A message from the alumni association president
A love letter straight from the heart
Twenty-one years ago I climbed into my red Rabbit, pushed the clutch, turned the key, shifted into first, turned left onto Steele, and made my way across the Hawthorne Bridge. Windows down, I drove to Tillamook and then south, with plans to spend the next four days taking the long coastal route home.
The day before, my parents and grandmother had joined me at a wonderful commencement ceremony, with friends, family, and food in abundance. Under blue skies and festooned with balloons, the quad behind the Old Dorm Block had never looked so good. But in the afterglow of that joyous day, as I pointed the car southward, I was just so relieved to be leaving Reed College.
Relieved because the thesis was finally done, and relieved because I was ready for a break. For me, Reed had been long, hard, and uncompromising. The chronic rain hadn’t helped.
Driving down the coast, I thought that my reaction to the Reed experience was unique, but I’ve since learned that’s not the case. Speak to Reedies and you’ll find that many look back on their days in Eastmoreland with certain ambivalence.
It’s no wonder. Our days at Reed were notable not for their stability, but for change. Those were years when we grew from children into adults—years of tumult filled with new ideas, truths, people, and passions. Years, perhaps, when we felt the first crush of love and the pain of a never-before-broken heart. While there were triumphs along the way, for most of us, at that point in our lives, Reed was the hardest thing we had ever done.
I didn’t return to the campus for 15 years, and when I did I was surprised by how big the trees had grown and comforted that Eliot Hall, with its cast iron balusters and polished concrete floors, smelled just the same. With its forest and lawn, and its brick and wood and glass buildings, Reed College was as beautiful as I remembered.
I have since returned many times, and my view of Reed—leavened by years and distance—has turned conspicuously positive. Walking around campus now I envy the students, who for the first time are experiencing the love of learning, the life of the mind, and the search for truth. I respect Reed’s long, uncontaminated commitment to the ideal of the liberal arts education. I value Reed’s deep culture of intellectualism, companionship, and the college’s broad acceptance of divergent lifestyles and viewpoints; I wish that the same culture pervaded all of American society. I appreciate Reed’s uncompromising and uncompromised faculty, who make their way to campus each day with just one purpose, to help students on their journey. I treasure Reed’s history and traditions: the frantic dancing at socials, the legend of the Doyle Owl, the joyous and indescribable refrain we call Renn Fayre. I marvel at this place of books and papers and Socrates and Shakespeare and black coffee and late nights; this place of sun shafts and of rain; this place where students can question all of the assumptions and shake off any sense of limits to their abilities; this magic place, Reed College.
If you are interested in reconnecting with Reed, the best place to start is with a visit to campus. If you haven’t been to reunions lately, you’re missing a good party—so good, in fact, that Reedies are increasingly shrugging off the artifice of class years and just making their way to campus each June. Some have been to each of the last five reunions, and they’ll be there again this year, along with seven or eight hundred other Reedies. It doesn’t hurt that Portland’s June weather is marvelous.
There are other opportunities to reconnect without visiting the college—by serving, perhaps, as an admission representative, dispensing career advice, or attending (or, even better yet, organizing) a local alumni chapter event.
One group of 50 or 60 Reedies around the globe connects in an online web conference; they’ve done so every day for the last four years. Their virtual conversations are alternatively smart, loving, biting, sarcastic, political, and raunchy—just what you would expect from Reed alumni. Conferees represent classes all the way back to the early sixties, and “the Con” even includes a couple of current Reed students. If this interests you, email host Adam Green ’84 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to get more involved with alumni issues, you —yes, you!—can seek a seat on the alumni board of directors. Not coincidentally, the board is now accepting nominations. To nominate yourself or another Reedie, please send a letter to the alumni office along with a couple of paragraphs describing the nominee and what he or she has done since their time at Reed.
Whatever the method: reconnect. Start your own journey back home, to one place where you started, to Reed College. It feels good.