Joseph Verner Reed ’61, best known for his service as an under-secretary-general for the United Nations as well as U.S. ambassador to Morocco in the Reagan administration, died at age 78 on Sept. 29, 2016.
After graduating from Yale College, Reed spent the first 20 years of his career at Chase Manhattan Bank. He left the finance industry after being appointed U.S. Ambassador to Morocco in 1981.
Following a four-year ambassadorship, he continued his diplomatic pursuits under the Bush administration as the Chief of Protocol and also assumed positions at the United Nations, including special representative for public affairs and president of the Staff-Management Coordination Committee.
In the last stage of his life, Reed was heavily involved with “Culture and Civilization of China,” a series of books that introduces Chinese culture to the world, and facilitated a partnership between the Yale University Press and China International Publishing Group. He was also an inaugural member of the President’s Council on International Activities — a council formed by former University President Richard Levin that served as an advisory body to Yale’s international agenda — and a member of the Governing Board of the Yale University Art Gallery, to which he also donated several pieces of artwork.
In 2010, Reed was awarded the Yale Medal, the highest award conferred by the Association of the Yale Alumni, for his continued service to the University.
“He was flamboyant, but [was] one of the most competent individuals you could ever meet,” said Fraser Seitel, a friend and former colleague of Reed at Chase Bank in New York. “When Joseph had a task, he would not rest until he completed it.”
Seitel particularly remembered Reed’s dress style: Reed bought all of his suits from Savile Row Company —an established and high-end tailor shop based in London — and wore “bright colored scarves” all the time.
He also recalled that he was impressed by Reed’s eloquence when the pair first met at their workplace, adding that Reed had an “enormous sense of humor.” For example, Seitel recalled, on one of their business trips to the Philippines, Reed made a witty joke in front of his colleagues and the Filipino president’s staff, which lightened the atmosphere.
Reed’s sense of humor left a strong impression on everyone he met around the world, Seitel added.
“He was man of elegance, grace, wit, flamboyance and razor sharp intellect; a diplomat’s diplomat,” David Rockefeller, chairman and chief executive of the Manhattan Chase Corporation and Reed’s former boss, said in a statement on Reed’s passing. During their three-decade working relationship at Chase Bank, Reed and Rockefeller met thousands of people — from kings and presidents to hotel clerks and elevator operators — and Reed “cherished and charmed” every one of them, Rockefeller said.
Besides his endearing sense of humor that made him a cherished grandfather, father, husband and friend, Reed also remained a perfectionist until the last second of his life. Seitel said that Reed was a typical “behind the scenes operator” and a “stern task-enforcer.”
In a statement on Reed’s death released Sept. 30, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon praised Reed for his contribution to global peace and harmony, citing the example of his bringing people together for the annual U.N. Day Celebration at the Julian Curtiss School in Greenwich.
Reed died at a hospital in Greenwich last Thursday. He is survived by two daughters, Serena Reed Kusserow and Electra Reed, a brother and four grandchildren.