The Sweet Briar community was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of a beloved member, Ann Morrison Reams ’42, who died Sunday, June 28, 2015, at her home in Lynchburg. She was associate director of the Alumnae Association from 1968 to 1974 and director from 1974 until 1991, when she retired with the title of emeritus director.
Reams was a Lynchburg native and graduate of E.C. Glass High School. She worked briefly for the U.S. Navy and as a reporter for the News & Advance, then the Lynchburg Daily Advance, after graduating from Sweet Briar with a degree in music. She married Bernard Reams in 1944 and raised four children, Bernard Reams Jr., Stephen Reams, Winifred “Winkie” Schoew and Ann Kendall Pettigrew.
According to an article in the summer 1991 issue of the Sweet Briar Alumnae Magazine, Reams was an active community member. An obituary in the News & Advance notes that as a volunteer, she served as president of the Junior League of Lynchburg; chairman of the board for the Florence Crittendon Home; regent of the Poplar Forest Chapter of the DAR; president of the Oakwood Garden Club; president of the Katherine Tekakwitha Circle of Holy Cross Church, where she was a lifetime member; and member of the Lynchburg Garden Club, the Lynchburg Historical Foundation, the Opera on the James Guild, and a number of other civic and cultural organizations.
During her tenure at Sweet Briar, her many contributions included developing a computerized alumnae network and establishing the Distinguished Alumna Award. According to the magazine story, under Reams’ leadership, Reunion attendance increased fourfold and the association earned a Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) award in recognition of its 1990 Reunion.
In 2002, Reams was recognized with the College’s Outstanding Alumna Award for her ongoing volunteer work, which included service on the Alumnae Board, the Boxwood Circle Committee, the Friends of the Library board, as class president, and as secretary for the Class of 1942 — a role she continued until her death.
Upon Reams’ retirement, Nannette Crowdus ’57, then president of the Alumnae Association and an emeritus trustee of the College, lauded her representation of Sweet Briar and its alumnae “with admirable charm, unfailing good humor, incredible energy,” and gift for making people feel special.
“But let me assure you that while Ann is a lovely lady, there is a great deal more to be admired,” Crowdus is quoted as saying in the 1991 magazine piece. “She is also an outstanding administrator with an attention to detail that reaches perfection. She runs a tight ship and has trained all of us who have had the privilege of working with her to raise our standards to meet hers and to enjoy it.”
The board of the Alumnae Association recognized her influence in a resolution that stated in part, “We commend her administrative abilities, her leadership skills, her patience, her sagacity, her energy and her bright spirit.”
Sandra Maddox ’59 worked with Reams in the alumnae office for 24 years and last spoke to her in April.
“Ann was a lovely person, so considerate of others and likeable by all who knew and worked with her,” Maddox says. “Ann was a devoted and dedicated alumna of Sweet Briar. I will miss her bright smile and cheerful ways!”
Kathy Pegues ’71 remembers Reams as “Sweet Briar’s hostess,” always making sure everyone in the room was comfortable with introductions that went beyond sharing names.
“There were other roles by which she was officially known, but it was her gentle and joyful ‘working the room’ that I will remember,” Pegues says. “She had an encyclopedic memory and could pick up, with exacting detail, the threads of alumnae lives — career, family, classmates’ news — even when years had passed.”
Her smile, warm hug and “Welcome back!” had authenticity, Pegues says, and they were kindnesses she extended to everyone.
“I last saw Ann at the annual meeting of the Friends of the Library this spring. We were still processing the announcement of the College’s closure, and there was deep sadness as well as anger in the room,” Pegues recalls. “Afterwards, Ann consoled us in that lilting and charming Lynchburg voice, suggesting that Sweet Briar College was important as a state of mind, as well as a place. And, in that regard, whatever happened, Sweet Briar would always be.”
She was preceded in death by her husband of 59 years, Bernard Lawrence Reams, and is survived by her children and grandchildren, among numerous other relatives. A full obituary may be viewed here.
A Mass of Resurrection will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, July 7, at Holy Cross Catholic Church, following a private family burial. The family will receive friends from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, July 6, at Diuguid Funeral Service and Crematory at 811 Wiggington Road, Lynchburg.
Those wishing to honor her memory are asked to remember Holy Cross Catholic Church, Sweet Briar College, the Garden Club of Virginia or a charity of choice.
Cards and notes may be sent to “Family of Ann Reams” at 771 Bon Air Circle, Lynchburg, VA 24503, where her children will receive them.