Hank Rieger, Former President of the TV Academy, Dies at 95

Courtesy of PMK * BNC
Hank Rieger (left), with another former TV Academy president, Tom Sarnoff.

Hank Rieger, the former NBC publicity man who served two terms as president of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in the 1970s, died Wednesday of natural causes in Oceanside, Calif. He was 95.

Rieger served the television industry's governing bodies for 40 years, first as president of the Hollywood chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, then as president of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (from 1973-75 and then from 1977-80) and as editor and publisher of Emmy Magazine, which he created in 1979 for the organization.

In 1994, Rieger was honored with the Television Academy's Syd Cassyd Award in recognition of his long and distinguished service.

“Hank Rieger worked tirelessly for many years on behalf of the Television Academy,” said current Academy chairman and CEO Bruce Rosenblum. “He believed in the Academy’s ability to have a positive impact on the entire entertainment industry, and we are deeply grateful for all he contributed.”

In 1965, Rieger began a 15-year run as West Coast director of press and publicity for the NBC, promoting such popular TV programs as Bonanza, I Spy, Star Trek, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, Sanford and Son and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He traveled overseas with Bob Hope when the famed comic entertained U.S. troops.

After leaving NBC in 1979 to operate his own PR firm, he became the West Coast PR representative for then-fledgling ESPN, a relationship he maintained until his death.

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In the late 1960s and '70s, Rieger served as vp of the Special Olympics in California and later was part of the organizing committee to bring the 1984 Summer Olympics to Los Angeles.

Rieger was born on Sept. 20, 1918, in Kansas City, Mo., but was raised in Phoenix. He attended the University of Arizona and the University of Southern California, where he later became an adjunct faculty member in the School of Journalism.

In World War II, he served in the Army and was assigned to intelligence and counter-intelligence in the Pacific. Beginning as a private, Rieger left the military as a major.

For more than 20 years during the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, Rieger served as bureau chief for United Press International in various cities, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco and New York. In 1953 he took a leave of absence from the wire service to serve as press attache for the U.S. Consul General in Singapore. He also briefly headed up press and publicity for the Southern California Gas Co.

His wife of 65 years, Deborah, died last year. Survivors include his sister, Ruth, niece Julie and cousins JoAnn, Ann Marie and Mary.

In accordance with his wishes, his ashes will be scattered at sea. A memorial is planned. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in his name to the Television Academy Foundation or to the USC Annenberg School of Communication.

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