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Clyde Reedy stands at a doorway in the Phi Kappa Psi house.

Clyde Reedy has contributed significantly to his old frat house, Phi Psi, and a plaque in the front room (behind Reedy in this photo) pays tribute to his leadership and generosity.

Not all who wander

Successful alum--even without a degree--returns many favors to the U

By Rick Moore

From M, spring 2008

Clyde Reedy is getting very accustomed to telling his story. Within the last year, the 86-year-old veteran of World War II has shared his oral history with groups and individuals including the Smithsonian, the Minnesota Historical Society, the Library of Congress, the University of Minnesota, and Hamline University.

What makes his story even richer is his experience with the University of Minnesota, both in the early 1940s as a student and in recent decades as a benefactor.

The story doesn't include a degree from the U, but that hardly seems to matter.

Man, interrupted

After graduating from the former University High School on the Twin Cities campus, Reedy enrolled at the University of Minnesota in the fall of 1939 and was well on his way to a business degree. He also joined the Phi Kappa Psi social fraternity--Phi Psi for short.

Then came the war and a call to serve his country. Reedy joined the Navy in the summer of 1942, trained as a flyer at a number of sites, and was sent overseas in the fall of '44.

He saw a lot in the war, and just missed seeing a whole lot more.

"We almost got shot down at Chichi Jima," Reedy says, pointing out that President George H. W. Bush's plane had been shot down in the same location two weeks earlier.

Perhaps his most fateful day came on August 6, 1945, when Reedy, unaware of the nature of his mission, flew on the support plane for the Enola Gay on the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

"The great mystery," Reedy recalls of that day. The night before he was told to go to bed early, and "at about 2:30 in the morning the Marines woke us up," he says. His PBY plane flew to a designated station and the crew was told to wait for a B-29 flying at 30,000 feet, maintain absolute radio silence, and follow behind it. His plane stopped and circled at a second station while the Enola Gay flew ahead.

"Forty-five minutes later the B-29 reappeared, heading south," Reedy says. "We had no idea what [had] happened--absolutely none." Later that day, a voice on the Voice of America station in Saipan, KSAI, announced that "an important and new weapon had been dropped on Hiroshima."

Success back home

Reedy returned to Minnesota and worked for this father for three years, then launched into a successful investment brokerage career. Curious and active, Reedy became a serious gardener and also studied modern art, gathering a collection of originals from artists like Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Motherwell, and Mark Rothko.

He also continued to take classes--Extension classes through the U as well as coursework at the Wharton School. He says he has more credits than he'd need for a diploma, just no diploma.

But that hasn't stopped him from supporting the University with his money and time. He and his wife have donated repeatedly to the Weisman Art Museum and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, where Reedy served on the Board of Trustees for a decade. He has also contributed significantly to his old frat house, Phi Psi. In 1997 he went out and raised $385,000 to completely renovate the interior of the century-old house on fraternity row. ("I don't know how I did it, but I did it," he jokes.)

And he and two other alums contributed $25,000 a piece toward an endowment fund. That fund is now up to $200,000 and allows for $10,000 a year to be given in scholarships to Phi Psi students. A plaque in the front room of the fraternity house pays tribute to Reedy's leadership and generosity.

Why is he so generous to the U?

"This is the greatest economic engine that any state has ever had," Reedy says, his voice booming with conviction; his message straight out of a stump speech by President Bruininks. "What it does for this state is simply incredible, in my mind, and to not support it is plain foolish."

And does the man who has given so much of his time and resources have any recurring regrets at not being on the receiving end of a degree from the U?

"Nah," says Reedy, again with conviction... and a hint of a smile. "I'm 86 years old."