Reed was the first African American woman hired as program director at Atascadero State Hospital

ATASCADERO — Karen J. Reed of Atascadero was honored with the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts (CLA) Alumni of Notable Achievement Award on May 21. 

Reed received the award at an event held in the University Hall at McNamara Alumni Center in Minneapolis. Dean John J. Coleman of CLA presented this special recognition. The CLA Alumni of Notable Achievement (ANA) program was created in 1994 as part of the university’s 125th anniversary to celebrate and honor the significant achievements and contributions of its alumni. 

Of the college’s over 179,000 graduates, approximately 1 percent are selected as recipients of the award. Reed was selected due to her leadership, professionalism in community, music (excelling in the field of Music Therapy utilizing Gospel Music), and evangelism (in the U.S. and Chile). She received a specially designed engraved plaque, certificate, and CLA gift bag. 


Professionally, Reed in August 2021 became the first African American woman to be hired as a program director at Atascadero State Hospital, where she manages seven units treating offenders with a mental health disorder, found guilty by reason of insanity and incompetent to stand trial. 

Previously, Reed was program director at the Department of State Hospitals, Coalinga, working with sexually violent predators and mentally disordered offenders and was awarded DSH Sacramento’s Innovator of the Year Award, Supervisor of Month, and was recognized by the Western Region American Music Therapy Association’s highest award, the Betty Isern Howery Award. 

Although Reed has been a manager in DSH for 15 years, she continued music therapy treatment groups and gained recognition for the use of Gospel music. Reed is the author of “Music is the Master Key,” which describes the benefits of music therapy, and has written about the subject in the “Music Perspective journal and Multicultural Intersections: Music, Health, and the Person.” Most recently, she was published in the COGIC Annual Commentary 2020-2021 for Sunday School. Reed has received numerous recognitions for her church ministry, community work, and her professional organizations.