Friday, August 14, 2009

John Burton's words at the Memorial Service

W. Michael Reed (1950 – 2009)

It is not often that someone speaks for Mike Reed. What he did spoke for itself and when necessary, he was pretty capable and willing to express his own views).
This is my second time.

The first was on the occasion of his reception of the Benedum Distinguished Scholar Award at the University of West Virginia. As part of the celebration, Mike made a speech about research generally and his research particularly. I drew the honor of making the introductory speech. He had already won WVU’s highest award for teaching and service so this was the “trifecta.”
Bonnie and I joined him for the weekend. He was happy and I was unduly proud.

This occasion is obviously a different kind of celebration but maybe not so different. The first was a celebration of his life as a researcher; as an academic. Today we celebrate his life as a friend, colleague, son, brother, and uncle.

I first met Mike sometime in 1981 I think. He was my first doctoral student and although I shared the honor with Patricia Kelly – I smothered Mike with more attention than anyone should get. (Other “early” students such as Mike Orey, Sue Magliaro, and Wayne Nelson would probably agree I’m sure).
I had too much time.
Norm Dodl and I had just opened the first computer lab in the college of education (the lab and the college are both gone now) and Mike was our only GA. Yet we stayed open 60 hours a week and Mike was all the staff there was. He slept in the lab many nites going home only to change clothes and watch the “Price is right.”
We taught classes and workshops together.
We researched and wrote together.
We traveled and presented together.
And because we could, we drank copious amounts of beer together. And talked.

Life was good.
But there was that dissertation.

As I said, I smothered him with more feedback than anyone would ever want.
Mike, as you may know, was an English major.
I truly believe that he thought he would bring his first draft of his work in and that I would praise every word of it and we would put the dissertation behind us.
It did not go that way.
In fact….It did not go well.
I scribbled all over his draft. We would meet and read the markups to each other word-by-word.
We fought. He had an advantage in that he knew the rules of the English language and I only knew what” sounded right.”
But I had the advantage because I was the advisor.
I bullied. I outright banned the use of hyphens and semicolons. He sulked.
He wanted to be creative and use his thesaurus. I wanted him to be boring and repetitive.
He tried to reason using the rules of grammar but I didn’t know the rules of grammar so his arguments fell on deaf ears.
I mostly won.
He kept every draft that I had marked up and stacked them in the lab. The stack got high. And higher. In fact the stack of old fan-fold computer paper got to be around 3 feet or so.
(Mike took the stack with him when he finished). I wouldn’t be surprised if it showed up in his effects or last wishes.

Two things happened during this process:

One was that two first year docs, Susan Magliaro and Mary Alice Barksdale, discussed his work with him and, playfully I assume, poked fun of his assumptions and measures.
Mike (who could get “grumpy” in such situations was not. In fact he was somewhat bemused I think. In one of those ironic twists that happen, Mary Alice ended up using most of the same assumptions and measures as I recall.
More importantly, Mary Alice went on to “follow” Mike to WVU a few years after he finished and arrived.
Despite a few bumps, the friendship that began at Tech was tempered at WVU and became long, powerful and important.

Second, in one of those throw off lines that advisors pass off for wisdom to justify what they are doing, (and undoubtedly after a beer or two) I apparently told Mike something to the effect that “The most important thing you can give to your student is your time.” (Meaning he should be happy that I was making him write and re-write. He cited this back to me on a couple of occasions and, if I ever said it, there is no doubt that Mike gave that time to his students and his colleagues and it was important. If I every really “talked the talk,” it was Mike who “walked the walk.” As an advisor and as an editor he was thorough in his reviews but he also provided copious amounts of feedback to make it better. He was about making his students better – as good as they could get.

If there is a regret today it is that Mike had no idea how many lives he had touched and how deeply he had touched them by just giving them his time. He won awards, published some nice stuff, wrote a novel but I don’t think he knew how important his real efforts were. How absolutely successful he was.

Make no mistake, Mike Reed lived life the way he wanted to live it.
He loved to play tennis and he played it as long as his knees held out. He didn’t like any other form of exercise so he didn’t do it.
He ate what he wanted to eat.
He went where he wanted to go.
He knew and understood the dangers of smoking but he liked it so he did it – a lot.
He liked to gamble and he gambled.
He like his dogs and he doted on his dogs. He was loyal to his friends and he had many. More than anyone I’ve ever met…
He pretty much did it all his way.

I doubt Mike had many regrets and we should not either. Mike’s legacy is not in his published work but in the scores of his students and colleagues.
He will be missed but he will be remembered.
We are his legacy.
We are better for having known him.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Dr. Reed: Thank you so much

Like others have said, Dr. Reed's voice has been in my head all week.

I remember long conversations about the difficulty of balancing research, teaching and service. I'm now a prof in Japan, and constantly struggle with the pressures and pleasures of these roles. Often, when I'm overwhelmed, Dr. Reed's spirit and words come to mind and the weight is lifted.

Dr. Reed shepherded me so kindly in my Ph.D – I always felt like he went above and beyond what a prof needed to do with a student. I feel so fortunate that Dr. Reed helped me finish my dissertation after he and I had both left NYC. I know I would not have been able to finish my coursework or the dissertation without his expertise and remarkable sacrifices of time and effort.

As many have said, I am here because he was there.

It's so strange and awful not to have Dr. Reed on the other side of an email or phone call.

I really feel that he left us too early. He had mentioned to me a few times that he wanted to travel in Asia after he retired, and was looking forward to visiting me in Japan. I'm so sorry we weren't able to see him over here.

I remember his deep love for his dogs. I still have dissertation drafts spotted with puppy prints.

My 3 month-old son's name is Noah William. Both my and my father's middle names are William, but I also though it was fitting to honor Dr. Reed. My wife and I had hoped the two “Williams” would be able to meet some day.

It was so wonderful to see him in last June, and we have some lovely pictures with him:

and of course this is what I wish I could do now:

Dr. Reed, thank you so very much. I miss you.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

In memory of Dr. Reed

I still cannot believe that Dr. Reed left us. When I told him I was grieving for the loss of my best friend last year, I did not know that I was going to lose him the next year. If I did, I would tell him again how great and lovable a teacher he was, and how much I am grateful to him. He was one of the best things I have encountered in my journey of pursuing a PhD in the US. He was definitely one of the greatest teachers that I have met in my life, and a wonderful mentor that I can never forget. When I was in a low mood during my earlier academic life at NYU, he encouraged and inspired me. He set a great example of what a good teacher should be like, and his attitude toward students, work, and research really touched me.

As Dr. Reed wrote in the dedication section of his doctoral dissertation, his adviser “has given unselfishly of his time and energy and, when I‘ve not felt totally confident, has had total confidence in me….Much of what I leave here with is what he has passed on to me.” He passed on all those good things to me as well as to many other students. In memory of Dr. Reed, I will also pass on all the good things that I learned from him to my students. In my grateful heart there will always be a space to remember him.


On facebook see memorial group: Mike Reed Memorial.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

To my mentor, the mentor of many

I am starting this blog because I am realizing the many people Dr. Reed has touched and inspired. It was amazing for me to read Curt Bonk's blog and realize that 20 years ago a scene at West Virginia University mirrored the one I knew at New York University.

Professor Bonk writes:

In effect, he took me under his wing to help me succeed. He showed me how a more advanced faculty member should treat younger ones. And it was not just me who he welcomed in; Mike Reed went out of his way for anyone at any time. Students often waited in a cue outside his door. But again, they were his children, so they rarely had to wait too long.

It is my hope that this blog can be used to unite the many people (students, colleagues, and friends) who have lived better lives due to Dr. Reed's example and kindness. Together, we can be his legacy.