Reed


I am writing about the article “Protest Amplifies Discussion of Race on Campus” that appeared in the December 2016 issue. I was struck by a quote from Addison Bates ’18, one of 400 demonstrators demanding changes in the Reed curriculum and the hiring of more tenured black professors. Ms. Bates said: “Our goal is to move our institution away from perpetuating racism and  towards perpetuating antiracism.” I think that this statement is mistaken because it is empty of any concrete content and rather irresponsible.

The article provides data of a higher dropout rate for black students than white students at Reed. Unfortunately, the partial statistics presented in the article ignore other sociological categories, such as wealth, or students that do not fit into the black and white mold.

Also absent in the article are the following words or phrases: poverty, inequality, contingent labor and part-time work as the new “normal,” poverty wages, the student loan crisis, Wall Street and capitalism. This is unfortunate because those terms could contribute an economic and class explanation of the plight of student, lower middle-class, and working-class youth in campuses and cities across the nation. A recent news item, for instance, reports on colleges setting up food banks for impoverished students. A survey of 3,000 college students published in October by Students Against Hunger indicates that an astounding 48% have faced food insecurity.

Earlier this month, economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman, leading experts on global inequality, released a groundbreaking study on the growth of income inequality in the United States between 1946 and 2016. The conclusions are staggering: Since the mid-1970s there has occurred one of the most rapid upward redistributions of income in modern history, for any country. The U.S. is now the most economically and socially unequal advanced nation in this entire planet.

The phenomenon of homeless students has also become more common; “One sees them discretely washing their teeth and themselves in the college restrooms in the morning,” one student told me during a Thanksgiving dinner for impoverished community college students given by a community church in California. Homelessness and the housing crisis go hand in hand; in Seattle, students are being asked to pay upwards of $700 a month for rooms the size of a parking lot stall. Median rents in Oakland, California, are now topping $3,000 a month.

Also left out of the equation are 25 years of imperialist wars, based on lies, being fought mostly by youth that have been forced by economic circumstances to join the military, “economic draftees.”

Surely all the above factors may help explain the low rates of graduation for black students at Reed and elsewhere.

According to another report, a layer of elderly citizens that retired on Social Security are having the student loans that they defaulted on deducted from their paltry Social Security checks, driving them below the poverty line.

I hope that this letter encourages Addison Bates and other students to see the issues that confront youth and college students in Portland and elsewhere in a larger, social context, because these are class issues. I think that those students that focus on race, which, I insist, represents a totally unscientific, totally abstract perspective, are making a mistake.

Ms. Bates has been quoted using the unfortunate phrase that Reed currently “perpetuates” racism. Those are very strong words that are not grounded in any evidence. I hope that Addison reconsiders and throws herself into a serious study, a serious campaign, really, of the economic causes and political solutions for the growing inequality, poverty, and police violence that more and more characterize our society.

Gerardo Nebbia ’72, socialist

Paramount, California