Pamela Trotman Reid

Pamela Trotman Reid

Pamela Trotman Reid (ΦBK, Howard University) is currently a Senior Scholar at Wayne State University, and President Emerita at the University of Saint Joseph. She is also President of the Greater Detroit Association Phi Beta Kappa, and a member of the Phi Beta Kappa senate.


As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I grew up in Brooklyn and Queens, New York, playing stick ball in the street and hop scotch on the sidewalk. My ambitions ranged from astronaut to medical doctor, but what I loved most was reading and science. By the time I was eleven, I had gone through most of the books in the children’s section of our small branch library, so the librarian allowed me to take books from the adult section. Novels and poetry were my favorites. Because of my love of science, I was often given chemistry sets, and I remember the fun of experimenting with the chemicals. 

What was the most transformative course from your undergraduate education?

My first psychology course (Psychology 101: Introduction to Psychology) changed my world view and also my major. The professor, Dr. Leslie Hicks, was an entertaining lecturer, and from her I learned that the study of psychology could bring together science and the humanities in an effort to explain the behavior of people and animals. The passion for psychology that I developed in college took me through my master’s and doctoral degrees and into a life as an academic researcher.

You were the president of the University of Saint Joseph in Connecticut. What did you enjoy most about the position?

As president, I enjoyed fostering an environment that prepared our students to be caring citizens; seeing my students progress towards graduation gave me a great deal of satisfaction. Although we had many professional programs at USJ, such as nursing, education, business, and pharmacy, our students were successful after graduation because they received a very well-rounded liberal arts and sciences education. I especially remember the passion and energy of some of our faculty.  Their dedication to teaching was remarked upon again and again.

Why do you think Phi Beta Kappa and a well-rounded arts & sciences education are important in today’s world? 

The complicated issues surrounding health care, climate change, foreign affairs, political corruption, immigration, racism and social inequities are imbedded in our everyday lives. I seriously doubt that those without some grounding in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences can easily make sense of our many complex challenges or make good decisions for themselves, their children, and their communities. I think that the goal of Phi Beta Kappa -- to promote well-rounded education -- is an essential element in preparing citizens to engage with the issues that impact our world.

You currently serve as the President of the Greater Detroit Association and as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Senate. What do you enjoy about this work, and why do you feel it is important to stay involved in and contribute to the Society?

The Greater Detroit Association is an enjoyable way for me to connect with my community and contribute to our intellectual well-being.  Being elected to the Phi Beta Kappa Senate has given me the opportunity to learn more about other associations and their activities. As I hope to collaborate more with local Michigan chapters, we and they can benefit from ideas generated by PBK associations across the country. 

What advice do you have for young Phi Beta Kappa members?

I would like to encourage young PBK members to become active and involved in PBK Associations after graduation. Young members will find that they can benefit from a community of friends outside of their work place and they can expand their connections with peers, as well as with senior members.

What was the best advice you were ever given and who gave it to you?

My grandfather talked to me about relationships before I was to be married. He said that the best marriages were not based on a 50-50 split of responsibilities, but on 60-40 distribution. The catch was that each person had to feel that he or she was contributing the 60%. I think this was excellent advice, and since my husband and I have been married more than 50 years, I think it must have helped. 

What book are you reading right now? Are you listening to any podcasts? Anything you'd recommend?

I recently finished the novel, A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman, a powerful and immensely entertaining character study. As a psychologist, I appreciated the author’s insights into the development of personality. Right now, I am listening to the audiobook:  Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly.  I enjoyed seeing the movie last year, but I wanted to know more. I find the book provides even more detail about the history of NASA and these remarkable African American women who toiled unseen in the national interest while coping with discrimination and segregation.  I recently begun tuning into podcasts, so of course, I started with the PBK Key Conversations and Smarty Pants. I also listen to the American Psychological Association’s APA Journals Dialogue.