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Red Burns, a Founder of NYU’s New-Media Program, Dies at 88

Red Burns, who helped establish New York University’s highly influential Interactive Telecommunications Program in 1979 and became its director in 1983, has died at age 88, the university announced on Monday.

Ms. Burns was credited with making the program, known as ITP, a high-profile laboratory for imaginative digital innovation and a source of graduates who now work for a variety of new-media companies, large and small. She was often referred to as the mother or godmother of “Silicon Alley,” New York City’s counterpart to the California technology corridor south of San Francisco.

Mary Schmidt Campbell, dean of the university’s Tisch School of the Arts, wrote on the school’s Web page that it was Ms. Burns’s idea to create “a 21st-century Bauhaus, a place where the engineer encounters the poet, the dancer discovers the computer programmer, or the architect partners with the painter.”

“She believed that in inviting the most exciting students from a mix of disciplines, the department could form the core of a vibrant creative community in which the unexpected can happen. She believed that technology was a tool in the service of ideas and people, and because people and ideas drove technology forward, the environment had to be as social as it was rigorous.”

Working with faculty members in many disciplines, Ms. Campbell wrote, Ms. Burns made sure that the program centered on “a few essential foundational courses; an unsentimental faculty review of the curriculum at the end of every academic year; the willingness to disassemble the physical space to accommodate new ideas, new proximities, new pedagogical approaches”; and the pursuit of groundbreaking research.

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