Trevecca Nazarene University

A Tribute to Millard Reed, 1933-2012

Trevecca lost one of its most beloved servants when former president Millard Reed died on December 27, 2012. After serving pastorates in Missouri, Wisconsin, and Kansas, he said he became a “naturalized Southerner” in 1974 when he accepted the pastorate of First Church of the Nazarene in Nashville. In that role he forged a strong relationship with Trevecca, and in 1991 the Trevecca Board of Trustees asked him to become the University’s president, a position he held until his retirement in 2005. His fourteen-year presidency was marked by many changes in Trevecca, its programs and facilities—and especially the change to university status and the improved appearance of the campus.

Millard Reed was a richly complex person. A husband and father, accomplished theologian and teacher, preacher, skilled administrator, thinker, leader, singer, human being who had suffered and endured, and friend to many—but he infused all of these roles with the pastor in him. He was a pastor at heart, and he communicated as a pastor. In fact, many persons who had never been his parishioners called him “Pastor Reed.” 

The tributes that follow provide small glimpses of him in some of the many roles he filled and the many ways he shared himself with others. All reveal the ways he lived the life of Christ among us.


After representing Nazarene Bible College at a conference at Trevecca, I left Trevecca’s campus early one morning to catch my flight for home. As my group pulled out of the college’s entrance, we saw a figure that appeared picking up trash in the ditch along the college’s property. It was Dr. Reed. I recall thinking, “Now that is a true servant of the Lord!” That image has never left me, and during all my years in ministry, I have been inspired by Dr. Reed to consider no task in the kingdom beneath me. Raymond Jones 


In working closely with Dr. Reed, I came to recognize so many wonderful gifts and graces that he possessed: quick wit, keen intelligence, articulate speaker, accomplished vocalist, gifted visionary, charismatic leader, compassionate friend. As a college president, he engaged all of these gifts and more in becoming very effective in such diverse roles. But throughout all his success as a college president, he never stopped being a pastor at heart. You could always sense that he genuinely cared for you and your circumstances—even when the topic that brought you together was academic, financial, or something else that seemed so important at the time. I will always be grateful for the pastoral role the Dr. Reed played in my life. I was not a member of his church, did not even live in Nashville. But when I was troubled, he called “just to see how you are doing.” He was such an encourager, such an example of Christlikeness. He truly “walked the talk,” and I thank God for allowing me the privilege of counting Millard Reed as my friend and my pastor. Charles Davis ’70 


Millard had helped me through a difficult time in my life, and after Bob Dixon ’62 moved to Nashville and took a position at Trevecca, Millard encouraged me to accept a friendship with Bob. Millard told me, “I have checked him out. He has a good record, and if you would let yourself, you could probably have a good relationship with him.” I followed Millard’s advice, and several years later, he performed the wedding ceremony for Bob and me (31 years ago). For some time afterward whenever he told that story, Millard would look around mischievously and say, “Does anyone else need help?” Kathy Dixon ’59 


Much of what I know about being a pastor I learned from Millard Reed. As a seminarian, I attended Overland Park (Kansas) Church of the Nazarene when Dr. Reed was the pastor there. I watched him handle difficult situations with dignity, strength, and grace. During a time of discouragement in one of my pastorates, I called Dr. Reed, my pastor, and he asked me to come to Nashville; I did, and we spent some hours together. He was never too busy for me or for any young preacher boys/women whom he mentored and cared for. Don Dunlap ’69


When he became my pastor, Pastor Reed opened the Word in a new way for me, leading me to hunger truly for God’s Word. He was a “grace preacher,” teaching and modeling God’s grace. Often, as he read the Word, tears ran down his face, and in the middle of sermons, he would break into song. Pastor Reed had a heart for everyone—with an individual love for each of us. He joined us in our personal celebrations and times of grief. He seemed to know what each of his flock needed at any given time, and with uncanny timing, he showed up exactly at the time of our greatest needs. He displayed Jesus’ love and compassion with abandon. Marita (Slifer) Smith Sexton ’63 


Millard Reed was a man with a strong personality. I remember being cautioned about serving with him, that I might end up being sorry. But that was not the case—and I am forever grateful for that opportunity. I learned that he did not require more of me than he did of himself— which was a great deal. Whether it was jogging early through Shelby Park (often before an early hospital pre-surgery visit), welcoming individuals to his office for personal counseling, or spending hours in the Word preparing messages for his congregation—Millard Reed was the image of a man on a mission for God, and that mission was to be fulfilled through the local church, often one person or one family at a time. Doug Runyan ’74, First Church staff member with Dr. Reed 


Working with Dr. Millard Reed for seventeen years, I witnessed the true pastor’s/servant’s heart. I have seen him literally cry in private for a suffering soul in his flock and then greet that person with a special smile and great words of advice and encouragement. His ability to assess a situation and make a prayerful, wise decision to resolve the issue was second to none. He truly was a man of God. I have told many, “Every man has his faults, but Dr. Reed has fewer than any person I have ever known.” He was certainly one of the greatest and a dear, dear friend to me. JoAn Law, First Church staff member with Dr. Reed 


He was my Billy Graham. We laughed and cried when I served him. Deb Cotton, Dr. Reed’s favorite server at Longhorn Steakhouse on Murfreesboro Road 


One of my sweetest encounters with Dr. Reed occurred only two years before his death after my mother had broken her pelvis in a fall and was going to Trevecca Health Care Center for rehabilitation. I was almost overcome with anxiety, not knowing anything about skilled nursing facilities or rehab centers and not knowing if I was making the right decisions for Mother or not. The day that Mother entered Trevecca Health Care, I stepped onto the elevator, and there was Dr. Reed. He had been visiting Barbara, as he faithfully did every day. He asked how I was, and I blurted out something about Mother’s fall. In the calmest, wisest voice I could imagine, Dr. Reed replied, “This is a good place. She [referring to my mother] is where she needs to be.” I remember thinking at the time that I had never heard more comforting words. In that moment Dr. Reed, a pastor to the very end, spoke peace to my troubled heart. Lena Hegi Welch ’81 


Dr. Reed loved to sing, and after his retirement from Trevecca, he sang with the Heritage Men’s Chorale. Of course, his beautiful voice was a welcome addition, but so was his quick, sharp humor. He kept us laughing. He also became the spiritual icon of the group. Those were precious days. John Sugg ’64 


Before I could complete my degree, I needed to go home to receive treatment for a neuromuscular illness. I felt like a failure because I wasn’t going to finish as I had planned. I went in to see Dr. Reed; he was so very supportive. He told me to go home and get better. He helped me be okay with my decision to leave. He even gave me an autographed copy of his book about his own medical struggles. He probably didn’t know how important our conversation was to me, but I have always been grateful that he took the time to encourage me when I needed encouragement. He was an amazing man, and I feel very blessed to have known him. Toni James ’99 


I often told Pastor Reed that everyone should work for him early in that person’s career because after working for him, a person would feel like he or she was on vacation for the rest of life. He set an energetic pace for those who worked with him. He didn’t need a Daytimer—he just wrote things in a spiral notebook and then he did them. When he was out calling, he might have only fifteen minutes to spend with people, but for those minutes those people were the only ones in the world. His life was uncluttered so that he could give full attention to the church and the university to which he was called. Preaching was his art, pastoring was his hobby, the friends of God were his friends. How easy it is to picture him in heaven! Karen Dean Fry ’68, First Church staff member with Dr. Reed 


Prior to my coming to work at Trevecca in 1995, I had met Dr. Millard Reed only one time. I really did not know him except by reputation. During my employment at Trevecca, I learned to know a man of high integrity and a person with love for God and people. I also learned to know a man who was a “regular” guy. He loved to have fun! During the many trips to visit donors or attend district functions, he would want to take a side trip to see some attraction or just stop at the Dairy Queen for his favorite ice cream or at a Mexican restaurant. I miss those times. Harold McCue ’56/DL ’07 


I had the good fortune to know Millard as my pastor and to serve as his board chairman during his ministry at Nashville First Church. Our relationship continued after I had left my faculty position at Trevecca and following his retirement in 2005. No one has meant more to my own spiritual growth than Millard Reed. I have never known, nor do I think I ever will know, anyone who exemplified grace and unconditional love as he did in his relationships. He was a person of great intellect, warm compassion, deep love, and commitment to his calling and a dear friend. I miss him. Jim Quiggins ’71 


I have many wonderful memories of my friendship with Dr. Reed, but my favorite one took place on the day one of our mutual friends left the University. Our friend had had a somewhat troubled employment existence at Trevecca, and Dr. Reed and I had tried to help him. I looked up from my desk, and Dr. Reed was at the door. He came in, told me the news about our friend, and knelt down and prayed for our friend. He had tears in his eyes. A president that aware and willing to connect in my office was a humbling, warm gift from a great man. Terry Pruitt, Professor of Graduate Psychology 


Dr. Reed always amazed me that he could “be there for anyone who needed him,” and many times he was there more than one time a day. He walked my twin sister through her two-and-a-half year battle with cancer, and during the last two months, he was at the hospital sometimes two and three times a day for her, my family, and me. What an amazing servant of God! Words are inadequate to pay tribute to “Pastor Reed.” I love him and miss him. Diane Parker-Stembridge ’70 


Pastor Reed was kind to everyone. He laughed with me about me, but he never put me down. Both he and Barbara were kind and gracious to everyone; they had a gift for knowing exactly how to treat people. Marian Edwards Jewell ’47