Oral History

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Timeline of Reed College Events (to 1959)

Jennifer Ingham and Sally Brunette, draft, October, 2000
Updated by Lauren Lassleben, January, 2002
Last updated February 22, 2004

1895 – 1919

1895  Simeon Gannett Reed dies and leaves his fortune to his wife, Amanda Wood Reed, suggesting “. . .that she devote some portion of my estate to benevolent objects, or to cultivation, illustration or development of fine arts in the city of Portland, or to some other suitable purpose, which shall be of permanent value and contribute to the beauty of the city and to the intelligence, prosperity and happiness of the inhabitants.”

1904  Amanda Reed dies and the Reed Institute is founded by those she named as trustees, including Unitarian minister Thomas Lamb Eliot and her nephew, Martin Winch.

1908  Reed College is founded.

1910   The search for a site for the new college is over when the Ladd Estate Company offers a 40-acre site at the northeast corner of Crystal Springs Farm.

William Trufant Foster, 31, from Maine, is chosen as the college’s first president.

1911   September – Reed’s first classes are held in temporary quarters in downtown Portland at the corner of 11th Avenue and Jefferson Street, S.W.  There are 46 first-year students (23 men and 23 women) and five faculty members. Classes are only taught for  half a day, in order to give the faculty time to organize the fledgling college.

Faculty and students agree to unproctored examinations, where everyone is “on his honor.”

1912   January 12 – Ground is broken for Reed’s first two structures, the Arts and Sciences building (Eliot Hall) and the dormitory building (Old Dorm Block).

May 11 – A crowd of thousands gathers at the laying of the cornerstone of the Arts and Sciences Building.

September 23 – The college’s first convocation is held in the yet-to-be-completed chapel. 124 freshmen and 45 sophomores are there to hear the president speak about the future of the college.

1913  January 16 - Students and faculty name their weekly newspaper The Quest, testifying to their comradeship in the unending mission “to seek the truth.”

1917   The United States’ entry into World War I completely disrupts normal proceedings at the college. The faculty to student ratio rises from 1:10 to 1:15. Although personally opposed to U.S. participation in the war, once the country is involved, President Foster commits himself and the facilities of the college to activities in support of the war effort.

In order to save the college from financial difficulties and to aid in the war effort, Foster proposes that the college adopt programs with strong vocational emphasis.

1918   The Junior Qualifying Examination is added to Reed’s curriculum, after the faculty realizes that some of the first students to write theses are not adequately prepared to do so.

1919   April – Students petition for a return to the traditional curriculum, including offerings in psychology, philosophy and religion. This, in part, leads President Foster to an impasse with the faculty and he soon resigns.

Up to this point, Reed has no formal student government.  However, this year the student body delegates its responsibilities to an elected representative council.

1920 - 1929


1919 -1921   There is an interim administration after the departure of President Foster.

1921   Richard Scholz, who is sometimes referred to as the second founder of Reed, becomes president.  He firmly establishes Reed’s commitment to remain a small liberal arts college.

1924  Scholz dies after a minor surgical procedure, and Norman F. Coleman becomes president. Coleman taught English at Reed from 1912 to 1920.

By the late 1920s, the faculty is heavily involved in college affairs.

Key College Turning Points

1919   The college suffers a severe financial crisis.

1924   Under the leadership of Scholz, finances improve, with an increase in tuition, a stronger endowment and a fund-raising campaign.

1921-1924   Scholz appoints faculty members who have a tremendous influence on the College, including Reginald F. Arragon (history), Barry Cerf (literature), Victor L.O. Chittick (literature), and Edward Sisson (reappointed in philosophy).

Departments are replaced by four divisions: Literature and Languages; History and Social Sciences; Math and Natural Sciences; and Philosophy, Psychology and Education.

Student Life Developments

1920   The Honor Principle is firmly established. The student body votes that “. . .the Honor System should be continued and it should not be limited by specific definition of what is covered since our conception of the ideals of the college made it unnecessary.”

Main Student Activities

1919-1921   Brief foray into inter-collegiate sports.  It is the students, in 1921, who request that this effort be abandoned.

Campus Day, a campus clean-up, occurs in the fall. As part of Campus Day, there is a tug-of-war between the freshman and the sophomores over the lake on the golf course (now across the street from Reed).

Canyon Day, a canyon clean-up, occurs in the spring.

There are night fetes on the lake. The different dorms of the Old Dorm Block, then called dorms A -G, make boats and have contests to see which one can stay afloat the longest.

Physical Campus Changes

1920   Anna Mann is built as a woman’s dormitory, with a $22,000 bequest from a close friend of Amanda Reed.

1920   Faculty houses are built on Woodstock Blvd.

Prominent Intellectual Topics

Scholz introduces the concept of the current liberal arts curriculum, with students spending their first two years studying a broad range of topics.

1925 – The Junior Qualifying exam, Senior Thesis and oral exam are firmly in place.

There is a feeling of strong academic pressure among students.

1930 – 1939


1933   President Coleman resigns to return to teaching.

1934   Dexter Merriam Keezer is named the college’s fourth president.

Key College Turning Points

1932 - Applications for admission to Reed are the highest on record. The enrollment reaches 461 students this year, and for the first time a significant majority are men.

Student Life Developments

86% of students are “day dodgers” (live at home).

Main Student Activities

Freshman Frolics

Men’s and Women’s Athletic Associations

Fall costume party by and for women only

“Letters” in sports: tennis, football, golf

Christmas Formal

Shows and skits

Summer French camp on the coast, run by Reed’s French teacher, Madame Poiteau, and Dr. and Mrs. Benjamin Woodbridge

Physical Campus Changes

1930   The Eric V. Hauser Memorial Library is completed, giving the college a separate  library building.

1935   Keezer names the individual dorms in the Old Dorm Block.

1940 - 1949


1942   Keezer resigns. Arthur F. Scott, senior professor of chemistry, is named acting   president.

1945   Peter H. Odegard, a political science professor from the University of California, Berkeley, is named Reed’s fifth president.

1948   President Odegard resigns.  Ernest B. MacNaughton becomes interim president, a post he holds until 1952.

Key College Turning Points

1941   December 7  The U.S. enters World War II.  The war leaves Reed fundamentally unchanged. The exception is the installation of a one-year, military pre-meteorology program on campus, administered by the 69th Army Air Forces Technical Training Detachment, (Lieutenant E.G. Frohberg was
the commanding officer), beginning in February 1943 and ending with graduation day on Feb. 12, 1944. The task of organizing and presenting the subject-matter of the premeteorology course was undertaken by the Reed College faculty under Dr. A.A. Knowlton, professor of physics. Premeteorology, one of the most intensely accelerated army courses offered, was presented to approximately 2500 students at 10 colleges throughout the United States. Reed College, with its 200-odd student-soldiers, was consistently among the top-ranking schools." (from: "PM", a publication of the
Premeteorologists, Reed College, 1943-1944)

1945   The Veterans Administration chooses Reed as the site of a Veterans Guidance Center. This frees funds, which had been unavailable during the war, to construct an addition to the library, which temporarily houses this center.

1940s – early 1950s   Many faculty retire and many are appointed, including Richard Jones (?) and Owen Ulph (1944 – 1979) in history, Arthur Leigh (1945 – 1988) in economics, Herbert Gladstone (1946 – 1980) in music, Lewis Kleinholz (1946 – 1980) in biology, Lloyd Reynolds in art (1947  - 1981), and Kenneth Davis in physics (1948 – 1980).

Student Life Developments

Late 1940s  Majority of students are still day dodgers; about one-quarter of students come from outside the Pacific Northwest.

Main Student Activities

Formal dances

Gilbert and Sullivan productions

Prominent Intellectual Topics

1946  The first unified modern humanities course is established. Each faculty member in the History and Literature departments is required to assume responsibility for leading discussions on all assigned material.  Professors from other departments are added to the program.

1950 – 1959


1952 – 1954   Duncan S. Ballantine is president

1954 - 1956   Frank L. Griffin, retired math professor, is appointed interim president.

1956 – 1966   Richard H. Sullivan is president.

Strong faculty support; no major changes to the college; tough financial times; Rockefeller grant to enroll black students.

Key College Turning Points

1954   Velde Committee in Portland.

Professor Lloyd Reynolds suspended from teaching for the summer.

Fall – Professor Stanley Moore is fired.

1952 – 1954   Ballantine conducts a college self-study. Wants to address attrition, permissive atmosphere. There is a split among the staff and faculty in support of and against the self-study.

1954-1956   There is a change to the faculty constitution, giving more power to the president.

Many professors hired: Jean Delord (1950 – 1988) in physics, Frank Smith Fussner  (1950 – 1975) in history, Joe Roberts (1952 - ) in mathematics, Marshall Cronyn (1952  – 1989) in chemistry, John Dudman (1953  – 1985) in mathematics, Marvin Levich (1953 – 1994) in philosophy, Kenneth Hanson (1954  –  1986) in literature,  Carl Stevens (1954 – 1990) in economics, Helen Stafford (1954  – 1987) in biology, John Pock (1955 – 1998) in sociology, Laurens Rubens (1955  – 1992) in biology, Jerome Barta (1956 – 1988) in physical education, John Leadley (1956 – 1993) in mathematics, Herbert Chrestenson (1957 – 1990) in mathematics, Carol Creedon (1957 – 1991) in psychology, Frank Gwilliam (1957 – 1995) in biology, Pearl Atkinson (1959 – 1977) in physical education and Dennis Hoffman (1959 – 1990) in physics.