Red Burns, Woman Entrepreneur, RIP

Red Burns was just an amazing woman.  She was the founder of the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) in the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU.  She founded ITP in 1979.  She was a true leader in technology not only with her understanding of what it could bring to the table but how education could shape an industry. 

Red moved to NYC with her husband in the late 1960s to raise their family.  She was interested in having her own career and began to seek out her interests in documentary film making.  It was her desire to be her own person that led her to teach at NYU where she co-founded the Alternative Media Center at Tisch in 1971 that eventually became ITP. 

The first time I met Red was back in the mid-90's when the technology revolution was just beginning to take a foothold in NYC.  I had met a handful of people who had recently graduated from ITP and then went on to start their own tech companies.  No doubt Red was a strong influence on them.  She was a force of nature combined with serious brain power.  I remember being at an event that took place outside of NYC and Red commanded and led the direction at a roundtable that discussed the future of technology.  I was in awe.

Fast forward, in 2011 I co-founded the Womens Entrepreneur Festival at ITP with Nancy Hechinger, a professor at NYU.  Nancys diverse background from film to technology was the perfect fit for ITP.  She had an big soft spot for Red.  Nancy got Red involved with our festival from day one.  Red loved it.  She loved the energy of the women that attend the festival as well as the conversations that take place.  She was so sharp and although physically she was starting to deteriorate her mind never did.  She loved to talk about the different business models that were discussed at the conference.  She spoke about women doing their own thing.  I adored her.

Nancy let me know that Red died this past week with her kids around her.  Tears came to my eyes immediately.  Red was full of energy.  She had a lust for life.  Even in the last years of her life you could tell that if she had the ability she would have jumped right in there and started something new.  She embraced technology and the ever changing world it is bringing us today.  She loved the future and wanted to be leading its charge until the very end. 

Red's energy just slowed down.  Her body just gave out.  She was a woman entrepreneur ahead of her time.  She has left a mark on many including me.  She was an innovator, a visionary with a funny sense of humor and a eye for details.  Above all she was brilliant with a twinkle in her eye.  She will be sorely missed.  We might have to leave an open seat for her in the front row of the Womens Entrepreneur Festival this year as a tribute.  She will be sorely missed.  She was the original hacker. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. Sunchowder

    Oh I am so touched and sorry to hear this….I loved meeting her at the conference, she was a force.

    1. Gotham Gal

      she was a force.

  2. Jeff Galusha

    Great post – very touched to read and I love the idea of leaving a seat for Red.

  3. denmeade

    Thank you for sharing this lovely tribute. You paint a vivid picture of a fabulous sounding woman.

    1. Gotham Gal

      she was just amazing.

  4. pointsnfigures

    As I commented on your husband’s blog, so sad to lose a trailblazer, so happy she left a trail.

  5. markslater

    wonderful tribute. I never had the pleasure.

  6. William Mougayar

    What a great legacy to be ahead of your time and to inspire others so broadly. I’ll admit that I hadn’t heard about her, but should have.

  7. Dale Allyn

    Wonderful tribute, Joanne. Thank you. The influence she had on the community is impressive.

  8. Terry

    Very cool lady, wish I had known her!

  9. TanyaMonteiro

    so sorry to hear this, she made such an impact at the WE Festivals. I’ll be there this year looking out for that seat, what a wonderful tribute.

  10. leigh

    Funny how i have never even heard of her. I hope that at least will change in the future — and if only i thought of it, the name Red. How awesome.