I taught at Reed College in Portland Oregon for over 25 years. You may know something about the place—the bright and kooky students, its dedication to serious study, and reputation for graduating students who go on to receive advanced degrees.
I was always grateful to be a part of the Reed Community and think often about the important ways in which it shaped my life. It was a privileged to be there and, lo and behold, be paid to teach and do research on matters that were important to me at the time with the talented individuals who came to study there.
Last year Reed celebrated its one-hundredth birthday with a “gargantuan party, complete with dancers, drummers, jugglers, mad scientists, and a massive chorus reciting lines from the Iliad in Greek.”
The December 2011 issue of the “Reed Magazine” marked the centennial with a series of articles on student and faculty views and an alphabetically organized list of the people, traditions and ideas that have characterized Reed during its first 100 years.
A biology student said: “Reed taught me that the root of genius is passion. I was lucky to meet so many passionate geniuses at Reed.”
An economics senior commented: “This is a place where anything can happen. The Reed community is not just bounded by campus. It stretches across the globe and spans generations.”
In 1991 Steve Jobs was honored with a special award for distinguished accomplishment in science and technology. Although Jobs dropped out after one semester, he dropped back in as he put it for another year and a half to take classes, most notably in calligraphy.
In accepting the award he said that as a freshman “I was forced to go to humanities lectures it seemed like every day… And at the time I thought these were meaningless and even somewhat cruel endeavors to be put through. I can assure you that as the patina of time takes its toll, I thank God that I had these experiences here. It has helped me in everything I’ve ever done, although I wouldn’t have guessed it at the time.”
The poet and environmental activist Gary Snyder, who received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1974 for his book Turtle Island, graduated from Reed in 1951 with a dual degree in anthropology and literature. Snyder was raised in the Pacific Northwest and has often returned to the College for poetry readings. "What I Have Learned" was published in his 1983 collection Axe Handles.
WHAT HAVE I LEARNED
What have I learned but
the proper use for several tools?
between hard pleasant tasks
To sit silent, drink wine,
and think my own kind
of dry crusty thoughts.
-the first Calochortus flowers
and in all the land,
I point them out:
the yellow petals, the golden hairs
Seeing in silence:
never the same twice,
but when you get it right,
you pass it on.