August 3, 2009

The Passing of a Mentor and a Friend

I was so sad to hear on Sunday that my graduate school mentor and friend had passed away. John Oughton, also a friend and former colleage sent me a message via Facebook on Sunday and then Monday morning I found this post from Curt Bonk that Dr. Michael Reed had passed away earlier in the week.

I spent three years working very closely with him at West Virginia University completing my doctorate degree. He taught me so much about life and research.

I was a very young graduate student in 1993 when he accepted me into the Instructional Technology program at the University. He sat me down and talked to me about what it would take to complete the program. I quickly became in awe at his knowledge and ability and clung to his every word for the entire time that I was there. It was only through his support and reassurance that I had the confidence to engage in the program, become an instructor, and write the manuscripts required to get my degree.

His impact on my life cannot be understated. My first real lasting memory was when I got my first paper back from him covered with red ink, coffee stains, and cigarette burns. As he had it to me, he said "I see you managed to get all the Reed trademarks on this one." I was in shock. My original words were barely visible. We sat at his "private" office out back on the patio and discussed for what seemed like hours about what it would take for me to be a researcher and a writer. For the next three years he spent countless more hours on the task.

Probably the smartest thing I have every done outside of my family, is to make myself 100% open to the criticism, feedback, and counseling of Mike Reed.

In addition to the dinners around town and dog walks at the farm, I remember spending all weekend in his office shivering, he kept it very cold in there, as I worked on re-write, after re-write, after re-write wondering if Dr. Reed would want me to write it again.

We didn't talk as much as I would have liked after I graduated in 1996. I think particularly because I didn't stay in academia. I would email or call him from time to time. I talked with him last in November 2007 about a career change and he mentored me like I was still one of his kids. He listened intently about my family and told me about his work and housing situation.

Over the last two days more and more comments have come in on Curt's post and they have really made me miss him. Seeing his picture puts me back there working on research, teaching class, presenting at conferences, and asking Dr. Reed so many questions that I am sure drove him crazy.

My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and so many who's lives he touched just as he did mine.