The John A. Reisenbach Foundation is the premier charitable organization of New York’s media and advertising communities. The Foundation was established in 1991, one year after the random and senseless murder of John Reisenbach in Greenwich Village. John, then 33 years old, was vice president of national advertising sales for what was then All American Television. To date, The John A. Reisenbach Foundation has given more than $6 million to programs that improve safety and the quality of life in New York City, in honor of John’s memory.
Among the Reisenbach Foundation’s most visible events and means of fundraising is the annual presentation of the Reisenbach Award for “Distinguished Citizenship,” given to media or advertising professionals who share our interest in the quality of life. Past recipients include Bill Cella, Irwin Gotlieb, Ray Kelly, Bill Koenigsberg, Bob Liodice, Judy McGrath, Katherine Oliver, Dennis Swanson, Dick Wolf, and, the first, Gerald Levin.
The John A. Reisenbach Foundation was established in July 1991, one year after John?s death, by a group of friends and colleagues who wanted to honor his life with some positive actions. The first Gala was hosted by Phil Donahue with special guest Jim Brady, who had been involved in the attempted shooting of President Reagan and was already becoming a proponent for hand gun control.
With these origins, our sense of where to focus efforts immediately went toward safety related programs, and our very first allocation was to the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, with the creation of Reisenbach Masters Scholarships for students who pledged to focus their careers in New York City after graduation. We worked with John Jay on a variety of safety and anti-crime related initiatives, including sponsorship of a multi-part TV series on crime, policing and criminal justice.
Our interest in making contributions where we could really see the impact, drew the Foundation?s Board of Directors to seek out neighborhood and community organizations to support and help expand. One of our earliest programs was the donation of thousands of dollars to a long list of individual neighborhood watch groups, providing everything from flashlights to gas for patrolling cars.
Over the years, we have worked closely with the New York City Police Foundation, the Police Athletic League, New York Cares, Safe Horizons and the Citizens Committee for NYC among others. Warner Bros. DC Comic’s dedicated a special edition of Batman to the Reisenbach Foundation called Seduction of the Gun that had strong anti-gun violence themes. In addition, DC Comic artist Alex Ross generously donated his proceeds of original artwork to the Reisenbach Foundation.
To date, we have raised funds to create our own programs, support the development of others and match funds from other organizations. Adhering to our charter, we have sought to be creative in our choices while focusing on tangible results that can really make a difference.
The John A. Reisenbach Foundation?s 20 years carried this as its original charter:
- To support programs in John’s memory dedicated to making New York City a safer and better place in which to live and work.
- As a positive response to John’s senseless murder, his friends, associates and family rallied many individuals and companies in the communications and entertainment industries who have generously given more than $6 million to fund programs enhancing public safety and education.
The John A. Reisenbach Foundation has looked to achieve these prime objectives:
- Utilize resources within the advertising and media communities
- Provide leadership to mobilize these businesses to create educational, safety and community support programs for a safer New York
- Encourage the media industry’s newest members to continue the charitable tradition in John’s memory
BIOGRAPHY OF JOHN A. REISENBACH (1956-1990)
John Reisenbach represented the qualities of every decent and “ordinary guy” you’ve ever worked with or known. He was, as his friends and business associates emphasize, passionate and stubborn, sarcastic and silly, always caring and always professional. He managed to enrich the lives of those around him with his simple incredible affinity for friendship.
John attended Northwestern University where he met Victoria Nelson in 1976. They moved to New York City when John graduated in 1978, and married the following year. John began his career as a media planner at Ogilvy & Mather, quickly moving up to supervisor in the network programming department.
In 1982, John joined Backer & Spielvogel, where he further developed his contacts in network television, syndication and cable, earning a reputation for being a savvy and creative agency negotiator. John joined all American Television in 1987 as senior vice president and director of advertising sales, where he more than tripled sales.
John loved to work hard and play hard. He loved animals. He loved life. Most of all, John loved people. While he might view the formation of the John A. Reisenbach Foundation with a good deal of amazement, he would be gratified to know that so many have come together to honor his memory. And we are sure he would be proud of the many fine things that have been accomplished in his name.