MIDDLEBURY — Curtiss Reed Jr., a longtime civil rights leader in Vermont, was awarded an honorary doctorate by Middlebury College during commencement exercises on May 29.
Middlebury noted that Reed is “a champion of equity and inclusion” who “has dedicated his career to service, advocacy, and fighting for the rights of all Vermonters.”
He joined the Peace Corps and moved to Tunisia in 1983, and later worked in cooperative business development in Niger, Guinea Bissau, Burundi, and Mali.
Since 2001, he has served as the executive director of Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, a resource that provides Vermont organizations in every sector, from businesses and government to education, with assistance regarding issues of inclusion, diversity, and equity.
The Partnership for Fairness and Diversity has been working with the town of Bennington to help implement recommendations by the International Association of Chiefs of Police related to the key themes of community-police relationships and trust, legitimacy, and procedural justice.
A Brattleboro resident for over forty years, Reed is also president and CEO of the CRJ Consulting Group, L3C.
“From this position of leadership, you have provided the opportunity for hundreds of individuals and institutions throughout the state, and the region, to make Vermont a more desirable destination for all,” Laurie Patton, Middlebury’s president, said in making the presentation to Reed.
“Curtiss, your work on behalf of all Vermonters has made this state a more inclusive, and therefore a much better, place for us all to live, work, and recreate,” Patton said.
At the luncheon for honorary degree recipients and their families, Reed recalled the influence of Rodney Scott Hudson, aka “Shivers,” one member of the pantheon of Black men who shaped his early life. In the early 1960s, Shivers defied stereotypes, and despite Jim Crow taught Reed to swim and appreciate the natural world at summer camp. Reed joked, “If Shivers, a Black man, can live in a state as white as South Dakota, why couldn’t I eventually claim Vermont as my home?”
In addition to his honorary degree, the president also conferred upon Reed a replica of Gamaliel Painter’s cane. Painter founded both the town of Middlebury and Middlebury College.
Also receiving honorary degrees were John B. Derick, a leader in the Middlebury community who, for more than 30 years, served as the Trail Around Middlebury coordinator and a volunteer with the Middlebury Area Land Trust, and Dr. Mark Levine, Vermont’s commissioner of health, who has directed the state’s efforts to combat COVID-19 and has received national recognition for his leadership during the pandemic.