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GMHC Mourns the Passing of Joan Tisch



Contact: Cub Barrett | 212-367-1561 |

The following is a statement from GMHC CEO Kelsey Louie on the death of Joan Tisch:

GMHC is deeply saddened by the passing of Joan Tisch—a pioneer in AIDS volunteerism and activism, and an incredible woman whose philanthropic generosity continues to help sustain GMHC’s programs and services.

When Joan Tisch walked through the doors of GMHC in 1986, no one could have predicted the impact she would have on the organization, nor the influence she would exercise as one of the world’s most visible AIDS advocates and philanthropists. Back then, Joan was simply a potential volunteer, who on her application wrote: “I have known several people afflicted with AIDS, some of whom have died, and I would like to be of service.”

Joan dedicated much of her life to striving toward a world without AIDS. She was a pioneer in AIDS volunteerism and philanthropic support in the initial years of the epidemic, and the example set by her proactive volunteerism became a beacon of light to so many people living with and affected by the epidemic.

After many years of answering the GMHC volunteer hotline, listening to the concerns and fears facing individuals living with HIV/AIDS, and helping clients navigate seemingly insurmountable medical bills, Joan was asked to consider a position on the GMHC Board of Directors. Thankfully, she agreed and subsequently helped set the course of GMHC’s future. She used her social influence to enlist others of affluence to become involved in AIDS volunteerism. Whenever a potential donor presented reluctance, she used her wit, charm, and passion for the cause to secure the vital funds necessary to continue the fight to end the AIDS epidemic.

It was during her tenure on the Board that GMHC advanced from a grassroots nonprofit organization to the world’s most respected AIDS service and advocacy agency. While Joan refused to take any credit for this achievement, it is undeniable that GMHC would not be the strong organization it is today without her courageous leadership and steadfast generosity. In 1997, it was Joan’s gift—one of the largest ever made to an AIDS services organization—that made GMHC’s former home on West 24th Street possible. The move to our current space on West 33rd Street was also made possible through her unwavering support of our mission, our work, and our clients.

We refer to Joan Tisch as the matriarch of GMHC and are humbled that she referred to us as her extended family. Her husband, Bob, was a great champion of Joan’s work, and her children Laurie, Jonathan, and Steve have followed their mother’s example of extraordinary, hands-on philanthropy. We extend our deepest condolences to the Tisch family and mourn the loss of this great lady with them.

Joan Tisch was a unique gift to all of us. She never said “no” to GMHC. GMHC will never stop saying “thank you” to her.


About Gay Men's Health Crisis: Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) is the world's first HIV/AIDS service organization. GMHC is on the front lines providing services to over 12,000 people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Programs include: testing, prevention, nutrition, legal, supportive housing, mental health and substance use services. GMHC also advocates for stronger public policies at the local, state and federal levels with the goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic. For more information, visit