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Katharine was a dear friend and a brilliant advisor to the museum. She brought incredible art museum experience to the Board and staff, and whenever challenges arose we could count on her wise, calm voice of reason. She was an enthusiastic supporter of the museum’s vision, with a warm heart and tremendous sense of humor. We will not forget her wonderful spirit.

Trevor Schoonmaker, Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director of the Nasher Museum
Katharine Lee Reid (center) takes in a work of art by Penny Siopis at Prospect.4 in New Orleans in 2017. Photo by J Caldwell.
Katharine Reid in Valladolid, Spain, during a Nasher trip. Photo by Carmen Durack.

Katharine Caecilia Lee Reid, longtime supporter and friend of the Nasher Museum, died on September 22, 2022, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, from complications after heart surgery. She was 80.

Katharine worked in art museums as curator, administrator and director for 40 years before retiring to Chapel Hill, NC, in 2005. She had served as a member of the Nasher Museum’s national Board of Advisors since 2008.

Before moving to Chapel Hill, Katharine was director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, where her father, Sherman Emery Lee, had served as director from 1958 to 1983, and, before that, director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, as well as deputy director of The Art Institute of Chicago.

Katharine began her career as a curator, first at the Toledo Museum of Art, then at the David and Alfred Smart Museum at the University of Chicago, and at the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. From there she moved to the Art Institute of Chicago, taking a position first as assistant director and then as deputy director. From 2005-2015, she served on the Cultural Property Advisory Committee for the U.S. Department of State.

She served as a president of the Association of Art Museum Directors as well as on the boards of American Association of Museums, the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, the National Conference for Community and Justice, and the American Federation of Arts.

Katharine graduated from Laurel School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and Vassar College summa cum laude, She earned a master’s degree in art history from Harvard and a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the Institut d’Art et d’Archeologie in the Sorbonne. She earned a Ford Foundation grant to study museum curatorship at the Toledo Museum of Art, where her museum career began.

She held two honorary degrees, from Knox College and also the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la Republique Francaise for her significant contribution to the arts.

Read her full obituary.



Katharine was preceded in death by her parents Sherman Emery Lee and Ruth Alida Ward Lee and by her beloved husban Bryan Seaborne Reid, Jr. as well as two step-children and her first husband John Webster Keefe.

She is survived by her sister Margaret Lee Gray Bachenheimer (Steven), Elizabeth Lee Chiego (William) and brother Thomas Weaver Lee (Christie), as well as by five nieces and three nephews, two step-children, two step-grandchildren, three step-great-grand-children and nine great nephews and nieces.

A memorial service and celebration will be held on October 15 at 1 PM at the Kenan Music Building, University of North Carolina, 125 S. Columbia St., Chapel Hill, NC.

In lieu of flowers please send donations to The Ruth and Sherman Lee Fund for Asian Art at The Ackland Art Museum, 101 S. Columbia St., Chapel Hill, NC 27599


Katharine Lee Reid (left), looks closely at a Vincente Carducho painting with art restorer Ruth Cox (middle) and former Nasher Museum Director Sarah Schroth.

Remembering Katharine

Katharine Lee Reid (center, middle row, in gray sweater) gathered with the museum's national Board of Advisors for a meeting in May 2022. Photo by J Caldwell.

“Katharine Lee Reid was a treasure to all who knew her. As a long-standing member of the Board of Advisors at the Nasher, she was a respected voice of experience and wisdom, yet always expressed with modesty and humor. As a fellow traveler on Director Circle trips, she was delightful, fun and always game to try anything. Her love and deep knowledge of all forms of art was astounding. She was a good personal friend to me and many, many others. She will be greatly missed.” — Sarah Schroth, former Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director of the Nasher Museum (2013 – 2020)

“I will remember Katharine Lee Reid as a most esteemed advisor, mentor, and friend. As one of the first women to lead a major American art museum, she was an inspiring role model. When she retired in 2005 and moved to Chapel Hill, N.C., she became a neighbor and good friend, and to our great good fortune agreed to join the Nasher Museum Board of Advisors. As Nasher director, I relied heavily on her wise counsel, and her wicked sense of humor kept us smiling. Her love of art was always palpable, as was her love for friends and family, and I will miss her profoundly.” — Kimerly Rorschach, former Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director of the Nasher Museum (2004 – 2012)

Katharine Lee Reid (left) visits with Jennifer McCracken New at the SPECTACLE event in 2018.
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