In Our Hearts Forever

You take with you only what you leave behind.
       The Rev. William Reeves
       Final address to Collegiate’s Middle School faculty, June 1991.
 
Those who knew Bill Reeves and shared with him the Collegiate experience were privileged to observe a host of wonderful attributes.
He was brilliant, erudite, and worldly. Andover educated, he earned an undergraduate degree from Yale and graduate degrees from both Yale and Harvard.

When he arrived at Collegiate in 1976 as Head of the Boys School, his career had already taken him to Hong Kong where he taught refugees from Mainland China at New Asia College, Hawai’i where he served as a teacher and administrator at Iolani School, and Southside Virginia where headed Chatham Hall for five years.

An ordained Episcopal clergyman, eloquent writer, and life-long learner, he was well-read and articulate and a deep and reflective thinker. Yet in his understated way, he was also one of the guys, witty, often self-deprecating, unpretentious, and, without fanfare, just “Bill,” always with that familiar twinkle in his eye.

While he could converse on equal footing with scholars and intellects, likewise he could enjoy a sailing excursion on the Rappahannock River or Chesapeake Bay, mend a broken soda machine with the spring from a ball-point pen (yes, he really did that), cheer on the Cougars in many an athletic competition, and bring a smile to the face of a young, crying faculty child who had taken a tumble in his back yard.

Bill was wise and conciliatory. Never were those virtues more vital than in the early days of the Middle School. You see, when the structure of Collegiate changed in 1986, he assumed the responsibility of leading the new entity. The plan at the time was fluid and sometimes ambiguous. It was a grand experiment and, to be sure, an adventure. Plus, the new paradigm was not universally popular or accepted, not by a long shot.

There were standards to set, programs to develop, a culture to create, a team to build, order to maintain, and egos to soothe. Success would take ingenuity, imagination, resolve, patience, tact, and strength of character. 

Bill Reeves brought the right stuff to the challenge. His deft touch steadied the ship. He became the linchpin, consensus builder, guiding light, and architect of the Middle School of today. He believed in academic rigor, but he also believed that in a world of intensifying demands, expectations, and temptations, children needed sufficient “blue sky time” to grow, dream, engage with nature, and, well, just be kids. He had a soft spot for the underdog, but he also championed the most talented and challenged them not to rest on their laurels.

Bill was a Renaissance man and very much a visionary. While he appreciated the institution’s cherished traditions, he intuitively understood where the Middle School needed to go and gently shepherded us into the future.

A broader, deeper curriculum that nurtures all aspects of a child’s growth and development? An advisory program that’s become a national model? A full slate of co-curricular offerings? A no-cut policy at the Cub level that allows every child, regardless of athletic ability, to participate on a Collegiate team? The implementation of new technology?

Bill would tell you they weren’t all his ideas, but he was the thinker, the sage advisor, and the facilitator who played a large role in bringing them to fruition.

“We may have gotten some places more quickly with a different style,” said Charlie Blair, who succeeded him as MS head in 1991 and served in that role until his retirement in June 2019. “But I’m not sure we would have had the fundamental underpinnings we developed as a result of his thoughtfulness and focus on kids. Even though he was brilliant and knew that subject matter was important, he kept bringing back to all of us the fact that it was really about the kids.”

Bill was the quintessence of a servant leader. He delegated well. He listened intently. He presented options, challenged us to consider solutions, guided us every step of the way, picked us up when we stumbled, and celebrated with us when we found success and fulfillment.

At times, he had an almost Zen-like bearing. He espoused mindful thinking long before we even knew what that was. He was truly enlightened and non-judgmental and believed in the innate goodness of all people.

For so many, he was a confidant, spiritual leader, big brother, and guardian angel. He made us stronger. He made us more resilient. He made us better.

Bill stepped back from the Middle School after five years, enjoyed a well-earned sabbatical during the 1991-1992 term, then returned to teach Upper School religion and ethics. He retired for good in 2007.

In 2014 by order of the Board of Trustees, the Reeves Center – the redesigned and reconfigured Student Activities Center – was named in his honor.

In retirement, Bill remained active. He and Jane, his wife and soulmate of 56 years, traveled widely and enjoyed time with their three children – William ’82 (Debbie Berger) of Honolulu and London, Hannah ’83 (Tom Cook) of Boston, and Molly ‘86 (Matt Dolan) of Richmond – and their three grandchildren. He read, he studied, he preached, he sailed, and he provided comfort and counsel – gently and genuinely, as always – to those in need.

Early this morning, Bill slipped peacefully away after a period of declining health. He was 85 years old.

He fought the good fight with dignity and resolve. He finished the race. He kept the faith.

Now that his “momentary affliction” has passed, what’s left – what he leaves behind – is his legacy, and it is, without question, immeasurable. His example of kindness, decency, and grace endures. His spirit will remain in our hearts forever.
  -- Weldon Bradshaw
 
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  • Todd Hanneman
    Having moved to Europe, I only recently discovered the passing of Bill Reeves. Bill was a great man who cared deeply for his colleagues and students. When a family relative of mine died of injuries in Iraq, Bill came to my office to offer his thoughts and prayers. Collegiate School was fortunate to have such an influential educator as Bill. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.
  • Emiko Berger
    Mr. William Reeves PAPERE, DEEPLY APPRECIATED Emiko
  • Sandy Jordan
    Thank you for your tribute. Dr. Reeves was brilliant and his calm manner was the perfect fit during his start at Collegiate in the 70’s. I am forever grateful for his good nature too as I won the Key Club Talent Contest with Mark Smouse in 1978. We did Dr Reeves’ impression as he watched and laughed with us from the audience, “Bless You! bless You!”
  • Nancy Smith-Jackson
    This is such a beautiful and eloquent tribute to Bill Reeves. I always admired his wisdom and knowledge. He was both a Collegiate friend and a family friend, and such a gentle man. My thoughts and prayers are with Jane and family.
  • Jill Hunter
    Bill was a very special person and I learned much from him as a brand new school head. What a lovely man.Relationships were so important to him and he connected with so many who know and loved him.
  • Chas Davidson
    Weldon, a very eloquent tribute to a fine gentle man. Enjoyed crossing paths will Bill at both Collegiate and All Saints. We all will miss him terribly.
  • Andrew Chernack
    In my memory, he’s a giant figure. I think of him every time I look at my watch: he once told us it would never be this time again. Separately, I recognized Weldon Bradshaw’s prose immediately. Coach, thanks for delivering the sad news in a beautiful package.
  • Betsy Lecky
    He was a kind, gentle, brilliant man who was always open to every idea and approach to teach the whole child. Weldon, Thank you for capturing his spirit.
  • Ann Griffin
    It was a privilege to know and love Bill Reeves. He was respected by all who knew him and he made me a better teacher and person. My thoughts are for the comfort of his family.
  • Alex Massie
    We lost a spectacular man who’s influence on countless lives will endure for generations to come. I’ve had the privilege of seeing him the last few years when at Cedarfield visiting my Mother and his gentle kind spirit was still evident. We will miss you Mr Reeves.
  • David MacMillan
    A wonderful tribute, and spot-on. I was fortunate to know him as a headmaster, parent of a friend, teacher, colleague and friend. He was the same man in all those roles. I especially loved when he would laugh at his own jokes. That frequently made me laugh more than the joke itself. Godspeed.
  • Frank Watkins
    I met Mr. Reeves the summer he came to Collegiate, in 1976, on the front porch of what was then the Boy's School Headmasters' House. He would become a great teacher, mentor, boss & friend. My thoughts to his family and the school.Frank Watkins, '77
  • Rhea Egbert
    Thank you for these loving words for such a great part of the Collegiate community. I am grateful for so many people who were part of my time there. Class of 1988
  • Valencia Siff
    This is such a beautiful article, Weldon. You describe perfectly the beauty of this extraordinary man, Bill Reeves.
  • Jan Rodgers
    Bill was one of the first faces to welcome me to this wonderful community. His kindness was sincere and authentic.
  • Rebecca Hottman
    Bill had a profound influence on me as a teacher, a person, and a child of God. He has been missed in these walls every day since his retirement. Fly on eagle's wings my brother.
  • Kate Cunningham
    I shared classroom space with Bill Reeves my first year at Collegiate. There was no one that welcomed me to this community more than him. He was a calming, gentle force. I am grateful that our paths crossed. God Speed, Bill Reeves. You will be greatly missed.