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Portland Reed

Portland Reed

Global solutions head | Vita Global, Inc. | Class of 1998

Where were you on April 19, 1996, when an F3 tornado touched down in southeast Urbana?

Portland Reed, then a UI law student, was in her dorm when the sirens sounded. She and her floormates raced to the basement, knowing they’d be safest there. 

"I lived in Missouri so this was not unfamiliar, albeit a little unsettling due to rumors that it was going to touch down on campus," says Reed, now the Arizona-based global solutions head at Vita Global, Inc. "But our basement gathering revealed something special.

“Since we were all stuck with each other and a few students were uncomfortable that a tornado was coming, we just all made it a point to introduce each other and get to know one another. It was complete diversity and what we shared was our humanity and belief that we could make something of ourselves and we chose the University of Illinois as one of the many roads to success. 

“That was a special moment. Being asked to recall experiences from U of I law school reminded me of how transformational it was. 

“Just the year before, I was living in South Africa, post-Apartheid. What a great reminder that when people actually meet face-to-face and get to know each other, the differences are no longer barriers. The human connection is real and I feel privileged to have had not only a great education in law but a great education in life — all because of a tornado.”