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Former Kazan Visiting Professor Dr. James Reid Passes Away

Dr. James Reid was the Kazan Visiting Professor in Armenian Studies at Fresno State for the Spring 2006 semester. He died on June 10. The following obituary was published in the Sacramento Bee on June 14, 2006.

Dr. James J. Reid

Dr. James J. Reid, a local historian with an international reputation, passed away on Saturday, June 10, in Roseville, California. He was 57. Jim was born in Utah on August 17, 1948.

From the beginning, remarkable people and places influenced his life in extraordinary ways. His father, Colonel Robert J. Reid, taught Jim to face every difficulty with courage and to undertake every task with dedication. His mother, Ruth Reid, taught him love, compassion, humility, and devotion, as well as the importance of finding pleasure in even the simplest things in life. Colonel Reid’s military assignments meant frequent travel and life abroad for the family, which included Jim’s older sister and brother, Betty and Bob. Absorbing all that he saw and heard, Jim became fluent in German by the age of four and later mastered French as well. Fascinated by castles, cathedrals, and other monuments and deeply moved by his experience of different cultures, he decided at the age of eight to devote his life to the study of history. But the precise direction Jim’s historical interests were to take was not determined until he had graduated from UC Berkeley and begun graduate study at the University of Santa Clara. There, still in his early twenties, he met and fell in love with Mehri Yazdani, who had recently come to this country from Iran. For Jim, loving Mehri meant loving her history, her culture, and her language as well, and so he devoted himself to the study of all things Persian. After marrying, Jim and Mehri moved to Los Angeles, where Jim earned a Ph.D. in Middle Eastern History from UCLA in 1978.

Jim’s professional career involved teaching positions at colleges and universities across the country, including UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Lehigh University. In 1990-91, Jim taught and did research at the Institute for Mediterranean Studies in Rethymno on the Greek island of Crete. During that year he also learned to read, speak, and write modern Greek. In 1991, he accepted a position as research fellow at the S.B. Vryonis Center for the Study of Hellenism in Rancho Cordova, California. While in the Sacramento area, Jim had the opportunity to teach courses at California State University, Sacramento. During the spring of 2006, he was the Henry Kazan Visiting Professor of Armenian Studies at California State University, Fresno. As much as Jim enjoyed teaching, it was in historical research and writing that he truly excelled. A specialist in Persian, Turkish, Armenian, and Greek history with knowledge of eight languages, he was comfortable addressing a wide variety of difficult but important historical issues.

Two of his major works are books on early modern Iran (Studies in Safavid Mind, Society, and Culture and Tribalism and Society in Islamic Iran, 1500-1629). A third is a volume on the decline of the Ottoman Empire (Crisis of the Ottoman Empire: Prelude to Collapse, 1839-1878). In addition to his books, Jim published many articles in historical journals and made frequent presentations at meetings of scholarly associations. Many of his recent publications and presentations focused on terrorism and genocide. Convinced that the historical significance of these phenomena is too little understood, he wanted to call attention to their roles in historical developments during the last two centuries. His hope was that a greater awareness of terrorism and genocide might be the beginning of their undoing.

Throughout his career, Jim was encouraged and supported by Mehri, an accomplished linguist and painter with whom he shared ideas and insights as well as a deep love and affection. Jim and Mehri had a special passion for Persia’s great mystic poets. Those who knew Jim knew how much he treasured Mehri. Jim is also survived by his sister, Betty Schmidt, brother-inlaw, Jack Schmidt, and nephew, Michael Schmidt, of Elk Grove. Jim’s family, friends, colleagues, and students will remember him as a person who embodied the virtues of compassion, civility, patience, and perseverance. We are fortunate in having had him in our lives. We will always keep a place for him in our hearts.