News & Events



By D’Nese L. Alexander Moore, J.D.

Rev. James Reese is a giant of a man --- not particularly in physical stature, but in his command of a room or a challenging circumstance. He is 93 years young, but again, you would never, ever know that by searching his unlined face, or by watching him walk into a conference room with a leather folder of College documents and sermon notes and a Denzel-Washington-like command of his step. So, given these stereotype-destroying qualities, it might not surprise you to learn that Rev. Reese, who was recently honored at Knoxville College’s Homecoming Celebration, is not anything you might assume at first glance. He is more.

Education and Awards
Born in 1924, James Reese is a native of Harrodsburg, Kentucky. He holds a B.S. from Knoxville College, a Master of Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and a Master of Education in Religious Education from the University of Pittsburgh.   He holds an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Knoxville College and a Distinguished Alumni Award for Excellence in Specialized Ministry from the Pittsburg Theological Seminary. He is also the recipient of the Edler G. Hawkins Award, (National Black Presbyterian Caucus), the Lucy Craft Laney Award (Black Presbyterian Women’s Association) and the Maggie Kuhn Award (Presbyterian Senior Services)

Professional Career
Rev. Reese was first called to be Pastor of Trinity United Presbyterian Church and Miller’s Ferry Presbyterian Church in Alabama. He was next called to serve as Pastor of First United Presbyterian Church on the campus of Knoxville College. He took an academic sabbatical from KC to serve as Professor of Homiletics in Kenya, and upon his return, agreed to serve as the Christian Education Consultant for the Synod of Catawba in Charlotte, N.C.

Prior to his “retirement” in 1993, Rev. Reese served in a number of progressively responsible positions with the Presbyterian Church, with his last being the Director of the Racial Ethnic Ministry Unit. Post-Retirement, he has held nearly as many prestigious positions as he did previously, including service as the Interim Executive Presbyter for the Presbyteries of New York City, Detroit and Newark. At age 93, he “re-retired” as Supply Pastor for the Germantown Community Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA., and, still known as an outstanding preacher, is often called to preach at events and programs across the country.

Community Service
In addition to his current service as the Chairman of the Board of the Knoxville College Board of Trustees, Rev. Reese is also Chair of the Peacemaking Advisory Committee. He is on the Board of the Presbyterian Historical Society. Among numerous other organizational affiliations, he is also a member of the National Black Presbyterian Caucus and a Life Member of the NAACP.

Personal Life
Dr. Reese has been married to the lovely Neola Reese for more than sixty-six (66!!!) years, and they have three highly accomplished children (Mildred R. McNeil, James L. Reese, and Foster E. Reese) and six grandchildren.

In Closing
Rev. Reese has won high office and national acclaim as a leader by being conciliatory and managing to accommodate varied perspectives without losing focus on agreed-upon end goals. He has been temperate, even-keeled and kind. Knoxville College is proud to call Rev. Reese one of its most distinguished alumni and will be Blessed to have his continued and generous service as the Chairman of its Board and Chairman Emeritus.

Suggestion? The current leaders of our Nation would do well to take a meeting with and a lesson on leadership and stewardship from this giant of a man who is tall in compassion and maturity ---Rev. Dr. James Foster Reese.