We offer our condolences to the family and colleagues of the Rev. Dr. Gene A. Reeves, who died on May 8, 2019, at the age of 86.
Gene was born on April 2, 1933, in Franklin, NH to Eugene V. Reeves and Parmelie T. Reeves. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire, NH in 1956 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, following which he earned his Bachelor of Sacred Theology from Boston University, MA in 1959. He then received his PhD in Philosophy of Religion, from Emory University, GA in 1963. In 2014, Meadville Lombard Theological School, IL awarded him an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity.
Rev. Dr. Reeves was ordained on November 19, 1961, by The United Liberal Church in Atlanta, GA (now the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta). In 1962, he was called to the Crane Theological School of Tufts University, MA where he served as a Professor until 1967. From 1969 to 1979, Rev. Dr. Reeves fulfilled his Parish ministry at the First Unitarian Church, Dayton, OH, and then served the Meadville Lombard Theological School, IL for nine years as a Dean and Chief Executive Officer (1979-1988). Later, the Meadville Lombard Theological School honored him as Professor Emeritus.
During his service to the denomination, Rev. Dr. Reeves served as a Chairman of the Committee of the Crane Conference on the Ministry at Tufts University (1964). He was also a strong advocate of the civil rights causes and anti-war movements of the 60s and 70s. Dr. Reeves was one of the clergy men who answered Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to Selma, AL in 1965.
In addition to his ministry, Gene belonged to several community organizations. He served as a consultant to the Niwano Peace Foundation and functioned as chair of the planning committee for the 1987 Congress of International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF) at Stanford University. He was founder of the International Buddhist Congregation headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, and a founding member of the Council for a Parliament of the World Religions. He also served as an advisor to the Risshō Kōsei, a Japanese new religious movement founded in 1938. Furthermore, Gene authored many articles in scholarly journals; co-edited the Process Philosophy and Christian Thought; edited A Buddhist Kaleidoscope: Essays on the Lotus Sutra; and translated The Lotus Sutra: A Contemporary Translation of a Buddhist Classic. He did extensive research on contemporary Chinese Buddhism and spoke about Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra in Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and the United States.
Throughout his life, Gene taught at various Universities in the United States, China and Japan. He was the Director of Planning and Institutional Research, and assistant to the President at Wilberforce University, OH; Professorial Lecturer at the University of Chicago Divinity School, IL; and taught at the Antioch College, OH; the University of Tsukuba in Japan, and the Renmin University of China. In his spare time, he enjoyed reading, art, nature, birds, golf, photography, electronics, auto repair and carpentry.
For those congregations who struggled to broaden their outlook, Rev. Reeves highlighted: “Make your tent larger. Like those Jews in their Babylonian captivity, I believe we are called today, each one of us is called, to make our tents larger, to move beyond our own tribalism, our racial and ethnic and national and class smallness, and let our vision of human wholeness become a basis for a more genuine community, a model of what can be.”
Gene is survived by his wife Yayoi Reeves; his daughters Rev. Eva Cameron (UU Minister) and Anna Kerr; his step-son Takuro Sato (Machiko Sato); his sister Joyce Reeves; his five grandchildren Peter Hochgraf, Irene Hochgraf Cameron, Kayleigh Kerr, Ella Kerr, and Momo Sato; as well as his two nephews and two nieces. He was preceded in death by his parents; his former wife Joan Reeves; and his brother Richard Reeves.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a charity of one’s own choosing, as well as to the Meadville Lombard Theological School, 610 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605.
A celebration of Gene’s life was held at 1 p.m. on Thursday, June 13, 2019 at the First Unitarian Church of Chicago, 5650 S. Woodlawn Ave., Chicago, IL 60637.