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Challenge Accepted

Posted by on Saturday, July 5, 2014 in Peabody People, Summer 2014.

Ed Reeves in his New Jersey office (Photo by Elena Olivo)

Attached to the sun visor in Ed Reeves’ car is a note that reads, “Listen with charity, speak with kindness and behave with civility.” It’s a personal reminder of sorts, but one could easily mistake it as the official motto of his family foundation.

Listening with charity is central to the mission of the New Jersey-based Reeves Foundation, which provides charitable grants to capital projects at higher education institutions. As its president, Reeves is regularly in conversation with colleges and universities throughout the eastern U.S., and Vanderbilt is one of his most valued partners.

Reeves’ relationship with the university goes back several decades. He helped found and chair the Vanderbilt Parents and Family Association in the early ’90s when his daughter, Mercer Reeves, BS’92, MEd’93, was a student at Peabody. Since then, he has remained involved through the foundation, which has helped endow two undergraduate scholarships and a faculty chair at Peabody.

“A person who listens with charity looks for the positive … and good things come about.”

—Ed Reeves

His latest venture with Vanderbilt is the Reeves Foundation Challenge, which pledged $200,000 to Peabody if the school could raise $400,000 in new money for graduate and professional scholarships by May 31. At press time, Peabody had exceeded the challenge by raising a total of $650,000. Once the Reeves Foundation matching gift is added, the school will have $850,000 to endow scholarships for graduate and professional students.

“We are very much into challenge grants and have been for quite a few years,” Reeves said. “We think we’re providing more than just money. To meet a challenge, the development officers have to go out and find new donors, and that’s a gift that can keep on giving.”

One donor who participated in the challenge is alumna Nancy Berk Saperstone, BS’91, MEd’91. Having experienced Peabody as both an undergraduate and graduate student, she knows the impact these types of gifts can make.

“Hopefully this scholarship program will make it a little easier for graduate students to get the degrees that will allow them to give back through teaching and research,” she said.

Raising money for graduate and professional scholarships remains a priority for Peabody. Compared to other fundraising areas, it’s relatively new territory—which is precisely what makes it so appealing to Reeves.

“We don’t like to go where the grass is trod,” he said. “I’ll often ask, ‘What’s the most difficult thing you have to raise money for?’ I’ll listen, and we’ll often follow that.”

In the end, it all goes back to listening, says Reeves. Successful partnerships, like the one he enjoys with Vanderbilt, depend on effective communication. The note in his car never lets him forget it.

“A person who listens with charity looks for the positive in what’s being said,” he explained. “When that happens, there’s less misinterpretation, and good things come about.”

Learn more at or call toll-free 1 866-882-FUND.


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