Joan Tisch, Patron of the Arts and AIDS Fight, Dies at 90

Joan Tisch, Patron of the Arts and AIDS Fight, Dies at 90


Joan Tisch’s son Jonathan is co-chairman of the company, treasurer of the Giants and chief executive of Loews hotels. Laurence’s son Andrew is also a co-chairman of the Loews Corporation; Andrew’s brother James is the president and chief executive.

Mrs. Tisch lived in the Loews Regency Hotel on Park Avenue, which Jonathan and his father made famous as the home of so-called power breakfasts among New York’s movers and shakers. Mrs. Tisch paid the company about $75,000 a month for her apartment, according to its proxy statement.

While Mrs. Tisch was often referred to as a socialite, she was also a fervent benefactor for causes like the AIDS crisis.

“I’m Joan and I’d like to volunteer,” she announced when she showed up in the mid-1980s at the tiny office of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis after several of her friends had contracted AIDS. Without identifying herself further, she went to work stuffing envelopes and working the switchboard.

“For the first time in years of volunteering, I had become emotionally involved,” she was quoted as saying in “Fighting for Our Lives: New York’s AIDS Community and the Politics of Disease,” by Susan Maizel Chambre (2006). “I witnessed the signifying of wills of men younger than my children. I saw people with Kaposi’s sarcoma try in vain to hide lesions with makeup. I listened to cases of harassment at work or by landlords.”

When the office’s only photocopier broke down, her son Jonathan wrote in “The Power of We: Succeeding Through Partnerships” (2004, with Karl Weber), she suggested buying a new one. No money, the office manager replied forlornly.

“My mom promptly wrote a check for $475 and handed it to the manager,” Mr. Tisch wrote. “He looked very dubious. ‘How do I know this check won’t bounce?’ he asked her.

“She replied, ‘Trust me, it won’t bounce.’ ”

Joan Lila Hyman was born on July 14, 1927, in Manhattan to N. Howard Hyman, a dentist, and the former Merle Brayer.

After graduating from a private high school in New Jersey, she attended the University of Michigan, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English and met her husband, a fellow student.

“When friends ask me about going to football games every Sunday,” Mrs. Tisch told The New York Times in 1997, after Bob Tisch had bought his half interest in the Giants, “I tell them I have been going to football games every weekend since 1946.”

They graduated and married in 1948.

Mr. Tisch helped bring the Democratic National Convention to New York in 1976 and 1980, lobbied on New York’s behalf in Washington during the city’s fiscal crisis in the mid-1970s, generated support for what became the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Manhattan’s West Side, and was a good-will ambassador for the city. He died in 2005.

In addition to their son Jonathan, Mrs. Tisch is survived by their other children, Steve, a film producer and chairman of the Giants, and Laurie, a philanthropist and president of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, as well as 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

In her memory, the Giants will wear a decal with her initials, J. H. T, on their helmets this weekend when they play the Los Angeles Rams at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

Mrs. Tisch was a board member of the 92nd Street Y, where the family endowed the Tisch Center for the Arts. She underwrote the Gay Men’s Health Crisis’s purchase of a new headquarters on West 33rd Street, enabled New York University to develop programs in the arts and humanities, and helped finance the building of the university’s Tisch Hospital, in the East 30s near the East River, and the renovation of the Children’s Zoo in Central Park.

Jonathan Tisch once described his mother as “an independent opinionated person.” While she was seriously committed to social causes, those who knew her say she never took herself too seriously.

In 1990, after The Times wrote about socialites auditioning for roles as socialites for the film version of Tom Wolfe’s novel “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” Mrs. Tisch sent a handwritten note to Mark Canton, a Warner Bros. executive and close friend of her son Steve’s.

“She’d read about the auditions ‘with great interest’ and thought she could play one of the small parts,” Julie Salamon wrote in “The Devil’s Candy” (1991), her book about the making of the film. The auditions were for a scene involving a gala party at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“To bolster her case,” Ms. Salamon reported, “she assured Canton that Warner Bros. wouldn’t have to provide hotel accommodations, ‘as I have my own’ (the Regency), or air transportation, ‘as I have my own.’ Tisch added that the movie wouldn’t even have to give her space at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ‘as I have my own wing.’ ”

Correction: November 2, 2017

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this obituary misstated the location of a game this weekend between the New York Giants and the Los Angeles Rams. It will be at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, not in Los Angeles.



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