Justin Reed, a senior creative writing major, was recognized as “Student of the Block” for the sixth block at Tusculum College.
Reed, who is from Florence, S.C., was nominated by three of his professors for the honor, which was established by the Office of Student Affairs to recognize students for their academic achievement, leadership on campus and contributions to the college community. He was presented the honor during a ceremony in the Living Room of the Niswonger Commons, where a plaque recognizing his accomplishments will be displayed.
During his time at Tusculum, he has served as staff writer and Lifestyles editor of The Pioneer Frontier student newspaper, public relations representative of the Open Door Society, secretary of the English Student Organization and assistant managing editor of The Tusculum Review, the college’s literary journal.
In January of this year, Reed was among the Tusculum students who studied in Barcelona, Spain, and has represented the college at the 2012 and 2013 Association of Writers and Writing Programs conferences. His work has been published in a variety of journals and he was nationally recognized for his poetry at the Lex Allen Literary Festival at Hollins University earlier this year as well as at last year’s event. Reed is the first student to win the annual Curtis and Billie Owens Literary Prize in two categories during the same year. He won in the poetry and scriptwriting categories in 2012. His work won the fiction category in the 2013 student competition.
A writer since childhood, Reed, joined the Tusculum community in the fall of 2007 to pursue this passion. However, he left the college in 2008 to pursue personal interests and returned in 2010. The two years away from Tusculum proved to be a motivational factor in his return to earn his degree.
“I am proud to have discovered my passion for writing,” he said, “and I am grateful to my professors and the overall family structure of the English and Fine Arts Departments for that. Through the instruction and guidance I have received, I was able to concentrate on my strengths and shortcomings, to make myself available to a future that now includes graduate school, lifelong friends, teaching opportunities and innumerable possibilities. Also (and this may seem odd), I’m quite proud to have made mistakes. If I had not transferred out of Tusculum in 2008 and subsequently dropped out of college, I doubt that I would have realized the true value of the education, relationships and opportunities I’ve encountered here. I find it personally fulfilling to look back on my errors and bad decisions to see how they have contributed positively to my immediate life.”
His time at Tusculum has also been a lesson about being part of the close-knit community he found at Tusculum, which he at first considered a detriment rather than an asset. “As a Tusculum College student, I recognized the benefit in acknowledging and committing to the small college identity,” he said. “I felt the need to look out for these people with whom I interact every day. I think that’s why—about the end of my time with The Pioneer Frontier and during my Open Door Society membership—I have often assumed the role of “fighter,” endeavoring after equality, fair and just treatment, administrative transparency, etc.”
While Tusculum has played a large role in Reed’s life, the significant impact he has had on the college prompted three faculty members to nominate him for the Student of the Block honor – Wayne Thomas, chair of the Fine Arts Department and associate professor of English; Heather Patterson, chair of the English Department and assistant professor of English, and Dr. Desirae Matherly, assistant professor of English.
Thomas wrote of Reed, “He’s one of the few ‘total package’ students you get in a lifetime; a gifted, thoughtful, and thought-provoking writer; a self-motivated, and ambitious scholar; a leader amongst his peers; one who owns confidence without egocentricity; and simply a delight in everyday interactions. I’ve come to rely on Justin for all kinds of tasks, from data entry to design, and he performs every duty with rigor and without complaint. For these reasons, I happily promoted Justin to assistant managing editor of the journal, and he’s performed exceptionally in this position, garnering the respect and admiration of all the faculty and student editors.”
Reed has taken the time needed to tutor and mentor younger students struggling with their mechanics, drafting and research, Thomas noted, and he has served as a punctual, reliable and effective clerical assistant for him and his office mates.
Patterson wrote that she first taught Reed in 2010 and although the class was filled with bright and exceptional undergraduate writers, she and his fellow classmates soon recognized that Reed was a truly gifted writer and critic. She noted that his work has received acclaim from established writers and publications in and outside of the college. His poem “Everyone Down Here is Pretty,” was selected as runner-up for the 2012 Lex Allen Literary Festival Poetry Prize at Hollins University. Connotation Press will soon publish two of his poems “The Locusts of Control” and “The Waking Sex of Brom Bones.”
Dr. Matherly also described Reed as an exceptional student in every way. “We
are lucky to have had so many fine students in the English and Fine Arts department, who, like him, demonstrate the ideal of what our programs are capable of,” she wrote. “Even so, Justin is remarkable among our best students. The qualities I admire most about Justin are those that I find in my closest friends: he is generous with his time and spirit, dedicated to the practice of writing in all genres, and represents us in the best way imaginable, both on campus and when traveling.”
“Sometimes I forget that Justin is not a graduate student yet, because he has already achieved that kind of scholarly, aesthetic and professional countenance that we hope our students acquire after graduation,” she also wrote. “Justin is what so many students usually need more time to become; he is published, well-read and prodigious poet, fiction, fiction writer and essayist.”
After graduating in May, Reed will continue his education at the prestigious Washington University of St. Louis as a member of the Master of Fine Arts in Writing program. He aspires to be a college professor and teach creative writing to undergraduate students.