Debra Reid, an associate professor of history at Eastern Illinois University, has been chosen as this year’s recipient of the Luis Clay Mendez Distinguished Service Award.
The award, given annually since 2004, honors the memory of Clay, an EIU Spanish professor who died in 2003. Recipients must exemplify the Clay’s dedication via service to the university, their profession, and the community at large (local, national and international).
Reid is to receive the award during the 10 a.m. commencement ceremony Saturday at EIU’s Lantz Arena.
“Dr. Reid’s seven years of service to the university, and the community at large, and the historical profession is nothing short of extraordinary, and will be equaled and exceeded by few if any,” wrote Terry Barnhart, EIU history professor, in supporting Reid’s nomination.
“Debra is a consummate and ceaseless ‘doer.’ She is respected by those who know her on and off campus for the endless energy, exceptional efficiency and tireless dedication she brings to a wide range of activities and responsibilities. Her plate is a perennially full one.”
A partial list of her current participation in professional organizations includes serving as an officer, board member or committee member of the Rural Women’s Studies Association, Midwest Open-Air Coordinating Council, International Association of Agricultural Museums, Agricultural History Society. She’s also done work for the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums, American Association of State and Local History, National Council on Public History, the Illinois Amish Interpretative Center in Arcola and the Coles County Historical Society.
She also volunteers at the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site in Lerna, sings with the Charleston-Mattoon Shape Note Singers, and plays second base for the Rock Springs Ground Squirrels vintage baseball team in Decatur.
On the university level, Reid has served on several academic councils and committees at EIU, including presiding over the Council on Academic Affairs as it worked to refine EIU’s general education requirements, a task that required an estimated 20 hours a week, on top of her regular duties.
“Deb Reid’s principled commitment to service, already notable when she joined our university, now has impressive regional, national and international dimensions, and shows no signs of faltering,” wrote EIU history professor Bailey Young in his letter nominating Reid for the award. “What recommends her particularly, in my view, for this award is a quality she shares with Clay Mendez: an energetic passion to promote the core values of teaching and learning, and a very great generosity of spirit.”
Reid met Clay only days before he died, and even in that brief time, she gained a great respect for his activities.
"I was amazed at his enthusiasm for service, offering support on every front from his colleagues on the Faculty Senate and in EIU's foreign language department, and even Coast Guard members and inmates incarcerated in regional prisons," Reid said.
Reid thanked her colleagues in the EIU history department, including nominators Young and Barnhart, as well as members of the selection committee, headed by Lynne Curry, an EIU history professor."This award certainly marks a high point in my career, and I am deeply grateful for the recognition and encouragement that it provides," Reid said. "It will help me continue to do for others as Dr. Clay did throughout his career."