Anthony Reed overcomes loss of two family members, massive seizure to earn degree
By David Miller
Anthony Reed had just finished the welding program at a nearby community college when advisers told him he had potential for “more.”
Reed had spent more than seven years working in warehouses and factories, where the physical stress took its toll – a work accident damaged both of his shoulders and landed him in the hospital.
“For two or three weeks, I was bedridden, couldn’t move at all,” Reed said. “I thought I was paralyzed.”
Reed already had begun weighing his future in manufacturing and the tall ladder to more lucrative – but fewer – management positions. He further questioned his future in welding after the workplace injury.
“When I first got into welding, I was still settling, thinking, ‘these are the jobs that are still available,’” Reed said. “But when I thought about it, I was going from a job dealing with heavy weights and strains on the body to dealing with electricity, fire and more hazard. I would have gone to work scared on a daily basis.”
Reed had always enjoyed making films and music, so he chose to finish his associate’s degree and in 2014 pursue a degree in telecommunication and film at The University of Alabama. Reed will receive his bachelor’s degree Dec. 16 at Coleman Coliseum.
His path to commencement mirrors that of other undergraduates – unsure of his career path and eventually switching majors – but it was another student trait that almost derailed his college career and his life: stress.
In the span of two weeks in 2015, both Reed’s aunt and brother died. He then learned he would be a father. Reed’s brother, Rodney, was the “glue” of the family, Reed said.
“When he passed, the family kind of fell a little bit,” Reed said.
Reed’s workload outside of school was significant: he’d just received a contract to produce materials for Wiley Publishing, and he was working for a local photography company, shooting late-night parties and events.
On the last day of the semester, he decided to “pack my bags and get away.” He loaded one bag into his car before he felt “weird.”
“I passed out right there and had a massive seizure,” Reed said. “They said I was out for like 15 or 20 minutes. I woke up, surrounded by police officers and an ambulance.
“It was an eye-opener. Before that, I was taking on a lot of stress and holding on to it. At that moment, I thought I was dead. After that, I needed to learn to better deal with stress. Ever since, I’ve had a more positive outlook on every situation.”
Reed’s reshaped perspective and personality made him a beacon in Reese Phifer Hall, where TCF faculty and students were drawn to his humor, leadership and positivity. Faculty urged Reed, 37, to become a leader among his peers.
“Although Anthony is a non-traditional student, you can’t tell it by his demeanor or interactions with his fellow students,” said Teresa Gawrych, instructor of journalism and creative media. “Sometimes, non-traditional students have a difficult time forming bonds with younger students, but not Anthony. He has an effervescent attitude and caring spirit that attracts people to him. I constantly saw him laughing, interacting and helping students on their projects. I didn’t even know he was a non-traditional until he told me.”
Reed is directing two short films and acting in two others. He hopes to work as a director or film editor full-time. And though he’s entering the job market later than he initially expected, he’s patient and sagacious. Ironically, an internet meme featuring late-blooming entertainers helps him measure his pace.
“Morgan Freeman didn’t become a famous actor until his 40s or 50s,” Reed said. “The point of the meme is that your moment, your blessing may not come until later. If I would have started college fresh out of high school, I wouldn’t have been prepared for it. Now, I’m at an age where I can focus, and I’m not distracted and running around like I was at 19 or 20.”
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.