Paul Errol Bragdon, who served as president of Reed College from 1971 to 1988 and later led the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology and Lewis & Clark College, died Aug. 7 at age 94, family members say.
The longest-serving president in Reed history, Bragdon delivered a 16-fold increase in Reed’s endowment, building the shaky institution he inherited into one of the West Coast’s top small liberal arts colleges.
Born in Portland, Maine, Bragdon enlisted in the Marines at age 17 to serve in World War II. He later graduated from Amherst College and Yale Law School. Bragdon worked as lawyer in New York and plunged into efforts to reform the city’s notoriously corrupt Democratic Party before entering politics professionally as a top aide to New York City Mayor Robert Wagner.
After Wagner’s third term, Bragdon went to work at New York York University, from which Reed recruited him to be its 11th president in 1971.
Following his retirement from Reed in 1988, Bragdon became an eminence grise in Oregon’s higher-education circles. He served as an adviser to then-Gov. Neil Goldschmidt before stepping in to help OGI and Lewis & Clark through difficult stretches. His efforts in higher education and the broader community earned him honorary degrees from six colleges and universities.
Bragdon’s survivors include his wife, Nancy, a former staffer at Portland Arts and Lectures; his son David, a former Metro Council president and current executive director of TransitCenter, a New York City nonprofit; daughter Susan, the executive director of Seeds for All, a Portland nonprofit; son Peter, an executive at Columbia Sportswear and five grandchildren.