The man, the myth, the legend
67 year old returns to Grounds to make the most of his undergraduate education
Some students grow up knowing they will one day be Wahoos. But for one student, the path to college took a 48-year detour. At 67 years old, Jerry Reid may be older than the typical University student, but he doesn't let age get in the way of pursuing his University degree.
Reid first came to the University in 1963, but not as a student. He had a friend who took him to parties at Chi Phi fraternity. Reid said he had no interest in going to university at that point, despite his fondness for Charlottesville.
"I came here in 1963 after not finishing high school on time," Reid said. "My life wasn't going anywhere. [My friend] Bill Sturman told me to come here and was a member of Chi Phi. He told me, 'Jerry this is where you need to be. You need to be a student here with me.'"
But Reid did not listen to his friend's advice. He said he continued to go to fraternity parties and even met his wife in 1967 at a Chi Phi event. Eventually, he and his wife Susan started working, but Reid always fondly remembered his earlier years visiting Grounds.
"I raced automobiles for 31 years, I had my own video production company and I published a magazine for five years," Reid said. "I had a great life, but the empty hole could only be filled by the University."
Reid's love for the University and his desire for a college degree led him to contact the University's School of Continuing and Professional Studies. This degree program, sometimes called the "night school of the University," allows mature students, many with careers or families, to take classes online and on Grounds.
Reid was accepted to the University in spring 2011. He enrolled in the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies (BIS) program in the fall, taking various liberal arts classes.
Reid said he wants to make BIS students feel more included in the fabric of the University. His goals include restarting Corks and Curls, the University's now-defunct yearbook, and making BIS students included in SHOTS, the student ticketing system for athletic events.
"I think I'm opening doors to other people in the BIS program to experience extracurricular activities on Grounds," Reid said. "I was the first BIS student to apply to a Lawn room. There was a little bit of trouble, but I'm working on getting us into SHOTS. I found a back door, but for the 4 or 5 BIS students that can get to games, we should let them."
Reid is also a member of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society and a brother of Chi Phi fraternity.
"I joined the Jefferson Society first," Reid said. "I interviewed on the last day and thought I did a terrible job, but I passed."
Reid said he makes an effort to take part in every Jefferson Society social event, and added he is close with his fellow members.
"Jefferson Society members have been the most accepting people," Reid added. "They told me I was one of them, that I was a 20-year-old with 47 years of experience. It opened me up socially to a traditional undergraduate experience in a way that no other group could."
Reid's road to membership in Chi Phi fraternity began when he spoke with a Chi Phi alumnus at a Virginia football game.
"I asked Jim Soderquist if I could be some kind of member in honor of Bill Sturman, who died in 1984," Reid said. "He took my case of a nontraditional student to the national convention and the board voted unanimously to allow me to become a brother."
Reid was initiated into Chi Phi fraternity in fall 2011. As a brother, he participates in fraternity events and even brings his wife to date functions.
Reid, like many students, also enjoys a night out on the Corner.
"If I have a class on Thursday that gets out at 10 p.m., I'll go to the Virginian and stay till 2 a.m. and sing 'Proud to be an American' at closing," Reid said.
Reid said he wants to stay in Charlottesville and become a teacher after he graduates in 2013.
"I hope to be able to teach creative writing [at the University] or in Albemarle County or Charlottesville City Schools," Reid said. "I don't anticipate ever leaving. I'll apply for the MFA program, which will help with the novel I'm writing about becoming a Wahoo."
Reid said he has treasured his time at the University.
"I finally fulfilled my obligation to Bill, and I have enjoyed it beyond comparison," he said. "[I want to tell students to] squeeze every ounce of life out of every second. If you ever get sidetracked, don't fear. You will be able to get back to your path"