Remembering Joe Reed, Visionary Mentor

This week, the sad message went out to the Wesleyan community announcing the death of Joseph Reed, for many years professor of English and American Studies and one of the founders of the university’s work in film studies. His courses were inspirational, and his generosity and support for students were legendary. Here is the Provost’s announcement.

Joe arrived at Wesleyan in 1960 after receiving his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Yale University, and having served on active duty in the Navy. During his time here, Joe served as the chair of the English department and of the Sesquicentennial Committee, and was one of the founding architects of both American Studies and Film Studies at Wesleyan. He played an important role in cultivating numerous interdisciplinary initiatives on campus and was involved in a long-term collaboration with Jon Barlow, Professor of Music, focused on William Faulkner’s fiction, John Ford’s films, and Charles Ives’s music. He retired in 2004 after 44 years at Wesleyan.

Joe is fondly remembered for his legendary teaching of up to 200-400 students a year, his wide-ranging scholarship, and his kind and generous colleagueship. Richard Slotkin, Olin Professor of English, Emeritus said: “Joe Reed was my good friend and colleague for more than forty years. His intelligence was adventurous, and his scholarly and teaching interests ranged from 18th Century British literature, to Faulkner and the American novel, to movies and television.” Henry Abelove, Wilbur Fisk Osborne Professor of English, Emeritus said: “Joe was the most generous man I’ve ever known.”

Joe and his wife, Kit, author and former Resident Writer, were Wesleyan fixtures. They lived very close to campus on Lawn Avenue and were often seen walking their Scottish terriers. President Michael Roth remembers: “When Kari and I moved to Middletown in 2007, Joe and Kit were the first to welcome us with a meal, with animal stories, with art and friendship. We will cherish his memory.” In 2009, a labyrinth was built on campus near the Davison Art Center in their honor from funds gathered by their beloved students.

Joe is survived by his children, Mack, John, and Kate, and their families, including four grandchildren. The family is planning a private memorial in the fall. In lieu of gifts, the family asks that you consider making a memorial contribution in Joe’s memory to Alzheimer’s Los Angeles: