Category: Alumni at Work, Alumni Stories, Campus & Community, Georgetown Magazine, Spring 2022

Title:Reed Residence Re-envisioned

Author: Julia Farr (C’88, Parent’19, ’21, ’24), Executive Director, Georgetown University Alumni Association
Date Published: April 26, 2022
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Donors Tom (B’88) and Karen Gletner (Parents’21, ’22) meet in the Gletner Family Salon with GUMC adjunct professor and fine artist Robin Davisson (center), who created the abstract art piece on the far wall

“All great houses have many tales to tell,” wrote John Courtin (C’70, L’78), executive director of the Georgetown University Alumni Association (GUAA) from 1984 to 1990, in his memorandum entitled “Genesis of the Great House at 3601 O Street.” Courtin believed that a great university such as Georgetown should have a great house, “a place where a warm, personal ‘welcome home’ could be extended to Georgetown’s alumni, special friends, and benefactors.”

Courtin’s inspiration to create a special place for alumni came to fruition in a series of conversations with President Timothy S. Healy, S.J., in the early 1980s, when the two envisioned a Federal Period (1780-1830) house similar to three other major Federal houses in Georgetown, all constructed within a decade of Georgetown’s founding in 1789. In 1984, the Alumni Board of Governors unanimously approved the proposal to build this great house on university property at the corner of 36th and O streets across from the Wagner Alumni House. The Alumni Association, as leaseholders, engaged architect William Cochran to design a 20th century building inspired by the Federal houses standing within strolling distance of Healy Gates.

The house was built in 1986 and named Reed Residence to honor GUAA Executive Director James Patrick Reed (C’53), who ran the association from 1969 to 1984. It became a gracious convening place through the years. As home to the GUAA executive director, Reed Residence has served as home to four families who have lived there as stewards of the house, opening its doors for reunion celebrations, Board of Governors meetings, lectures, recitals, award ceremonies, alumni author book signings, holiday parties, and small dinners. In its heyday, an average of 150 events were hosted at Reed each year.

There’s a great fishbowl-like experience living in Reed. With the house perched on a corner, we watch and experience campus life happening all around us. From hearing the music tumbling out townhouse windows on Saturday afternoons, to late-night conversations overhead from the streets, we feel like we’re at the center of the student universe.

Julia Farr, executive director of the GUAA and parent to three Hoyas

A turning point

As the years progressed, however, so did the wear and tear to Reed Residence. The Alumni Association saw the interruption of COVID-19 as an opportune time to take care of structural work and complete an interior redesign. The Board of Governors approved the renovation investment in Fall 2020, and Reed underwent a year-long renewal. The association engaged D.C. interior design firm Edith Gregson Interiors to transform the first-floor reception space from the 1980s palette in bold yellow, greens, and berry tones to the anchor shades of alma mater blues and grays. Secondary tones include splashes of “Springtime on the Hilltop” with greens, reds, citrus yellow, and deeper gold to bring Reed back to vibrant life. The new Reed is a mix of modern lines in furniture, fabric, and lighting with Federal detail in enhanced molding.

Still standing guard in the dining room from the university’s art collection is the portrait of John Vinton Dahlgren Jr. [c.1917], son of Dahlgren Chapel benefactors Elizabeth Drexel Dahlgren and John Vinton Dahlgren, in his World War I uniform, tethering the space to Georgetown’s history. To add a modern touch, the association commissioned works of art by Robin Davisson, a molecular physiologist and adjunct professor, entitled Providence I, II, and III. The new artwork brings dynamic movement, energy, and color to the dining room and the main salon.

GUAA Executive Director Julia Farr with Edith Gregson, interior designer of the new spaces

GUAA Executive Director Julia Farr with Edith Gregson, interior designer of the new spaces

GUAA President Frank Ciatto (B’88, L’94, Parent’21) with Kathie (C’88, MA’89) and Tim (B’89) Fording (Parents’25) in the Fording Family Library

GUAA President Frank Ciatto (B’88, L’94, Parent’21) with Kathie (C’88, MA’89) and Tim (B’89) Fording (Parents’25) in the Fording Family Library

Making a residence a home

Two dedicated alumni families enthusiastically supported the Alumni Association’s investment in Reed Residence’s upgrades. Board of Governors member Thomas J. Gletner Jr. (B’88, Parent’21, ’22) and his wife, Karen Gletner (Parent’21, ’22), generously contributed the stunning new formal reception space in the house. Kathie McCarthy Fording (C’88, MA’89, Parent’25), a student worker at the Alumni House during her undergraduate years, with her husband Tim Fording (C’89, Parent’25), supported the redesign of the stately library that was originally dedicated in honor of past GUAA presidents.

As you walk up O Street towards Healy Gates, you are first welcomed to campus at the corner of 36th and O streets, with Wagner Alumni House on the southwest corner and Reed Residence on the northwest. The Alumni House is the business center of the GUAA, a meeting space for the university, and a reception space for alumni gatherings. Reed, however, is a home.

Creating a gracious space to gather members of the Georgetown family is at the heart of the Alumni Association’s mission: to generate goodwill and support for the university and to foster a lifelong connection among alumni, our alma mater, and the global Georgetown community. As we step back into life in person after two long years in the virtual world, 3601 O Street will be a place where the spirit of the GUAA comes to life. Extending a warm “Welcome Home,” Reed Residence will most certainly have tales to tell for generations to come.

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