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reed magazine logoSpring 2009
Profiles in Generosity
Josh Kurzman

It’s only two years since Josh Kurzman ’07 finished his thesis on octahedral tilting in layered perovskites, but the chem major has already given back to Reed. “Last year I took an undergrad course at a big state university to fulfill a requirement,” he says. “It was the worst educational experience of my life. There was no emphasis on concepts, no interest in ideas. It was just rote learning. I sat there with 90 undergrads who didn’t care about what they were learning—only about the grade they would get. It made me realize how special Reed really is.” Now pursuing a Ph. D. at UC Santa Barbara, Josh credits outstanding professors at Reed—particularly Maggie Geselbracht—with awakening his interest in the unseen world. “I have enormous respect for the professors at Reed,” he says. “But I also learned a lot from my classmates.” To that end, he designates his gift to financial aid through the Annual Fund so that students from all backgrounds can attend the college. For a cohort just getting started on jobs and careers, the Class of ’07 has demonstrated an impressive participation rate—last year 43 gave to Reed.

Chris Moses

Historian Chris Moses ’02 would never describe his experience at Reed as smooth sailing. “I call it the ‘lead-weight’ theory of pedagogy,” he says. “They drop lead weights on you until you’re forced to admit that your entire world-view has no foundation. Then you figure out how to build it back up from scratch. In a strange way it was a confidence-inspiring experience, even if there was a lot of existential doubt along the way.” One of his most powerful Reed memories is of taking an anthropology class on colonialism from professor Paul Silverstein on September 11, 2001. “At the beginning of class, Silverstein wrote, ‘WE ARE COLONIZERS’ on the blackboard. For the next hour, we had the most amazing discussion—it was a stunning reminder of the importance of understanding some of these issues.” Recently he was listening to an old Pete Seeger tune, Little Boxes, about how students go to the university and come out in identical boxes, stripped of their identity. “Reed is sort of the anti-box,” he says. “It enables you to take your life in any direction you want.” Chris chairs the Annual Fund and is currently working on his dissertation at Princeton University.

Louise Austin never went to Reed, but she has given generously to the college because of the key role it played in the relationship between her son, Jonathan Austin ’82, and her second husband, Hal Bloomberg. When they first met, she says, the two “did not see eye to eye. They were not very compatible. Hal was practical—he was an engineer, he had lived through the Depression. Jon was more philosophical.” Over time, however, the two men grew fond of each other, thanks to far-ranging conversations enriched by Jon’s education at Reed. Their relationship deepened in 1998, when they were both diagnosed with serious illness; Jon with multiple sclerosis, Hal with cancer. “They developed a total connection,” Louise says. “Partly because of their mutual illness, but also because they both loved learning about new ideas.” That connection helped to sustain Hal until he succumbed to botched radiation therapy. After his death, Louise wanted some way to memorialize the relationship between her husband and son; ultimately, she established a scholarship. “Hal would have been really pleased with that,” she says. “He was a Renaissance man who really valued the pursuit of knowledge.”

Marcia Yaross

Like a lot of Reedies, Marcia Yaross ’73 arrived on campus her freshman year looking for a new beginning. “I was a bit of a misfit in my big Midwestern high school,” she says. “I wanted a college that was academically rigorous but socially anarchic—and Reed was the right choice!” Her time at Reed, particularly a class in embryology with professor Larry Ruben, helped focus her career in the biomedical sciences. But that’s not what she values most about Reed. “I’m a scientist, but I was trained in the humanities, too,” she says. “That approach to learning, the breadth of knowledge and the ability to engage in critical thinking, is as important to me as ever. My education was not about fostering a career—it was about leading a fulfilling life.” Now vice president for clinical research, regulatory affairs and health policy at Biosense Webster, a manufacturer of medical devices, Marcia gives to Reed so that a new generation of students “who have the talent and the desire but not the means” can benefit from the same extraordinary education.

reed magazine logoSpring 2009