Professor Emeritus Clifford Reid, Scholar of Discrimination in American Life, Dies at 76

Announcements3 MIN READ
By Laura Meader
November 16, 2021

Colby remembers the life and scholarship of Clifford E. Reid, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics, Emeritus, who died Nov. 6, 2021, in Waterville, Maine, at 76. Reid was a distinguished scholar on discrimination in American life who taught at the College from 1987 to 2009.

Reid had a profound impact on his colleagues and, most importantly, on scores of students fortunate enough to have encountered such a learned and committed professor. A deeply respected and admired teacher, Reid is being mourned by colleagues and former students who most benefited from his brilliant teaching, mentorship, and friendship.

“We were so fortunate as an institution to have Cliff join Colby,” said David Findlay, the Pugh Family Professor of Economics. “Cliff was tremendously humble and quiet but when provoked, he would offer an unvarnished, objective assessment of whatever issue you wanted to talk about. Colleagues who interacted with him came away from conversations enriched and with ideas about how to be a better teacher.”

Reid’s scholarship focused on discrimination in housing, employment, and wages in the U.S. He also studied voting behavior in the U.S. Congress and public finance. His contributions to these important topics included authoring numerous published papers, many of which focused on racial discrimination, refereeing professional journals, and serving on professional economic advisory panels. He also wrote multiple-choice questions for the economics section of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE).

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Reid earned a bachelor’s in economics from George Washington University in 1967 and went on to obtain his doctorate from Princeton in 1973. That same year, he started teaching economics at Iowa’s Grinnell College, working there for 16 years and rising to the rank of full professor. Honors from that period included a Ford Foundation Fellowship for Minority Students in 1972, a Brookings Economic Policy Fellowship for the Department of Housing and Urban Development from 1976 to 1978, and a Ford Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellowship for Minorities in 1982. 

Reid came to Colby as a senior faculty member and quickly became a mentor to junior faculty, Findlay recalled. Reid chaired the Economics Department from 1995 to 1997, served on campus committees, and was a member of the Ralph J. Bunche Selection Committee for many years.

But it was his prowess in the classroom that became his hallmark.

“He was legendary for having high expectations and standards for himself and of his students,” said Findlay. “Cliff wanted to be the best possible instructor he could be. He cared deeply about students learning economics, and he did everything he could to ensure that.”

Beth Hermanson Kinsley ’93 can attest to that commitment. She recently recounted a story in Vanguard law magazine from her sophomore year when she approached Reid, her advisor, about dropping a microeconomics course because of illness. “Do you give up when things get hard?” he asked. The answer was no. Now a successful attorney, Kinsley embraced economics as her minor and has carried that advice throughout her career.

“That’s the perfect example of the kind of faculty member, advisor, and mentor that Cliff was,” said Findlay. “Objective, impactful advice. Classic Cliff.”

Reid conducted research with several of his peers at Colby, including Findlay, who collaborated with Reid on an econometric analysis of bias in voting for inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The groundbreaking results revealed the role of race and ethnicity discrimination in Hall of Fame voting and led to three papers. That collaboration, Findlay reported, remains one of the highlights of Findlay’s career.

“Overall,” Findlay concluded, “Cliff offered great wisdom about how to be an effective teacher and to get students to think about material carefully. Students could benefit from having more Cliff Reids on campuses across the country.”

Reid leaves his wife, Sheila McCarthy, associate professor of Russian studies, emerita, who established the Russian Studies Program at Colby, their son, Matthew Reid, daughter-in-law Judith Griffin, and two grandchildren.

A service will be held Nov. 23, 2021, at 10 a.m. in Washington, D.C. Arrangements are under the care of Marshall-March Funeral Homes.