The willingness to take chances and explore the unknown that sent Jim Reed’s pioneer ancestors to the Pacific Northwest seemed to inform his lifelong pursuits as a scholar, writer, and consultant.
At the end of his life he was writing about the region of his birth. “My ‘big book,’ ” he called the work, which his death left unfinished. The path to that project led him from Seattle to Harvard University to the presidency of the Massachusetts Chapter of the Fulbright Association.
Through the Fulbright program, he traveled in recent years to Pakistan, where he had been a senior scholar and helped develop American studies programs in higher education. The trips held more than just academic allure, however.
“Why do I go to Pakistan? I ask myself that question at home but the answer transcends the usual calculations,” he wrote in his journal not long before he died. “In general it is a peak life experience without equal anywhere. … It is pure intellectual and cultural adventure.”
Dr. Reed, who more than 30 years ago formed Addis & Reed Consulting, which he ran with his wife, died of sepsis on April 5 in Shifa International Hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan. He was 67 and lived in Brookline.
As head of the Massachusetts Fulbright chapter, Dr. Reed led an organization that helps host about 300 foreign scholars visiting the state at any given time. The chapter sets up activities ranging from intellectual events to tourist excursions and holiday dinners.
“Jim was instrumental in establishing new relationships between the Massachusetts Fulbright Association and other organizations, and in improving or enhancing those relationships with other organizations in the Greater Boston area,” said William Pjura, the chapter’s treasurer, who took on Dr. Reed’s duties after his death.
Dr. Reed “was warm and outgoing,” said Alan Schechter, professor emeritus of political science at Wellesley College and former chairman of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.
“He was easy to get along with,” Schechter said. “He exercised his leadership in a calm, effective manner. Everything worked smoothly, and obviously to a great extent you can put that at the feet of the person in charge.”
That deft touch was due in part to a blend of traits Nat Guild saw in Dr. Reed, his friend of more than 30 years.
“Jim had this great combination of two things that people don’t often have together,” said Guild, president of Apex Equity Research in Concord. “First of all, he had a first rate intellectual mind and was just the most clear type of critical thinker. And he was one of the most optimistic people I knew.”
Invoking the image of the glass some see half-full, others as half-empty, Dr. Reed’s wife, Deborah Addis, said his glass “was always all the way full.”
“When the weather report said it was going to be partly cloudy, he would say, ‘Oh, it’s going to be a sunny day.’ I’d say, ‘No, they said it’s going to be partly cloudy,’ and he’d say, ‘Well, that means it’s going to be mostly sunny.’ ”
James Eldin Reed was born in Walla Walla, Wash., and moved as a youth to Seattle, where he graduated from Shoreline High School.
He studied history at Ripon College in Ripon, Wis., graduating in 1967, then headed to Cambridge, where he graduated from Harvard Divinity School with a master’s in theology, and from Harvard University with a doctorate in history.
The years that followed included teaching, holding academic fellowships, writing articles and books, and founding a consulting firm in 1979.
His first marriage, to Dena Wilmore, ended in divorce.
Dr. Reed met Addis, whom he married in 1983, in a Beacon Hill laundromat.
“What attracted me to him was his keen intellect and his joie de vivre,” she said. “He really embraced life.”
Wide-ranging interests in various topics defined Dr. Reed.
“He had pockets of experience, and you never could quite predict what his pockets of knowledge would be,” said David Hall, Bartlett research professor of New England church history at Harvard Divinity School.
In addition to his wife, Dr. Reed leaves a brother, Daniel of Eugene, Ore.; a sister, Cheryl Hurwitz; and a half-brother, Jay Dodge of Putney, Vt.
A private service celebrating Dr. Reed’s life and spirit will be held in early July.
He was working on a book he planned to call “Pacific Northwest Renaissance.”
On his website, Dr. Reed said: “It has taken me several years to write, but a good deal of my life to live. I was born and raised in the Northwest -- ‘East of the Mountains,’ in the deep interior, where the frontier past still lingered -- and came to know the region intimately as only a child can.”