Skip to main content

Bernice Coe Stavis Dead at 81

New York— Bernice Coe Stavis, one of the first women to head an independent film-distribution company and wife of award-winning playwright Barrie Stavis, died on April 24 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City after an almost 20-year battle with cancer. She was 81.

Her career in television and film spanned five decades.

At age 50 — after more than 20 years in the educational-film business — Ms. Coe, as she was known professionally, founded Coe Film Associates in 1970. The firm specialized in bringing the work of independent film producers from all over the world to a wider television audience.

Cable network officials last week said her firm provided product needed for the startup of many of today's most significant cable television networks, including Nickelodeon and The Discovery Channel. She also supplied award-winning shorts and family programming to Home Box Office, Showtime, Arts & Entertainment Network and The Disney Channel.

Within the television industry, Coe might be best remembered for the helping hand she extended to two generations of women executives who followed her into the business.

A founding member of Women in Cable & Telecommunications, she always made herself available with offers of advice and encouragement, mentoring many of the women who today occupy broadcast and cable television's senior ranks. She was active for many years in New York Women in Film and Television.

Among the honors she received was the 1997 Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.

Coe was born on May 29, 1919, in New York. She grew up in Newark, N.J., and attended Vassar College, where the Bernice Coe Stavis Scholarship Fund has been established. She received a master's degree from Teacher's College at Columbia University.

In addition to Mr. Stavis, author of Lamp at Midnight
and The Man Who Never Died, she is survived by her daughter Jane, of Pennsylvania; and son Alex and sister Doris Grossman, both of New York City.

Arrangements for a memorial service are pending. Donations may be made to the Bernice Coe Stavis Scholarship Fund at Vassar College (124 Raymond Ave., Poughkeepsie, N.Y., 12604).