Saint Joseph College President Part of Historic Couple

Meet the Reids, Irvin and Pamela. In the 1960s they were Howard University sweethearts. When they met and married, she was an undergrad and he was a graduate student. They had a boy and a girl, and earned doctorates together at the University of Pennsylvania. A decade ago he became a university president. And in October, he welcomed Pamela Trotman Reid, his wife of 41 years, “to the club” when she was named the new president of Saint Joseph College in West Hartford, Conn.

“It’s rare enough for a husband and wife to occupy university presidencies simultaneously, but I believe this is the first time in history it has occurred with an African-American couple,” says Dr. Irvin D. Reid, president of Wayne State University in Detroit. “This is indeed a delight for our entire family.”

Dr. Pamela Reid, a developmental psychologist, will begin her tenure at the small Catholic women’s college in January. She will also have the distinction of being the college’s first African-American president and the first one to be married, she says. Since July 2004, Reid has been Roosevelt University’s provost and executive vice president where she continues to hold the rank of professor of psychology and to maintain a National Science Foundation-sponsored program promoting math achievement among adolescent girls. Formerly director of the women’s studies program at the University of Michigan, for more than six years she was professor of education and psychology and also held a title of research scientist at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender.

Her husband, who became the first African-American president of Wayne State in 1997, announced in late September that he planned to step down from his post sometime next year. This month he will have served a decade there. It is time, Reid says. He knows that he has made his mark at the institution, and that he is ready for that “next thing.” Saying only that “his life’s work is in education,” Reid resists prodding, preferring to keep his future plans close to the vest. Reid also made it clear that he didn’t want the recent announcement of his resignation to eclipse his wife’s victory. He insists, “The spotlight should be on her.”

And for now, Pamela Reid says that she is “enjoying the attention” and the distinction that has come since her appointment. She knows that the day was destined to be because she and her husband worked toward it.

“We’re a team. It’s not a matter of taking turns leading but supporting the other in reaching our aspirations. The pride and joy I get from seeing Irv’s successes and accomplishments are well matched by the support and encouragement I get from him.”

The pursuit of their dual higher education careers began in the early 1980s not long after they earned doctorates together from Penn. Irvin Reid fondly remembers the endless days and nights he and Pamela spent researching and writing their dissertations and how their two little ones crawled and clamored amid their books, notes and the reams of computer printouts that flowed from their desks. And when the newly minted Ph.D.s “marched together,” their children were in tow, he recalls. Today, daughter Nicole is a St. Louis attorney and son Dexter is a computer engineer in San Francisco. Combined, the children and their parents have earned 10 academic degrees, Irvin Reid points out.

The Dual-career Commuter Couple

Irvin and Pamela Reid speak matter-of-factly about the early days when “home” has at times meant Montclair, N.J., for him and Washington, D.C., for her or Chattanooga, Tenn., for him and Michigan for her and the children.

The pair will gladly share how long they’ve been doing “it” and even how to make it work when you are married – being a “dual-career, commuter couple” with 24-7 jobs that is. After more than two decades of being on the road and in the sky, and in pursuit of family and careers, for the Reids, home is truly where the heart is even if it means being “in two places,” Irvin Reid contends.

They get it all the time – the curious looks and questions from many in and outside of higher education circles who wonder how, as a couple, they manage to do so seemingly well what other dual-career couples living in the same house and city cannot. Pamela Reid admits that “in the ideal world it would be better if we were working and living in the same city, but things don’t always work out that way. We don’t have young children and when we have the opportunity, we see each other at least once or twice a week.”

They’ve done what works for them.

“We have this thing down pat,” says Irvin Reid who credits “high-level strategic planning” to their success and stability at home and on the job. And for the couple, that means talking “many, many, many times a day,” he explains. It keeps them in tune, in touch and well organized.

“We talk all the time,” says Irvin Reid, at least five to 10 times a day on the telephone and through e-mails. Together they coordinate family plans including vacations; talk about their grown children who refer to them as “the parents;” plot quality time with the beloved grandchildren; schedule events that each can attend at the other’s university; and of course they discuss the coveted weekend time together that is usually filled with watching football, riding their bicycles or going to the opera. Irvin, who “never sleeps,”

usually places the first call from Detroit to his wife in Chicago around 7 a.m. EST (6 a.m. her time). And “the last call is usually made around 11 p.m.,” says Irvin Reid.

Pulling a page from her hectic yet storybook life, Pamela Reid talks about the recipe for success in a dual-career, commuter family. Take note: “There has to be a lot of communication. People have to share and support each other, even share the stresses.

You have to have fun, enjoy each other, and have a good sense of humor.

“You can’t make everything about your career. We place a lot of importance on our family, not just our children and grandchildren, but on our relatives. You have to be able to keep that balance,” she explains.

As she prepared to embark on a 10-day student- and faculty-recruiting trip to China for Roosevelt University, Pamela Reid was up late sorting through the clothes she wanted to pack. In the midst of it all, she spent a few minutes thoughtfully unfolding the rich fabric of her extraordinary life – speaking nostalgically of the 13 years she spent in Catholic schools while growing up in Brooklyn and Queens, N.Y., and the plans she has for Saint Joseph College, “a small place to grow” and where she hopes young women, not just Catholics, “can develop values and a sense of self respect.” As Pamela Reid tells it, the fabric of her successful life exists because of the “friends and family who love and nurture me.

“I’ve always learned so much from the people and institutions where I have been. And now, I am looking forward to new opportunities, making new friends and to just having a great time.”

 

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