Generational Effects and Reed’s Academic Leadership


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Nigel Nicholson’s appointment as Dean of the Faculty of Reed College got me to thinking: how many of Reed’s academic leaders have had school age children and a working spouse?

The answer, I think, is that Nicholson is the first Dean in Reed history to have a full-time working spouse and school age children (this information is shared with Nigel’s permission).  I ran into Peter Steinberger at the grocery store and asked him the same question; his recollection was that none of the previous Deans/Provosts had school age children–or any children at all.  Peter’s oldest was 9, if my calculations are right, when he was appointed Dean in 1997.

Combine this with John Kroger’s family status–his spouse works full time as the head of Student Life at PSU and his son is a 13 year old in Portland Public Schools–and I think this may be the first time in a very long time that Reed’s two main academic leaders have working spouses and school age children.  (I went as far back as President Paul Bragdon, whose son David was 12 years old when Paul was appointed President in 1971.)

None of this is particularly relevant, but I find it interesting for a number of reasons.

It’s a thoroughly modern question to ask, of course, but one I suspected might show Reed behind the curve.  Reed is family friendly in many ways, but in other ways, I’ve found the college stuck in a 1950s time warp.

We continue to hold most faculty meetings at 4:30 on Mondays, and our major governance committees meet on Mondays and Tuesdays at 4:30.  This means that anyone with childcare duties has a difficult time participating fully in faculty governance.

When I first arrived, my department held departmental meetings on Saturday mornings, a practice I immediately ended when I became chair.  I’m not sure how many other departments hold to this practice.

Vollum Funds used to be limited to entertaining  students at our homes, as if any of us still had homemakers minding the hearth and able to cook dinner for 24 students (not to mention the space to entertain them).

And then, like any good institutionalist, I wonder how our selection process has affected our choice of leadership.  The ages don’t hold any particular pattern (my best estimate of the ages of Reed’s Deans is shown below).   I suspect the lack of children and working spouses is generational–something the College is wrestling with among the faculty as well.

I’m more concerned that we are unable to grant tenure to an external candidate, which is the primary reason we have generally limited our searched to internal candidates.    That’s a conversation for another time.

As an aside, lest you think that Presidents typically are older and have grown children, it’s not the case, at least has not been historically.  Nationwide, the average college president was 52 in 1986 but was 60 in 2006, the notable “graying” of the presidency.  Reed followed this pattern (see below), but Kroger is a throwback in some ways to college presidents who have traditionally ascended to the office in their 40s.

The Ages of Reed Deans It’s difficult to determine the age of our Deans, since there is not good biographical information on the Reed website, at least easily discovered.    We can use c.v’s and other information to get a rough gauge:

  1. McDougal, ~60 (BA in 1974)
  2. Stauder, 59
  3. Steinberger, ~49 (BA in 1970)
  4. Mantel, unknown
  5. Bennett, ~53 (BA in 1968)
  6. Cronyn,~64 (BA in 1940)
  7. Gwilliam, ~51 (BA in 1950)
  8. Levich, possibly 46 (online reference to a 1926 D.O.B. is hazy)

This rough guide would put Nicholson at 45 (BA in 1990), potentially the youngest Reed Dean ever, though my estimate for Levich is based on sketchy information.

Reed Presidents  The ages of Reed presidents is much more easily calculated from their bios:

  1. Foster, 32 31
  2. Scholz, 41
  3. Coleman, 51
  4. Keezer, 59
  5. Scott, 44
  6. Odegard, 44
  7. McNaughton, 68
  8. Ballantine, 40
  9. Sullivan, 39
  10. Rosenblum, 43
  11. Bragdon, 44
  12. Powell, 52
  13. Koblik, 61 51
  14. Diver, 59
  15. Kroger, 46

Hat tip to John Sheehy for the corrections.

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2 Responses to Generational Effects and Reed’s Academic Leadership

  1. John Sheehy says:

    Paul, I believe Koblik was only 51 and Keezer only 38 when appointed. Foster was 31 when he was hired in June 2010. This makes Diver is the odd man out in terms of presidential age at Reed (MacNaughton should probably be omitted from the analysis as he was largely an emergency interim president who took the job on half-time until the college was back in the black). This makes Kroger more in line with Reed’s average age of 44.5 for a president.

  2. Paul Gronke says:

    John, I was hoping I’d see your comment on this posting.

    Koblik, that’s an obvious correction! So much for my math skills. I didn’t have a precise birthdate on Foster and can correct that as well.

    I was a bit disappointed that we have so little information on our Deans and Provosts on the website, and that the official presidential bios are short and rather sanitized. Some of the Presidents and Deans had rich lives outside of Reed and these fuller portraits are hard to reconstruct, at least in an evening on the web.

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