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African American; only one third of these are male.
More than 30,000 people attended these two so-called
Super Sunday events; afterwards, some people stood in line for
nearly half an hour to collect the materials that Cal State was
handing out. The enthusiastic response thrilled Reed. “If you’ve
never had a grandparent or parent, brother or sister, who’s been
to a university, what the hell do you think you’d know about
college?” he said. “They were starved for information.”
The events garnered praise from the church pastors and
congregationmembers. And AssemblymanMervyn Dymally,
who has been involved in politics for nearly half a century and
currently chairs the California Legislative Black Caucus, called
them, “an act of political genius.”
“That was a coup,” said Dymally. “I’ve never known a white
college administrator to get into a black church.”
Administrators fromCal State have alsomet with
Vietnamese American, Native American and Hispanic
community leaders. Cal State plans to continue the outreach,
which will include twomore Super Sundays next year.
In the meantime, Reed said, Cal State
must also continue to improve articulation
agreements with community colleges,
the gateway for 55 percent of Cal State
undergraduates. It must make better use
of technology to help reduce the time it
takes for students to graduate—currently
about five and a half years for first-time
freshmen—so it can accommodate more
students. It must partner with industry to
ensure that it is teaching the right job skills
and providing internships.
And, armed with a recent economic
impact study that quantifies the jobs and
the money Cal State generates for the state (82,000 annual
graduates, 1.7 million alumni, earning $89 billion annually),
it must convince Californians of its value so it can raise
more money from the private sector. The system still has not
recovered frommore than $500 million in cuts it suffered
during California’s recent budget crisis.
The success of the institution rides on its ability to
make progress in all those areas, Reed said, because they’re
inextricably intertwined. It’s a tough juggling act, but Reed
thrives on the challenge. “I like keeping all those balls in the
air,” he said.
That he is able to do somakes him a rare talent, said David
Ward, president of the American Council on Education. “He’s
without question one of the big thinkers about big solutions,”
saidWard. “As systempresident, he really does look at things
from the broad social perspective rather than an institutional
or campus perspective. And he does that very, very well.”
Reed is up at five o’clock and at his Long Beach office by
6:30, where he prepares two pots of coffee for his staff before he
attacks his lengthy “working list” of priorities, which is updated
every couple of months, and which he has whittled down from
56 when he first took the job to a mere 30 today. In his eight
years as chancellor, Reed has never missed a single workday;
what’s more, he routinely works weekends, putting in three
weeks straight before taking a day off.
On his office shelves, surrounded by photographs and
autographed sports paraphernalia, is a framedmotto that sums
up Reed’s approach to life: “You work as hard as you can all
day, and if youmake a mistake, you fix it. That’s all you can
do.” Now 64, Reed has lived by that creed ever since he was a
child growing up in the tiny coal mining town of Waynesburg,
Pennsylvania, where he was the oldest of eight siblings, and
where he met his wife of 42 years, Catherine.
She first noticed himwhen they were both in junior
high. Reed had a job at a produce stand, and she and her
friends would see him as they drove past on their way to the
swimming pool. “One day I got my mother to stop at the fruit
market and I asked why he didn’t want to go to the swimming
pool,” recalled Catherine Reed. “And he said he really liked
to work, and that was more fun for him than going to the
swimming pool.”
As much as Charlie Reed loves to work, he hates to lose.
And that’s the second thing you need to know about him. “He
will never lose,” said Catherine Reed. “It might appear that he
loses, but he’ll be back.” And back. And back. And back. Until
eventually, she said, he’ll win.
Reed developed his competitive instincts on the gridiron,
where he played both offense and defense. First he was
quarterback and linebacker for his high school football team,
which he led to the state finals. Then he played halfback and
defensive cornerback for GeorgeWashington University,
which he attended on a football scholarship, majoring in
health and physical education, and where he later earned his
master’s degree in secondary education and an Ed.D. in teacher
education.
Reed honed his political skills as education policy
coordinator for former Florida Governor (and later U.S.
Senator) Bob Graham, who came to value Reed’s dedication
and political instincts somuch that he eventually promoted
him through the ranks to chief of staff. Before Graham traded
the governor’s office for the Senate, Reed accepted the position
of chancellor of the Florida State University system. He held
the job for an unprecedented 12 and a half years in a state
where, as Reed describes it, “universities are a political sport.”
California Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally called Reed’s church appearance “an act of
political genius.”
Reed has been focused
on improving and
expanding Cal State’s
teacher training
programs, which have
grown 65 percent
since he arrived.
Tom Cogill for CrossTalk