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WCU Stories

Doug Reed, longtime director of public information, passes away at 92

By Bill Studenc

A portrait of Doug Reed at Commencement


A. Douglas “Doug” Reed, who served as director of public information and a top-level adviser for 30 years through 10 administrations at Western Carolina University, died Sunday, July 19, at his home in Cullowhee at age 92.

Recipient of an honorary doctorate in May 2010, Reed was known for his exquisite writing, keen intellect, wise counsel, and gentle and kind manner. Then-Chancellor John Bardo described Reed as “the sage of WCU” when presenting the honorary degree.

Hired as public information director 1n 1966 at what was then Western Carolina College by President Paul Reid, he would serve the institution in communications, public relations and advisory roles for Reid as well as Alex Pow, Frank Brown (twice), Jack Carlton, Hugh McEniry, H.F. “Cotton” Robinson, Myron Coulter, Jack Wakeley and John Bardo.

Upon his retirement in 1996, he remained at WCU in a part-time capacity as a special assistant to the chancellor. During his time at WCU, he was part of the institution’s change from a college to a university within the University of North Carolina System and witnessed the doubling of student enrollment.

In addition to his career as public information officer at WCU, Reed served for many years in the dual role of assistant professor of English, with responsibility for starting a new concentration in journalism, later rising to the rank of associate professor and receiving tenure.

“Simply put, Doug Reed was a giant,” said veteran journalist Jim Buchanan, who took Reed’s journalism classes and is currently special projects editor at The Sylva Herald and a WNC Historical Association board member. “Wise, honest, calm and possessed of a razor-sharp intellect and wit, he embodied the best of what a journalist should be and stood out in an era littered with giants. Students taught by him and young journalists mentored by him suspected we could never live up to his legacy, but if you spent any time around him you at least knew what to shoot for.”

Reed’s career in journalism began in 1949 as a reporter and features writer for The Asheville Citizen. He became city editor at Asheville and then was chief capital correspondent in Raleigh for the newspaper in 1959. After a brief move to the Shelby Daily Star as associate editor, Reed returned to the Asheville Citizen-Times as associate editor. He later became managing editor and Raleigh bureau manager.

Reed was a recipient of WCU’s Paul A. Reid Distinguished Service Award for Administrative Staff, Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Service and Alumni Association Unsung Hero Award. In 2011, he received a Lifetime Membership Award in the College News Association of the Carolinas, a group of higher education public relations professionals from across the Carolinas that he helped establish in the 1960s.

Reed was active with an array of community organizations, including Asheville City School Board, the North Carolina State Employees Association, the boards of Wachovia Bank and the State Employees Credit Union, the Public Relations Association of WNC, Cherokee Historical Society, Smoky Mountain Host, WNC Public Radio, The Great Smoky Mountains Association, the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and Western North Carolina Associated Communities.

A celebration of life will be scheduled when conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic allow.

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