William B. Reed

Initiator of Scholarships - and Success

Inducted in 2006

More than half a century ago, the engineering discipline was fortunate in winning to itself the keen mind and generous heart of William Burch Reed. This gifted Alabama native might have chosen any other intellectually demanding and productive pursuit. But in Alabama, our profession—and particularly engineering education at Auburn University—would not be what it is today had Mr. Reed taken a different route.

This exemplary mechanical engineer has supported his alma mater financially for four decades. Perhaps the greatest measure of his largesse is the contribution to scholarships that enable promising students to become practicing engineers. Across the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, into a new century, Mr. Reed helped ensure that adequate numbers of engineers would be educated to meet the region’s many needs.

Mr. Reed obtained his own degree in 1950. At General Electric, which he joined upon graduation, he developed expertise in steam-turbine generators. What he learned equipped him to make new gains for the company as a marketing manager. During his 19-year tenure, his contributions were repeatedly the object of boardroom praise.

In 1969 he was persuaded to leave General Electric to become executive vice president at Southern Company Services. The blend of technical and managerial skills he wielded steadily toned the enterprise’s performance. Mr. Reed introduced contemporary management techniques. He raised power plants and transmission systems to new standards. In 1976 he accepted the company presidency. In eight years under his direction, SCS made and maintained improvements to operations, engineering, and construction of the sort typifying a world-class utility. He led his company to undertake vast amounts of work to prepare for burgeoning growth of energy consumption in the region. At a critical crossroads for Southern Company Services, Mr. Reed skillfully navigated the prosperity of the Southern system.

Retirement arrived in 1984 but was tapped by Mr. Reed as another opportunity to be productive. He founded Reed Consulting, which over two decades built a sterling reputation nationwide for service that advanced the field of electric power engineering. During this time, Mr. Reed was CEO of Selma’s American Fine Wire Company, correcting financial and managerial difficulties there and establishing a record of profitability attractive to buyers. The company was purchased, and in 1998 he engaged another company on the edge, Systems Controls Inc., a controls integrating firm specializing in materials handling. Through a series of improvements, he ensured its ongoing reputation as an American leader in conveyor control systems.

At Auburn University, Mr. Reed serves on the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council, has lifetime membership in the alumni association, and is an 1856 Society donor. He is active in the Birmingham Rotary Club. A golf enthusiast, he served as president and chairman of the Southern Seniors Golf Association. As a four-year president of the Shoal Creek Club, he made a substantial impact on club growth. During his terms on its board of governors, Shoal Creek hosted three national championships; his ability to marshal volunteers and equip them for complicated assignments was invaluable. He has also served in leadership roles for the Birmingham Country Club, Birmingham Monday Morning Quarterback Club, and The Club.

Mr. Reed and his wife, Elizabeth Burke Reed, reside in Birmingham and have two children, Susan Reed Hene and William Scott Reed.

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