Joseph Verner Reed was born in New York City. He is a graduate of Deerfield Academy and Yale University, Class of 1961.

Following his university studies, he joined the World Bank as Private Secretary to the President. From 1963 to 1981 he was Vice President and Assistant to the Chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank, Mr. David Rockefeller.

Mr. Reed was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as Ambassador of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Morocco in 1981 and in 1985 as the Representative of the United States to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations as Deputy Permanent Representative at the United States Mission. In 1987, he was appointed Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations for Political and General Assembly Affairs. In early 1989, President George H. W. Bush appointed Ambassador Reed the Chief of Protocol of the White House, where he served until late 1991.

In 1992, the then Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, appointed Ambassador Reed Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Special Representative for Public Affairs, concluding his assignment in February 1997. In June 1997, Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi A. Annan, re-appointed Ambassador Reed and as Under-Secretary-General reappointed him as President of the Staff-Management Coordination Committee, the highest internal body of the World Organization. Ambassador Reed served SMCC for twelve years, concluding his assignment in December 2004.

In January 2005, Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan appointed Ambassador Reed as Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser.

In February 2009, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reappointed Ambassador Reed as Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser. Ambassador Reed continues to serve the organization.

Ambassador Reed has received numerous honors and decorations. He was awarded the Legion of Honor of France and received decorations from Italy, Spain, Egypt, Jordan and many from Central and South America. He has received decorations from many African countries. Mr. Reed has received several honorary doctorates. Yale University awarded Ambassador Reed their highest honor, The Yale Medal.