All of us at IFF were saddened to hear of the recent passing of Cordell Reed, who was an inaugural member of IFF’s Board, serving from 1988-1998 and again from 1999-2002.
Cordell served the Chicago community in many capacities, working with the Cal-Met Village Senior Citizen Housing, Chicago State Foundation, Development Fund for Black Students, Illinois Academic Decathlon Association, Metropolitan Family Services Advisory Board, and Shedd Aquarium, as well as numerous corporate boards and technical societies. By profession, he was a nuclear engineer with ComEd, where he spent 37 years rising through the ranks to senior vice president of the company’s largest division. An obituary in the Chicago Tribune noted that he was the first African American engineer hired by ComEd, and possibly the first African American in the nation to earn his nuclear operator’s license.
IFF’s founder, Trinita Logue, provided this personal remembrance of her time working with Cordell:
Cordell was a gentle soul — dignified and sort of quiet — but he was tough as steel underneath, and he liked to have fun, too. He wasn’t above a hearty belly laugh at the right moment.
He was an excellent boss for me when he chaired the Board. He managed many team leaders and executives at ComEd, and he knew how to give feedback in a way it was heard and could not be ignored. I considered the reviews he gave me to be some of the most valuable professional conversations I ever had. The first serious, deep, grown-up conversations I ever had about race and race relations were with Cordell. I was comfortable asking him anything.
After 10 years of service, Cordell was succeeded as Board Chair by David Rubin. About a year later, David died suddenly and tragically of a heart attack. Our Board leadership was unprepared to put forward a new leader to serve as Chair. We appealed to Cordell. He agreed to re-join the Board as chair for three years on one condition: that we undertake long-term board succession planning. In typical style, Cordell pushed us to be better.