Eliot Circular

Grads Asked to Fix Dents

Photo by Leah Nash

By Randall S. Barton

The call of bagpipes signaled the beginning of Reed’s 99th Commencement. Robed and mortared, professors followed the piper down the path from Eliot Hall to the tent on the Great Lawn. And behind them marched the 334 members of the class of ’13, many of whom found distinctive ways to accessorize their caps and gowns.

Roger Perlmutter ’73, chairman of the board of trustees, welcomed parents, grad-uates, faculty, and friends to a program with musical interludes by Collegium Musicum and the Columbia Brass.

In his introductory remarks, President John Kroger suggested that navigating the arcane requirements for their degrees would undoubtedly be the last straightforward thing the graduates would do in their lives. “From now on,” he said, “everything will be much more complicated. You will get up every morning and face what I take to be the central existential question: What am I supposed to do now?”

Referring to Steve Jobs’ famous quote about putting a dent in the universe, Kroger said: “While it may be important to make a dent in the universe, it’s probably more important to spend part of your life repairing the dents of others . . . While it may be important to be smart, it is, in my estimation, a lot more important to be kind and to be thoughtful of others.”

Environmental advocate Jennifer Ferenstein ’88 delivered the commencement address. Jennifer is an organizer for the Wilderness Society, working to protect the environment of Montana’s Rocky Mountains. She was formerly president of the Sierra Club.

“By the time I finished my master’s in the early ’90s, conflict was the defining feature of the environmental movement,” she told the assembled graduates. “‘Love your mother’ had been supplanted by ‘jobs versus the environment.’”

Environmentalism is complicated, she said, with few quick fixes and incremental change that is often the product of compromise. She promised the graduates that despite the twists and turns that would shape their lives, their Reed education, predicated on critical thinking, would prove its worth.

Psychology was the most popular major, with 42 graduates. Other popular majors included biology (33), English (28), physics (27), economics (19), history (18), anthropology (18), chemistry (15), political science (15), mathematics (13), art, and religion (11).

The award for longest interval between matriculation and graduation goes to American studies/history major Isabel Eisen ’13, who originally matriculated in 1968—an astonishing 45 years! Unfortunately, she could not attend the ceremony because she was selling her apartment in Copenhagen, Denmark, where she has worked as a dancer and dance teacher.

We congratulate Isabel and all of the graduates of 2013.