TV Producer, Exec Stefanie Kowal Dies at 69

At Universal, she oversaw the development, sales and production of such titles as James Michener mini 'Centennial,' 'Off the Minnesota Strip' starring Hal Holbrook and 'Little Women.'

For a CBS special about "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" in 1982, Stefanie Kowal worked with Robin Williams, left, producer Malcolm Leo, director Andrew Solt and Steven Spielberg.


Stefanie Kowal (aka Stefanie Cragg), the head of movies and miniseries at Universal TV during a strong era of television longform, died Jan. 26 of lung cancer at her home in Los Angeles. She was 69.

Survivors include her husband, veteran TV director-producer Stephen Cragg.

At Universal in the late 1970s and early ’80s, Kowal oversaw development, sales and production of such titles as James Michener miniseries Centennial, Off the Minnesota Strip starring Hal Holbrook, Little Women and Harvest Home. She also produced the 1986 Showtime movie Slow Burn starring Eric Roberts, Beverly D’Angelo and Johnny Depp.

Kowal served as the production executive on the 1982 CBS documentary special E.T. and Friends: Magical Movie Visitors starring Robin Williams and developed and produced numerous primetime series at Universal, including 1984’s The Four Seasons, starring Alan Alda.

In 1986, Kowal left Universal but continued to mentor aspiring artists and young filmmakers. Her later TV work was mostly consulting jobs, mainly with her husband. More recently, she wrote comics books as Stefanie Cragg.

Born Diana Stefanie Staffin in Chicago, Kowal worked for the syndicated advice columnist Ann Landers at the Sun-Times newspaper in the late 1960s, eventually writing and producing Landers’ daily radio program on NBC. Kowal then moved to Chicago O&O WLS-TV and launched AM Chicago starring Steve Edwards, for which she won an Emmy Award in 1976.

In addition to her husband, survivors include two sisters and a brother. A memorial service is set for 3 p.m. on Feb. 18 at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles.