Michael I. Rudell passed away on January 25, 2021 in New York City. Mike was born on March 6, 1943 in Passaic, NJ. He is survived by his beloved wife of 50 years, Alice, their daughter Liza and her husband Nyero, his grandchildren, Sienna and Savannah, his sister Rena Ballen, and his sister and brother-in- law Jane and Peter Haft. Mike was a graduate of Bucknell University (‘64) and NYU School of Law (1967). He joined Steve Weinrib, Leonard Franklin and John Vassallo to form Franklin, Weinrib, Rudell & Vassallo over 55 years ago, and he became managing partner. Attorneys and staff at FWRV are devastated by the loss and will miss Mike deeply, both as a friend and as a colleague. His wicked wit, empathic personality, frustrating punning and extraordinary brilliance made him a star of the entertainment bar as well as the workplace. Among many accomplishments, he was Chairman of the Entertainment Committee of the American Bar Association and recipient of its Edward Rubin Service Award. Mike wrote a column for the New York Law Journal for over three decades, lectured extensively, relished his time at the Chautauqua Institute and became a friend, mentor and guide to his clients, whom he cherished, including authors, actors, directors, non-profit foundations and arts organizations, and producers of television and motion pictures. Mike will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
The consensus among Alice and Liza and Michael’s colleagues and friends, is that Michael would have been most pleased to be remembered as part of Chautauqua Institution’s literary activities and outreach. Chautauqua is an institution Michael loved, and which he and his wife, Alice, have attended for many summers. Michael E. Hill, President of Chautauqua Institution, whose comments follow, has embraced the idea. If you wish to contribute, we suggest that you specify you are making your contribution to Chautauqua in memory of Michael I. Rudell and follow the directions below. When Chautauqua has a sense of the level of donations, it will work with Alice to identify a suitable tribute.
Gifts can be made to Chautauqua Institution through various vehicles and all are tax deductible:
For nearly 150 years, the reading and discussion of literature has lived at the center of Chautauqua Institution’s mission of lifelong learning. Steeped in this history, Chautauqua Literary Arts convenes readers and writers of all ages in year-round community, conversation, intensive craft development, and exploratory learning opportunities. Its 140-year-old lifelong reading program, the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, is the centerpiece of the Institution’s ongoing work to convene readers of all ages in conversation, community and learning through literature. Notable authors who have been on Chautauqua’s platforms include Kurt Vonnegut, Dan Brown, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Billy Collins, Anthony Doerr, David McCullough, Sandra Cisneros, Ann Patchett, Joy Harjo, Isabel Wilkerson, John Irving, and E.L. Doctorow.
Chautauqua’s role in the literary arts is but one of the reasons, Mike Rudell relished his time each summer at Chautauqua. While Chautauqua’s lectures, artistic offerings and quiet moments enjoying its adjacent lake brought Mike huge pleasure, as is no surprise, it was through his love of literature that he made his imprint at Chautauqua. By encouraging authors to speak at Chautauqua or most importantly by inspiring and facilitating funding for a literary prize, The Chautauqua Prize, Mike found Chautauqua to be the perfect place to spread his love of books and writing to others. A winner of the Prize wrote to us at Chautauqua today after learning of Mike’s death, “I was fortunate enough to continue a friendship with Michael and Alice after our time at Chautauqua, and in so many ways thought him a North Star of guidance, gentle but incisive intelligence, a gentleman in a field not known for gentility. The world weighs less today.”
We’ve all experienced the famous Michael Rudell question of “what are you reading now?”. At Chautauqua, he found an abundance of answers, and through this generosity and care, he exponentially expanded the choices people had to answer that question.
We hope to honor Mike at Chautauqua in a way that forever cements Mike’s spirit, his passion for literature and his love of Chautauqua. Some possible opportunities have emerged as follows:
The Chautauqua Prize
As noted above, Mike’s vision and efforts helped to establish the Chautauqua Prize at Chautauqua. The Prize annually honors an outstanding book first published in the United States. The Institution is hoping to double the amount of the current award to $15,000 providing it further stature in the literary arts world. Recent winners of the Prize include Out of Darkness, Shining Light (Scribner) by Petina Gappah, All the Names They Used for God (Spiegel & Grau) by Anjali Sachdeva, The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir (Flatiron Books) by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich and The Fortunes (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Peter Ho Davies.
Michael I. Rudell Literary Scholarship
A scholarship which would enable a writer from an under-represented minority to attend one week of workshops and activities at Chautauqua, with the goal of developing the recipient’s literary acumen and writing. This scholarship would highlight Michael’s lifelong commitment to diversity.
Michael I. Rudell Director of the Literary Arts
With gifts at a significantly higher level than Mike’s family anticipates, Chautauqua would establish an endowed chair in Mike’s memory to help fund the position of Director of the Literary Arts at the Institution. Under the leadership of current director Sony Ton-Aime, Chautauqua has expanded the Chautauqua Writers’ Center from one-week workshops on the institution grounds to year-round workshops available through our best-in-class learning management system. It is using virtual platforms and forging strategic partnerships with literary arts organizations to reclaim the historic Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle as a year-round global conversation among readers, including the CLSC Young Readers program for readers age 9-14. Celebrating young readers, the Institution holds an annual Battle of the Books in its 4,000-seat Amphitheater to host teams of 5th graders from county middle schools. Mr. Ton-Aime has also partnered with Chautauqua’s African American Heritage House to convene monthly reading circles to discuss in open and welcoming conversations book about diversity, race relations, and/or the state of society. An endowed chair in Mike’s name will support the leadership of the Director of the Literary Arts in perpetuity and will place Mike’s name at the center of the Institution’s vast literary arts program in perpetuity, ensuring that for generations to come all will know of this special man’s commitment and passion for literature.
Like all of you, I was devastated by the news of Mike’s untimely death. While it will take all of us time to process, I have been heartened by all those who want to remember him and very grateful to Alice and his friends and colleagues for narrowing in on Chautauqua to codify that remembrance. I have a deep personal commitment to find a way to celebrate Mike’s legacy and Chautauqua, and I’m grateful if you can help.
Michael E. Hill
President, Chautauqua Institution