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Donor Impact Stories

Scholars and Heroes

Decades ago, WWII hero Lt. Col. (Ret.) Russell Reed ’49, ’50 MA began donating to a scholarship that honored his father, Dr. Rufus Reed, emeritus professor of Chemistry and Physics. Today, Kelly Reed Hoelscher – who followed her father’s footsteps into the military – is continuing the family tradition through her support of the Reed Family Scholarship, proving that scholarship and heroism can go hand in hand.

Posted in: Montclair State University Donors

Russell Reed

Kelly Reed Hoelscher has never lived in New Jersey but her roots in the state, and in Montclair specifically, run deep. The Reed family tree includes Azariah Crane, founder of Cranetown, a community that would eventually become part of what we know as Montclair. And to seal the connection, Montclair was officially formed on April 15, 1868, one hundred years to the day before Hoelscher’s own birth date.

Scholarship and heroism are also embedded in the Reed family history. Her grandfather, Dr. Rufus Reed, began his college teaching career at Montclair State in 1929, retiring in 1960 to the role of professor emeritus of Chemistry and Physics. “To me, however, he was just Grandpa,” Hoelscher says with a chuckle.

Her father, the late Lt. Col. (Ret.) Russell Reed ’49, ’50 MA, was a B-17 pilot with the 398th Bomb Group during World War II. Captured in Germany, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Reed spent six months as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft III, the camp made famous in the 1963 film, The Great Escape. Upon return from this harrowing experience, Lt. Col. (Ret.). Reed continued to fly for the military and became an instructor as well. Even a 1951 crash that left him with severe injuries could not keep Lt. Col. (Ret.) Reed out of the pilot’s seat. He also had a career as a commercial airline pilot.

Hoelscher followed her father into military service, first through the U.S. Army ROTC and later when she accepted a commission as a chemical officer in the U.S. Army and later earned her aviator wings as an Army helicopter pilot. “It felt like a natural progression for me,” she says. “My father often visited my schools to give talks to the history classes. I knew a lot about his experiences flying and being in the military.”

Russell Reed posing with Kelly Reed Hoelscher

Soon, her grandfather’s influence on her career would also make itself apparent. “I was studying the effects of nuclear blasts done in the 1950s, and the images in one of my textbooks, The Effects of Nuclear War, looked so familiar,” she recalls. “I showed them to my Dad, who knew why. My grandfather, who was on the research team studying the effects of nuclear blasts, had the original negatives for the images in the book.”

When Hoelscher learned about the Reed Lehmkuhl Scholarship at Montclair State, she sensed right away that it was something special. “I knew that it was started by one of Grandpa’s former students as a tribute to him, and I knew that my Dad supported it every year,” she says. “But I also thought it was time to do something to recognize both my father and grandfather, something that would reflect their values.”

“My father would want to reward students based on merit,” Hoelscher continues, noting that her father passed away in December 2021 at the age of 97. “He would want to help students who are working multiple jobs and trying to avoid crippling debt.”

The Reed Family Scholarship supports undergraduate students majoring in chemistry or biochemistry. Preference is for students who are not eligible for need-based financial aid, but whose families struggle to cover the costs of higher education. The first Reed Family Scholarship will be awarded in the spring of 2022.

Hoelscher’s goal for her family’s legacy is to make a difference in the lives of the students who receive the Reed Family Scholarship. “I had friends in college who relied on scholarships to stay in school,” she says. “I remember what it was like for them, and for their families.”

Hoelscher hopes that her generosity will inspire others who might be considering a gift to Montclair State. “There isn’t one neatly wrapped financial aid package for every student,” she says, “and you don’t know everyone’s story. Your gift might have a profound effect on the life of a student, easing their burden so that they can focus more on their studies.”