The recipient of an award honoring alumni generally recognizes that person’s giving and service to alma mater. Robert Reed, C’13, CHA, is no exception. In receiving the School’s Gibb Family Distinguished Alumni Award, the UR School of Professional and Continuing Studies (SPCS) recognizes the ongoing and consistent service Reed has provided the School.

In his address to SPCS graduates, Reed recalled a decisive moment in his own experience as a Weekend College student. The moment involved a meeting between Reed and a well-known and beloved adjunct professor, Elisabeth Wray, whom Reed described as “diminutive stature [but] an intellectual giant.”

“Her question was simple but powerful,” he recalled. “‘Mr. Reed, why are you here?’”

Reed reflected that his answer at the time involved setting a positive example for his daughter, then in middle school. He wondered if she might decide to skip earning an undergraduate degree altogether, since Reed had done the same and succeeded nonetheless.

“I imagined that when we were discussing her post-high school plans, she might say, ‘Dad, you did okay in life without earning your college degree, so why do I have to go to college?’” he said.

Reed continued, “I wanted to show her that even though I dropped out of school as a 20-year-old, it was important enough to me to go back and finish what I had started so many years ago.”

And so he did, and graduated from SPCS with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts in 2013.

But Reed considered Professor Wray’s question in a new light during his address to graduates. He asked himself, instead, why he was here now, as an alumnus — what continues to draw him to the University of Richmond?

In reflecting, he realized that, while the University’s beauty, prestige, and rigor initially attracted him, what he had taken from the University of Richmond was more important than what brought him to UR. And what he has taken from Richmond are the relationships he made at UR and the attitude to service instilled by UR.

About relationships, Reed noted, “Most important to me are the relationships I made during the time I was here, and the intellectual curiosity aroused in me through this institution’s liberal arts education.” He continued by encouraging graduates to maintain those relationships and engage with other alumni at Homecoming, at Reunions, and at social gatherings.

But beyond the relationships, Reed remarked that SPCS had instilled and exemplified a life of service.

“I work in the hotel business,” said Reed, “so I am paid to serve. But it is the service for which I am not paid from which I gain the greatest satisfaction. I saw this modeled in and out of the classroom during my time at SPCS.”

Reed closed his remarks with a charge to the graduates:

“That’s my answer to the question, ‘Why are you here?’ What’s yours? In answering that question, I trust that you too will find yourself changed for the better as a result of your time at the University of Richmond.”

Reed’s selection as the Gibb Family Distinguished Alumni Award recipient was announced during SPCS Night, the School’s annual awards ceremony for graduating students, held May 9, 2018. Earning this award provides the recipient the opportunity to address graduates at Commencement Exercises.

Reed’s Commencement Address

Video starts at Alumni Association President Eric Beatty’s introduction.