Library embodies Whitman alumna's love of books

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The Inquirer

Amid rows of books and a historic card catalog, Whitman alumna Jamie Soukup Reid and Will Reid wed on May 16, 2013, at the College of Physicians Ashhurst Room.

Whitman College graduate Jamie Soukup Reid, who was 25 when she died in a car crash in North Carolina last year, led an enthusiastic life energized by a lifetime immersion in books.

Early on she found adventures and learning while delving into a broad range of styles and stories, from “Ulysses” to “The Hunger Games” and “The House on Mango Street.” As a youngster she consumed many armfuls of books her parents bought. After a while, they turned to the library to feed her fire and cut costs.

“What excited Jamie Reid about libraries, her friends say, was not just access but ethics: the belief that all children deserve books and education, whatever their circumstances or finances,” according to a March 10 article by Jeff Gammage of The Inquirer at Philly.com.

At Whitman, Jamie led the Pioneer student newspaper and was resident adviser for the college’s Writing House, where she worked to attract students with different interests.

“She didn’t want to exclude anyone who didn’t feel they could call themselves a writer,” said Jenna Mukuno, then a house resident and now an editor at an environmental-policy institute in Oakland, Calif.

“Oftentimes, it would be the chem major who would produce the most amazing piece.”

Jamie hosted book-themed parties, including “The Great Gatsby,” and created a CD of offbeat songs about literature, including “Oxford Comma” by Vampire Weekend.

While a grad student, she explored books she would teach to students, such as “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” Sherman Alexie’s tale of a 14-year-old boy on the Spokane reservation.

Jamie and Will Reid, 26, joined Teach for America in Philadelphia in 2010 and met while earning master’s degrees in urban education. Also a voracious reader, he taught sixth-grade math at People for People Charter School on North Broad Street, a few blocks from their apartment.

She and Will were newlywed Philadelphia schoolteachers who, along with the child they were expecting, died in an August car crash while returning from a friend’s wedding in Asheville, N.C.

They had flown to Asheville and were en route to the airport when the driver of their hired limousine lost control, sped off the highway and smashed into a tree, according to the article. Jamie was preparing for her third year as an English teacher at the Harrity campus of Mastery Charter School.

Her affinity with libraries was so strong, she and Will exchanged wedding vows amid rows of books in a former library reading room in May 2013.

It is because of her lifelong relationship with libraries, books and learning that her friends, family and colleagues are raising funds to honor her memory with a permanent monument, a library at the Harrity school “where children can explore the world and imagine new ones, where they can discover (Jamie’s) passion for reading and writing and perhaps pause to recall a woman gone too soon.”

“I can’t think of anything more fitting,” said Stephanie Silver, Jamie’s maid of honor.

“She inspired a lot of kids, and libraries are inspiring places.”

So far, $50,000 of the $95,000 cost has been raised for the Jamie Soukup Reid Library. A formal dedication is planned for June 6. The library will take over a classroom. Painting, new shelves and equipment and her degrees from Whitman and the University of Pennsylvania will grace the walls.

“Our overriding sense is, we wish it weren’t necessary,” said her father, Ron Soukup, a retired Microsoft engineer in Washington state. “But there couldn’t be a more perfect tribute. If anyone loved books and reading and learning, it was Jamie.”

Asheville resident Rodney Koon, 46, has been charged with driving while impaired and two counts of felony death by motor vehicle. His next court hearing is April 14, according to Philly.com.

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