Profiles in Philanthropy

Paying It Forward

Dick Lingelser ’55 was a scholarship student. Now he's returning the favor.

By Randall S. Barton
Linda and Dick Lingelser

Linda and Dick Lingelser

Thirty-eight individuals, mostly Reed alumni, have given more than a million dollars to support the Centennial Campaign and shape the college’s future. Each of these extraordinary gifts comes with a story. But few donors can match the philanthropic determination of Dick Lingelser ’55.

Demonstrating the clarity of purpose that has propelled him through life, Dick has given back with gusto. His story reads like one of the Horatio Alger novels he devoured as a boy.

Dick grew up in San Francisco in a home where money was tight. When he was eight years old, he earned money collecting bottle deposits and picking fruit in the San Joaquin Valley. Later he worked for a sporting goods store and waited tables. At night he read the rags-to-riches novels his father brought home. Dick identified with Alger’s protagonists as well as other heroes such as Tom Swift and the athletic Merriwell brothers.

Dick excelled in chemistry and trigonometry and envisioned a career in physics. When it came time to consider college, he followed the example of the fictional Merriwells and applied to Yale. But his homeroom teacher encouraged him to look at a small liberal arts college in Portland, Oregon. To his delight, Reed offered him a scholarship, covering tuition, books, and room and board, through the George F. Baker Foundation.

On his first day at Reed he received a phone call informing him that his mother had died. By the time he returned from San Francisco, he was too far behind in his courses to continue in physics. Eventually he was drawn to economics and in particular to legendary professor Art Leigh [economics 1945–88], who supervised his thesis, “A Dollar Dilemma: Cyclical and Structural Explanatory Hypotheses as Applied to the Postwar European Situation.”

After a stint in the Navy Reserves, Dick was hired at Proctor & Gamble, concurrently earning his law degree. In 1968, P&G was ordered to divest itself of the recently acquired Clorox brand and Dick moved to Clorox to start up a procurement department. Since retiring in 1999, he has continued to do consulting and volunteer work.

At Clorox, Dick joined the Amanda Reed Society, begun by President Steve Koblik [1992–2001] to encourage donations of $10,000 to the Annual Fund. The college combined his $5,000 gift with a matching gift from Clorox. “I loved making Clorox put the other five grand in,” Dick says.

Over the years Dick and his wife, Linda, have given a million dollars to Reed. His endowment philosophy reflects his investment philosophy: timing is everything.

“Watch your stocks, the market, the interest rates, and your company’s giving program,” he advises, “and try to time the gifts you’re making in a way that is beneficial to your portfolio and any tax burdens.”

One example of Dick’s approach is his gift of shares in Philippine Long Distance to Reed. Since his purchase, the stocks had increased 80-fold in value.

“Donating those shares meant I didn’t have to pay the capital gains on them, and the college received a lot more money than I’d paid for those stocks,” he explains.

Minimizing tax burden through philanthropic giving is nice, but it isn’t the driver in Dick’s case. As a student who benefited from a full-ride scholarship, he pays it forward with a vengeance.

“When I was finished at Reed, the college opened up the books and showed me that my four years at Reed had cost George F. Baker $5,080,” he says. “People are shocked at the high cost of education today, but back in ’55 a gallon of gas cost 30 cents. What does it cost today?”

Emeritus Professor Ottomar Rudolf [German 1963–98] and his wife, Catherine, befriended the Lingelsers on a Reed alumni trip through southern Germany in the fall 2006, and the two couples have remained good friends. 

“The Lingelsers are fun because they are inquisitive,” Ottomar says. “Dick is a typical Reed intellectual, with a very dry sense of humor, and he doesn’t like fools. Who does? He is excited about everything and takes delight in all kinds of technical matters, which makes for a great travel companion.”

Dick is involved not only with his alma mater, but with his community. For many years, he volunteered as a docent at the Point Reyes National Seashore and was named Volunteer of the Year in 2010 before moving to Medford, Oregon.

To find out more about planning a gift to Reed, visit Giving to Reed, or contact Kathy Saitas, director of planned giving, at 503/777-7759 or by email.