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Two Presidents, One Household

Alumni Irvin and Pamela Reid shared the same life and career trajectories since Howard – as spouses and as university presidents

by Deidra W. Hill
Drs Reid

During their academic journeys to becoming university presidents, husband-and-wife Irvin D. Reid (BS ’63, MS ’66) and Pamela Trotman Reid (BS ’67) worked, completed PhDs at the University of Pennsylvania, and raised a daughter and son. Both were born while the Reids were matriculating in the doctoral programs.

“Try having two children, a wife in a PhD program, yourself in a PhD program, you’ll see it’s a piece of cake to be president,” Irvin quips.

He was first to become a university president when appointed to Montclair State College in New Jersey in 1989, which was later changed to a university under his tenure. Seven-and-a-half years later, he was tapped to lead Wayne State University in Michigan, from 1997-2008. He is now president emeritus.

Pamela’s path to the presidency was more circuitous. One year after her husband assumed presidency of Montclair State, she became associate provost for the Graduate School at the City University of New York (CUNY), so the two were just across the river from each other.

After stints as professor at the University of Michigan and provost at Roosevelt University in Chicago, she started her presidency at Saint Joseph College in Connecticut in 2008, which was changed to University of Saint Joseph under her leadership. She also started the first private pharmacy school there.

While their time as presidents overlapped for one year, their experiences afforded them advantages of sharing and learning from each other.

“We both encouraged each other and [were] willing to share frustrations and accomplishments, joys and disappointments with each other because we were both academics. We definitely understood what each other was going through,” she says.

Sometimes they were at the same institutions. For one semester, both were at Drexel University. They were professors at Howard—she in the psychology department, he in the School of Business. At the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, he was dean of the school of business, and she led the psychology department.

The Reids met in 1963 at Howard. Irvin was working on his master’s in psychology when Pamela began her freshman year at Howard University. Both They credit Howard with providing the foundation for their success.

“Culturally, educationally and experientially, Howard was a significant part of my development,” says Irvin. He also recalls how his wife encouraged him to go into university administration. “You will be a university president one day,” he said she had told him.

Pamela says that her undergraduate experiences were unmatched by her counterparts in graduate school. “I had already done independent research as an undergraduate student which most of these other students had not. I had group and political experiences just from my time working with Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.” She notes that Stokley Carmichael was a senior when she was a freshman.

Now retired, Irvin is writing his memoir in which he reflects on his time at Howard. Pamela participates in several community and volunteer activities. Most important, they travel west visit with family and spend time with their three grandchildren. In 2023, Montclair State University renamed its science building in his honor.

The Reids also are committed to advancing opportunities for students at Howard. They are donors of an endowed fund in the College of Arts and Sciences that supports students and faculty in the psychology department.

This story appears in the Winter 2024 issue.
Article ID: 1926

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