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2004-06-20 - 12:05 p.m.

The Reed Experience - Part 2

by Joan Callaway

Glen lived in a boarding house off-campus with Bill Sandman, Jim Martin, and Dean St. Dennis. He worked as a short-order cook in a neighborhood restaurant that year, needing a bit of spending money. The next year he had a job as a live-in French tutor to two boys, whose family owned a French restaurant in downtown Portland. We had several delicious dinners there as part of Glen’s compensation.

Humanities I was the major part of my curriculum – 9 units. Professors gave lectures, each in their own specialty, several times a week with all freshmen in attendance. Ten to twelve students met in conference four times each week with a designated professor; my conference professor was Dr. Dorothy Johansen, perhaps my favorite of all. She reminded me so much of Teedy – a tell-it-like-it-is sort of person. We had what seems to me to be weekly paper assignments, essays on various subjects, which we were allowed to choose from our current readings. I learned a tremendous amount from papers that were returned without a grade, but with written comments nearly as long as the original paper – respectful written challenges designed to encourage further thinking. A paper conference with Dr. Johansen always followed, allowing me the opportunity to defend the paper or question her about her comments. All of this was considered good preparation for writing the senior thesis and graduate school, which, of course, I was never to need, because I just attended Reed as a student the one year. But it was excellent preparation for me, and my career, nonetheless. I learned the greatest of all things at Reed – how to learn.

There were no grades at Reed or at least we weren’t aware of them. There apparently was enough documentation, however, so that transcripts could be forwarded to other colleges or to graduate schools when requested. A degree from Reed was practically automatic entry into any graduate school. What we got instead of grades were regular extensive discussions about our work with our major professor, as well as our advisor. There was never any question left as to whether one was performing up to Reed standards.

I especially remember Ann Shepard, Dean of Students, who was a confidante and good friend, who took special interest in all of the students. One week before Christmas break, two of the girls from across the hall discovered two of their roommates were having a lesbian relationship, which none of us had known about. The roommates, naive about such things and uncomfortable with this new knowledge, went to their senior dorm advisor. The advisor reported the incident to Dean Shepard, who called us all in and talked with us in a very understanding manner. I’ve always regretted whatever part our dorm had in the fact that the two girls never returned to school after Christmas break.

Glen and I both had had French in high school, but thought it would be fun to study Old French with Professor Woodbridge. Neither one of us were very talented in oral languages, but loved to read. By special arrangement we were the only two in the class, meeting informally under the trees, down by the creek, in Professeur’s office, or wherever the spirit moved us. We read Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel in the Old French – the text was ribald, risqué, a challenge to translate, and altogether seemed to be a great treat for the Professor, a change from his everyday fare. Today little of the French language remains in my memory bank, but I do remember our times with Dr. Woodbridge.

I took an art class from Professor Lloyd Reynolds, which included some enriching field trips to the museum and calligraphy practice. We had the most beautiful note takers of any college, I daresay – where else might you find lecture notes calligraphied in purple or turquoise ink? I think my notes and collection of papers I wrote during college must have been thrown out during one of our many moves – a pity; they were quite beautiful!

One of the questions asked in the pre-reunion questionnaire: “What percentage of your Humanities books do you still own? Are they displayed prominently in a bookshelf or tucked away in a dusty box?” While many of my classmates, responded, “Surely you jest!” I have a great many of mine, including Rostovtzeff’s two-volume History of the Ancient World, which I purchased for $45 as the result of a book search prior to going to Reed, as it was long out of print, available only on-reserve at the library. This 2-volume set accompanied my daughter Valerie when she moved into her residence at Reed some 18 years later – it served us both well! Also prominently displayed in my secretary, although seldom opened I must confess, are several Modern Library volumes, as well as Stoic and Epicurean Philosophers, Horace, Herodotus’ The Persian Wars, Thucydides, Divine Comedy, Virgil’s Works, and The History of World Art.

I wish the old Humanities program still existed, perhaps broadened a bit to include more of the Middle East and eastern perspective. For me, it was the backbone of my Reed experience. I learned how to learn and how to think outside the box, color outside the lines. It provided an overview of civilization I think every educated person should have – one way or another.

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