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Student Performers Win Kahan Fellowship

Hannah MacKenzie-Margulies ’16 was one of the winners of the Jim Kahan Fellowship.

Dance/music major Hannah MacKenzie-Margulies ’16 and art/dance major Grace Poetzinger ’16 are first-ever winners of Reed’s new Jim Kahan Performing Arts Fellowship.

The purpose of the fellowship is to provide students with the means to be able to spend their summer working on a music, dance, or theater project, which is performed at Reed during the following year.

Grace Poetzinger ’16 won the Jim Kahan Fellowship to travel to Vienna to study modern dance.

Both students took creative risks with their projects. Grace travelled to Vienna to study an obscure but influential modern dance movement. Hannah, a talented dancer, spent the summer learning the clarinet. They performed a joint concert (or was it a Kahan-cert?) of music and dance in October.

The fellowship is supported by the Kahan Performing Arts Fund, started by Jim Kahan ’64 out of a desire to give back to the college and to help students pursue their passions in the performing arts.

When he was a student, Jim taught folk dancing for the women’s PE department. “Those opportunities changed my life,” he said. “And the PA Fund is a way to give back. Although I never aspired to be a professional dancer, my dance experience has influenced how I do everything else.

Jim and Prof. Virginia Hancock ’62 [music], who leads the selection committee, stress both the performance and thinking aspects of the fellowship. “One of the things that struck me about Reed is that the students aren’t just performing, they’re really thinking about what they’re doing,” Jim says. “That’s what this place is about.” In addition to the performance, recipients must host an informal ’talkback’ discussion with the audience about what they just did immediately afterwards.  

“The most important thing is that the project contributes to the student’s development,” says Prof. Hancock. “If they think it does that, then it’s been a success.”

Jim is one of Reed’s most active alumni. He served as de facto dean of the Alumni College for Centennial Reunions, created and produced the Gilbert & Sullivan show A Reed Century, and served on the alumni board and the Portland chapter steering committee. He volunteers for the admission and alumni career network, leads folk dancing, sings with the Boar’s Head Ensemble, and has made major contributions to the Oral History Project and to Reed Stories. If there has been a call for volunteers, Jim has been there, doing everything from staffing the alumni association table at grad fair to writing stories in Reed magazine. Jim is married to Kathia Emery ’67, an interior designer with Emery & Associates who has worked on the renovation of the Parker House and Prexy. His stepfather, Paul Pressman ’52, was a Reedie, as is his stepbrother Adam Pressman ’87. Jim was the 2005 Commencement speaker and won the prestigious Babson Society Award for outstanding volunteerism in 2011.

Before he retired, Jim was a senior behavioral scientist with the RAND Corporation, where he researched group decision making to determine the appropriateness of medical procedures; the design of command-and-control structures for high-level military planning; balancing safety and environment in protecting Dutch rivers from flooding; keeping the blood supply safe from contamination; and how cities can address the harms of drugs.

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Tags: performing arts, students, alumni, philanthropy