KNOXVILLE — In 1970 Wilbur Reid II and his wife Linda came to Johnson University.
At that time, Universities sending out contemporary camp teams was a new idea, and the Reids came to Johnson, in part, to lead New Encounter, the university’s new camp team.
Little did they know that coming to JUTN would be the beginning of a life-long ministry of service.
Nor did they know that their example of selfless service would inspire generations of JU staff and faculty.
Since 2012, JUTN administrators have honored one staff member each year with the Wilbur and Linda Reid Second Mile Award.
The Award was created by the board of trustees to recognize JUTN staff who emulate the kind of service that characterizes the Reid’s life and work as staff members at JUTN.
The award is given to a member of the JUTN staff, rather than a member of the faculty, because the Reids were staff at JUTN.
“They were the most selfless people when it came to their jobs,” Marsha Cunningham, administrative assistant to the president, said. “They did not consider it a nine to five, five-day a week job. It [working at Johnson] was their life.”
When Wilbur Reid’s health began to fail in 2012 the board of trustees wanted to do something to honor the Reids. Thus, the Second Mile Award was created.
Wilbur Reid II died Feb. 27, 2013.
Cunningham said that any member of the staff is eligible to receive the award, but the committee that bestows the honor is looking for a staff member who has a “servant heart” and who is passionate about the university — like the Reids.
Linda Reid, who has officially retired, but still works in External Relations, said that when she and her husband learned about the award they were surprised.
“We didn’t think we were anything special,” she said. “We just thought we were doing our job and our ministry.”
She said living on campus made Johnson more than just a job.
“Living on campus, this really was our life, it was our home, it was our friends, as well as our ministry,” Linda Reid said.
But even having an award named in her and her husband’s honor has not changed Linda Reid’s humble servant spirit.
She said that she thinks the award is a good opportunity to shine a light on all the work that staff accomplishes.
“Often the staff work behind the scenes and people don’t see it [the work they do],” she said.
After spending more than 45 years at JUTN, Linda Reid knows a lot about the hard work that goes into the operation of a university. She also knows a lot about family life on campus, having raised her sons David Reid and Wilbur Reid III here.
“When we first came, we traveled a lot for the college,” Linda Reid said. “So the boys (David and Wilbur III) traveled with us a lot. And, they still run into people who knew them when they were little guys.”
Wilbur Reid III has continued the family legacy and also works for Johnson. He is the program director for the School of Business and Public Leadership’s MBA Program.
Wilbur Reid III said he remembers traveling with the camp teams.
“Dad knew that he would have to travel a lot with camp teams, and other travel groups, so one of the conditions that he stipulated upon taking the job was that his family be able to travel with him,” he said.
He said the university provided a travel trailer for the family, and that his family rode with the groups in vans and buses throughout the school year.
“David and I were like the group mascots, and I still hear stories from alumni of the 1970s about us sleeping everywhere, playing games and hanging out with the students,” he said.
Cunningham was a student at Johnson during the Reid’s early years on campus.
“[When] I came to school as a freshman I think they had been on staff here for maybe two years, and so I’ve known them for a lot of years,” she said.
Cunningham said that she has always looked up to the Reids. Even though Linda Reid is officially retired, Cunningham still sees her as an incredibly valuable member of the staff.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do if she ever does really retire,” she said.
Even in retirement, Linda Reid is carrying on many of the traditions and ministries her husband was instrumental in creating.
Linda Reid said that in addition to starting the travel teams, her husband helped create what is now the Senior Saints conferences, which takes place on campus three weeks each summer.
Linda Reid said that she enjoyed being able to work with her husband on Senior Saints, and many other campus projects.
“Our whole family was involved,” she said. “We were married for almost 50 years when he died and all of those years we just enjoyed doing . . . ministry together.”
In addition to the many projects Wilbur Reid II led on campus, he was also the university’s unofficial historian.
He collected old photos to document the history of JUTN, which Linda Reid is still doing.
“He was very much into the history of the school,” Cunningham said. “And they still are going through boxes and boxes of old photos cataloging them and identifying the people for the historical room.”
While The Reids are known for the years of service they have dedicate to the university, it is their ever present spirit of selflessness and service that is recognized in the Second Mile Award.
Cunningham said one example of the Reid’s selflessness has been told and retold on campus.
The story goes that in the middle of the night during a week of Senior Saints Wilbur Reid II received a call from one of the seniors who said he could not sleep because his bed was too soft.
“And so he got up in the middle of the night, cut a piece of plywood the size of the bed and took it to the dorm and put it under the mattress so that that Senior Saint could sleep,” Cunningham said. “So that’s just the kind of people that they are. It didn’t have to be on their job description. It did not have to be recognized. They just saw the need and they would just meet it.”
Linda Reid said she remembered that night well, and many others like it during the time they led Senior Saints.
“He did a lot of things like that,” she said.
Linda Reid recalled that one year one of the seniors was taken to the hospital. Wilbur Reid II received a call in the middle of the night and was told that the man’s wife needed to come to the hospital.
“They had not told us he had died but that’s what we knew had happened,” Linda Reid said. “Wilbur put on his suit and went up and got the lady [wife of the man who had died] and took her to the hospital.”
Linda Reid said that she often hears stories about her husband’s kindness.
“It was just a whole lifestyle,” she said. “. . .just serving people here.”
Wilbur Reid III also remembered stories that involved his father wearing a suit, which he did most of the time.
“There are also a number of funny stories about what he did in a suit and tie,” he said. “These stories include pulling weeds around the PW Building, cleaning bathrooms, arranging furnishings and even pressure washing the front of Eubanks Activities Center at 6 a.m. without even loosening his tie.”
Wilbur Reid III said he has seen how rare his parents’ type of leadership is.
“Good to Great is one of the best-selling business books of all time,” he said. “In it, Jim Collins describes level 5 leaders as having a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.
“Dad and mom had that absolute, burning, compulsive, ambition about Johnson. It wasn’t until after I graduated college and began working in the real world that I realized that not everyone views their job like that. In fact, it is quite rare,” he added.
Wilbur Reid III said that even while his parents regularly exceeded their work requirements, they still made sure to balance their family life.
“We always had dinner together, and they never missed a ballgame or event that we participated in,” he said. “It showed me that it is possible to be incredibly productive, and not sacrifice time with my daughters.”
Wilbur Reid III said that the service his parents exemplified was simply a part of a larger culture built into the history of Johnson that is kept alive through things like the Second Mile Award.
Staff members are nominated by other faculty and staff and selected for the award by a committee.
The award is given at the end of every school year at the faculty/staff picnic. The winner is presented a check and a certificate, in addition to having their name placed on a plaque of award winners in the Gally Commons.
“As any organization grows and evolves further from its roots, it is inevitable that culture leaks,” he said. “I believe that the [David] Eubanks era of Johnson is a phenomenal era of humble, servant leadership that has positioned the university to do the great things that we are able to do today. My hope is that this award will keep that culture of service alive at Johnson for many years.”