“Justin!” I yelped, jumping out my seat and making my way across the room. While my love of Justin Bieber has already been recorded in this blog, this time I was actually pulling off a fan girl moment for the one and only Justin Reid.
Justin is one of the first upperclassmen I met at William & Mary because he served as a Teaching Fellow for my Sharpe Freshman Seminar. From the beginning it was clear that Justin is just plain impressive. Smart and thoughtful (which are not always synonymous), involved, motivated, witty, kind—Justin is the kind of role model every college freshman deserves and I was lucky enough to have.
In all honesty, Justin’s path and mine weren’t very intertwined at W&M. He was two years older and busy being awesome while I was just figuring out what this whole “college thing” was about. With Justin though, it wasn’t really about quantity but quality. Each time we interacted, whether it was the first year as my Fellow, bumping into each other at an event, or just walking across campus, I always felt better and motivated to be even better by talking to Justin. (That’s one of the great things about William & Mary’s campus, we’re never tripping over each other but we are always running into each other.)
Here’s the only picture I could find of Justin on my Facebook, driving us back from a Sharpe community event. Tellingly, the caption I wrote was, “He’s such a responsible driver, he wouldn’t even turn around for a picture.”
Justin is also the originator of one of my favorite phrases, “If you’re not doing something, something’s not getting done.” Despite having a lot to get done on campus, Justin always took the time talk to me. When I was struggling to figure out how to “succeed” at W&M as a sophomore, he stopped, thought about his answer, and then shared his own experiences with me without presuming to say that his path was the right one. Ever ready with a smile even while dashing off to his next meeting, Justin was always a friendly face for me at William & Mary. I can only hope that as an upperclassman myself, I provided even a small amount of the inspiration and guidance to younger students that Justin did for me.
All of this is why, despite being at a formal lecture at Swem Library and despite no longer being an overwhelmed freshman but instead a grown-up staff person, I found myself bounding over to Justin and giving him a hug when I discovered that he was moderating the panel I was attending. The panel, a fascinating dialogue about school lock-outs and massive resistance in Farmville, Virginia, was co-sponsored by the Moton Museum, where Justin now serves as Associate Director. As I said, he’s impressive. In fact, when I asked my colleague Austin Pryor ’07 his thoughts on the event, his first response was, “It just reminded me how awesome Justin Reid is.” And he is. Thanks to my undergraduate years at William & Mary, I can only hope that some of that awesomeness rubbed off on me.