Reed Magazine May 2004

oral history title

Hail! Hail! The gang was all there

Her Reed "gang" included Walter, John Littlehales '29, Stephen Nile '27, Dorothy Pennock (Nile) '27, and Angelus Ralph (Tator) '28. "We played volleyball together, we hiked together, and we had a fine old time." They also utilized the "Dutch ovens"—the underground heating system that tunnels from the physical plant to Eliot and Old Dorm Block—for picnics and for relaxation.

Fascinating faculty and the "Rinso" ordeal

Faculty she enjoyed included "fantastic" Barry Cerf, professor of English and comparative literature, whose lectures were so fascinating that students came back to audit his classes. She also described mathematics professor Frank Loxley Griffin as fascinating. He told his students about a "wonderful new concept" that was being worked on for recording facts and figures: the building of the first computer. "IBM had this huge thing that took up the whole room. This would have to be '26, '27, somewhere in there. He was so excited about this possibility of doing this. I wish he could see it now."

chem lab imageReed's reputation in the sciences attracted a large number of pre-med students, she noted, who then went on to Oregon Medical School (OHSU). The entire top floor of the Arts Building (Eliot Hall) was set up for chemistry. "On the left [west] would be the upper class labs. Then to the right [east] would be the lower class labs. In between was the library. The library and Dr. Strong's office." She considered Strong to be the individual most critical to her success at Reed—"a very severe taskmaster, but a very fine person."

The chemistry department had a growing collection of framed pictures of famous chemists, acquired through the efforts of its students. Betty's assignment was to donate a picture of Marie Curie, and she found a way to have it autographed by sending it to Elizabeth Woodbridge [instructor of French at Reed, 1924–38; and sister of Romance Language Professor Benjamin M. Woodbridge, 1922–52] who was at the Sorbonne at that time. ("I think she left it there at the lab, and then picked it up.") The picture was framed with Miss Woodbridge's letter at the back.

Betty recited details about her oral-thesis experience. "At the dinner that same night in the commons, somebody said, ‘Are you scared?' I said, ‘Oh, no, I'm not scared.' The next thing I knew, my milk was all over my dinner plate. So no matter what I said, there was that particular reaction." During the orals she was given an unknown and asked to identify it. "So I gave a sniff and I thought to myself, ‘That's a soap.' But I put it in water and shook it, you know, and so forth and so on. I was sailing right through this very well, and then Dr. [Walter R.] Carmody said, ‘What kind of soap?' And it paralyzed my mind. All I could think of was ‘Rinso.'" Even as a science major, who may have been less interested in history and philosophy during her years at Reed, Betty remains a proponent of a liberal arts education. "Absolutely. Absolutely. I realized that there was another world out there somewhere around me."

Paddling successfully through adulthood

Following graduation, Betty helped her mother for a year before arriving at Stanford, ready to put to use the research skills she had learned in science labs at Reed. A Reed student had warned her about the high degree of knowledge Stanford expected, and that it was akin to being in a canoe without a paddle. "So I thought that over and I said it to him, ‘Maybe they expect you to bring the paddle.'"

She earned a master's degree and did doctorate work in microbiology research with Cornelius Bernardus van Niel and Dr. Carl Alsberg at the Food Research Institute. Walter Holzer, meanwhile, went to the Institute of Paper Chemistry in Appleton, Wisconsin. And after they married, they lived in Rhinelander and Appleton, later returning to the West. The Holzers had a son and daughter. Their son, John A. Holzer '62, attended Reed, transferred to a school in California, and currently teaches and practices medicine in New York. His daughter, Christina E. Holzer '00, who graduated from Reed with a degree in art, also lives in New York.

Betty Hines Holzer '29 was interviewed by Barbara Sloate Isgur '63.

Read more about the oral history project.

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