A Life of Firsts

By Charlotte Bruce Harvey '78 / January / February 2002
July 1st, 2007
During a half-century's service to her alma mater, Doris Brown Reed '27 amassed a thick file at Brown, one jammed with, among other things, carbon copies of notes from chancellors and presidents thanking her for checks sent loyally each year. Deep in that file is a typewritten note dated October 24, 1969, addressed to Daniel Earle '35, then Brown's director of development. "Dear Dan," the letter begins.

"It breaks my heart to ask you to put such a small check through the costly process of bookeeping [sic] - but you want me to pay my bets, don't you.

"When I was in low spirit and discouraged during the battle for Alumnae Trustees, Don Millar bet me the enclosed amount that Դthere will even be women on the Board of Fellows by 1970.' Now I ask you!"

The amount of the bet is undisclosed, but the subject of the wager is plain: on October 4 of that year the University had named Doris Reed its first female fellow. In winning her seat she'd lost her bet.

Reed, who died October 3 at the age of ninety-six, graduated from Pembroke in 1927 with a degree in social work, which led to a career in various settlement houses and relief organizations in New York City and New Jersey. She was active in the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, the Girl Scouts, and Community Chest.

Her vigorous civic involvement extended to Pembroke and Brown. She was named a term trustee in 1956 and again in 1962, serving on the influential Planning and Building and Advisory and Executive committees. She fought hard for women's issues, including the election of alumnae trustees, which was finally accomplished in 1965, when the Corporation decreed that four of its fourteen alumni trustees must be alumnae. In 1962 Brown awarded her an honorary doctor of laws. When her second term on the Corporation was about to expire in 1969, then-President Ray Heffner named her to the Board of Fellows. (Her appointment coincided with that of J. Saunders Redding '28 as the first African-American fellow and Alfred Joslin '35 as the first Jewish fellow.) In 1975 Reed was named fellow emerita - another first for a woman at Brown. Two years later, in 1977, her 50th reunion year, she became the first woman to lead the Commencement procession as chief marshal.

In 1929 Doris Brown married Bleike Sheldon Reed, with whom she'd attended high school in Bath, Maine. In their later years, the couple moved to Castine, Maine, where Doris remained active in the Episcopal Church. Her husband died in 1986. At the time of her death, Mrs. Reed was living at Cove's Edge Nursing Home in Damariscotta, Maine. She is survived by several nieces and nephews.

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January / February 2002