John Jay Iselin

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ISELIN--John Jay, 74, died on May 6, 2008 of respiratory failure in New York. Son of William Jay and Fanny (Humphreys) Iselin, he was born in Greenville, SC and graduated from Saint Mark's School and Harvard College, class of 1956. He received a law degree from Cambridge University (Corpus Christi) which he attended as a Marshall Fellow, and a Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University in 1964. During his long and distinguished career in New York, he was National Affairs editor of Newsweek, editor of the trade division of Harper & Row before joining WNET/Channel 13 as general manager in 1971. He served as President of the public television station from 1973 to 1987 where he oversaw its transformation into a major force in the broadcasting world. In 1988, he was appointed President of the Cooper Union in New York, where he remained for 12 years, completing a $50 million capital campaign and endowing several new professorships. In 2000, he became President of the Marconi Society which, based at Columbia University, promotes innovation in telecommunications. Iselin remained on its board until his death. He was a longtime trustee of the Josiah C. Macy Jr. Foundation, the National Geographic Society, The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, Waterford Institute and The New York State Archives Partnership Trust, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Advisory Council of Storm King Art Center. Throughout his life he was passionately involved in New York civil affairs and remained devoted to Harvard where he had been an overseer and to Cambridge University and the Marshall Fellowships. In 2004, he was appointed honorary Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. He was a member of the Century Association and the Harvard Club of New York. He was also beloved in Columbia County, NY and in Vinalhaven, Maine where he summered with his family for over 40 years. He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Lea, five children: William of Paris, Benjamin and his wife Cathy of Brooklyn, Josie and her husband Ken Pearce of San Francisco, Fannie Minot of South Hamilton, MA, Alison Russell and her husband Dan of Brooklyn and thirteen grandchildren. He is also survived by two brothers, Duane of Mt. Desert, ME, William of Charleston, SC and two sisters, Judy Cromwell of Greenville, SC and Lea Rohrbaugh of New York. A Memorial Service will be held at 11am on May 29 in the Great Hall of the Cooper Union. In lieu of flowers, donations should be made to The Franklin Fund, Cooper Union, 30 Cooper Sq. 7th Floor, NYC 10003, or the Friends of the John Jay Homestead, P.O. Box 148, Katonah, NY 10536.
Published in The New York Times from May 9 to May 11, 2008