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1910–19

Radical Upstart

Fifty students meet in a temporary building in downtown Portland for Reed’s first classes in 1911. The following year, the college moves to its permanent campus on a portion of what was Crystal Springs Farm, where architect A.E. Doyle has designed two initial structures, the Arts and Sciences Building (now known as Eliot Hall) and the Dormitory Building (now known as Old Dorm Block). The first issue of the Quest, the student-run newspaper, appears in 1913. Its name is taken from the motto “comrades of the quest,” adopted by President Foster to underscore the lack of fundamental distinction between students and faculty in their pursuit of knowledge.

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Educationally, Reed pursues a climate of academic rigor and intellectual independence, adopting a free electives curriculum and setting a mandatory senior thesis and orals exam as goalposts for graduation. A 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio ensures small classes. Regular participation in athletic games is encouraged, but intercollegiate sports and fraternal societies are banned for being too distracting.  Grades are issued only upon graduation, and an honor principle is adopted, at first to cover unproctored examinations and later to govern all student behavior. The faculty is given unprecedented power sharing with the president.

Reed quickly establishes itself as an academic success, gaining national recognition for its rigorous educational model and producing three Rhodes Scholars from its first five graduating classes.

At the urging of trustee president Thomas Lamb Eliot, President Foster launches an ambitious “city wide campus” of extension courses and public lectures in Portland that attract 55,000 annual attendees by 1917.

During the Portland recession of the 1910s the college encounters financial difficulties as its endowment plummets to half its value. Local financial support is further challenged by President Foster’s pacifist stand prior to the United States’ entry into World War I. During the war, Foster helps found the Students Army Training Corps, a precursor to ROTC, serves in the Red Cross in France, and establishes a training center for reconstruction nursing aides. Following the war, the college’s continuing financial crisis leads to Foster’s resignation in 1919.

1910s : A SLIDESHOW

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1910s