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Reade, Frank Robertson (1895-1957) | Valdosta State University Archives and Special Collections

Name: Reade, Frank Robertson (1895-1957)
Variant Name: Reade, Frank, Reade, F.R., F.R.R.

Historical Note:

Dr. Frank Robertson Reade was the third president of Georgia State Womens College.  He was appointed by the Board of Regents as interim president in May 1934, due to Dr. Jere Pound's illness.  After Pound's death in February 1935, Reade was appointed president and served for 13 years (1935-1948).  Dr. Reade was born in Abingdon, Virginia, in 1895.  He graduated from Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va., in 1914 and taught there for two years.  In 1916, he entered the University of Virginia.  Reade took a brief sabbatical from college studies to serve in France during World War I in the medical corps.  He returned to the University of Virginia. in 1919 and graduated with a degree in English as the president of his class in 1920.  Reade received his M.A. in English in June 1921 and completed requirements for a doctorate degree in 1926. He returned to teaching at Episcopal High School for one year in 1922, then taught English at the Georgia School of Technology from 1924 until his appointment at GSWC.  He married Jean Cunningham in 1922; the couple had no children.

Reade was a very dynamic student and educator, and was a member of many honor societies and civic organizations.  These include Phi Beta Kappa, the Raven Society and Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity, all at the University of Virginia, and Omicron Delta Kappa at the Georgia School of Technology.  He was the president of the Association of Georgia Colleges from 1942-44.

Reade worked very hard to continue the advancement of GSWC, including improving the facilities, curriculum and activities. Physical improvements to the college include paving the campus roads and the construction of Senior Hall dormitory, the swimming pool and bath house, the Student Activities Log Cabin, and the library.  Reade strenuously pursued financial support outside of the usual University System avenues, and all of these projects, with the exception of paving the roads, were partially funded with WPA funds.  Courses in secretarial science and home economics were added to the curriculum, in addition to social work and library science, which were National Youth Administration projects. Existing departments met requirements to offer a B.S. degree in addition to an A.B. degree.  Under Reade the liberal arts curriculum was completely revamped. Reade gave the student body more autonomy handling student affairs.  An example of this is the Attendance Committee of the Student Government Association.  This committee monitored the class attendance of fellow students, and mailed warning notices to parents.

His papers reveal a gregarious personality with a keen sense of humor.  Reade made himself available to both faculty and students, and they admired and appreciated his "open door" policy.  He did his best to facilitate good relations in the academic community.  An article in the April 11, 1948 Valdosta Daily Times notes, "His ability to retain both a student and faculty outlook has smoothed over rough spots, helping to develop the morale and typically friendly atmosphere of the College which visitors are forever mentioning and attempting to define."

Reade was popular outside of college life as well.  He counted many celebrities of the day as personal friends and regularly corresponded with them.  Edith Bolling Wilson, Woodrow Wilson's second wife, was related to Reade on his mother's side.  Eleanor Roosevelt was also a good family friend, so much so that she dedicated the library building in 1941. Vladimir Nabokov visited GSWC and stayed with the Reades in 1942.  Georgia artist Lamar Dodd was a student of Reade's, and spoke at commencement exercises in 1938, in addition to arranging fine arts exhibits.  Actress Margaret Sullavan attended Reade's family summer camp for girls in Virginia, and visited the Reades in Valdosta in the1930s.

Reade's tenure as president came to an end in April 1948, when he requested a leave of absence from the Board of Regents due to ill health.  He expected to be gone only one year; however, his health did not improve and he retired in 1949.  J. Ralph Thaxton succeeded Reade as the fourth president of GSWC.

Reade was named president emeritus of GSWC, and made his home in Valdosta.  He continued to be involved with the college.  One of his activities was collecting autographed photos of celebrities, which he donated for students' benefit.  These include Albert Einstein, Gen. George C. Marshall, Senator Richard B. Russell, and football star Jim Thorpe.  Reade died on April 10, 1957, one week after suffering an "attack," presumably a heart attack or stroke.  He is buried in Valdosta's Riverview Memorial Cemetery.

Sources: http://www.valdosta.edu/library/find/arch/findingaids/ua213.shtml
Note Author: Deborah S. Davis and Amy R. King

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