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Winifred Neisser

Television executive Winifred White Neisser received her B.A. degree with honors from Harvard University’s Radcliffe College in 1974. She received her M.A. degree in Elementary Education from Lesley College. Neisser also completed further graduate work in Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Upon graduation, Neisser was hired at NBC where she headed several major divisions. While there, she served as Vice President of Family Programming, Director of Movies for Television and Vice President of Television Movies, NBC Productions. As vice president of family programming at NBC, Neisser oversaw special programming for children and families, including the award-winning miniseries titled, “Jim Henson’s The Storyteller.” Neisser then joined Sony Pictures Television where she served as Senior Vice President of Movies for Television and Miniseries.

Neisser has served on the board of directors for several academic and non-profit institutes. At Harvard University, Neisser was appointed to the Harvard Board of Overseers as well as the Radcliffe Institute’s Advisory Board. She served as Trustee on the board of the Otis College of Design and The Center for Early Education. Neisser was a member of the Television Academy’s Board of Governors for several years. She also served on the boards of Planned Parenthood and the National Guild of Community Arts Schools.

Neisser’s award-winning projects include “A Raisin in the Sun” for ABC, which was nominated for three Emmy Awards and won the Humanitas Award; “Broken Trail,” a western for AMC, which won four Emmy Awards including “Best Miniseries”; “The Company,” a miniseries about the CIA which won the DGA Award and the WGA Award; “Having Our Stay: The Delaney Sisters First 100 Years,” which won a Christopher Award and a Peabody Award; “The Crossing” for the Arts and Entertainment Channel (A & E), which won the Peabody award; “The Beach Boys: An American Family,” which was nominated for an Emmy Award in the category of Best Miniseries; and “Call me Claus,” a Christmas movie which starred Whoopi Goldberg and featured music by Garth Brooks.

Neisser is married to Ken Neisser. They live in Los Angeles and have two children, Nick and Alexis.

Winifred White Neisser was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 17, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.299

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/17/2013

Last Name

Neisser

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

White

Schools

Radcliffe College

Homestead High School

Emanuel L. Philipp Elementary

Lesley University

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Winifred

Birth City, State, Country

Indianapolis

HM ID

NEI01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Indiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere

Favorite Quote

Use Common Sense

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

3/23/1953

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Shrimp

Short Description

Television executive Winifred Neisser (1953 - ) served as Vice President of Movies and Miniseries and Vice President of Family Programming for NBC Productions, and went on to become Senior Vice President of Movies for Television and Miniseries for Sony Pictures Television.

Employment

Sony Pictures Television (Columbia Tri-Star Television)

NBC

WMTV

Caribbean School

Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Winifred Neisser's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Winifred Neisser lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Winifred Neisser describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Winifred Neisser describes her maternal grandfather's education

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Winifred Neisser describes her maternal grandparents' move to Indianapolis, Indiana

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Winifred Neisser talks about her maternal family's emphasis on education

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Winifred Neisser describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Winifred Neisser talks about how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Winifred Neisser recalls her parents' decision to move to Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Winifred Neisser describes her parents' personalities

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Winifred Neisser describes her mother's community involvement

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Winifred Neisser lists her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Winifred Neisser describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Winifred Neisser remembers Emanuel L. Philipp Elementary School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin].

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Winifred Neisser recalls moving to Mequon, Wisconsin, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Winifred Neisser recalls moving to Mequon, Wisconsin, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Winifred Neisser describes her experiences at Homestead High School in Mequon, Wisconsin

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Winifred Neisser describes her academic and extracurricular involvement in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Winifred Neisser describes her early exposure to black media

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Winifred Neisser talks about her early experiences of religion, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Winifred Neisser talks about her early experiences of religion, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Winifred Neisser remembers her college applications

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Winifred Neisser recalls her start at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Winifred Neisser recalls her start at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Winifred Neisser describes her experiences at Harvard University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Winifred Neisser describes her extracurricular activities at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Winifred Neisser remembers hearing Reverend Jesse L. Jackson and Alice Walker speak at Harvard University

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Winifred Neisser talks about the black student movement at Harvard University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Winifred Neisser remembers the influential figures at Harvard University

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Winifred Neisser recalls her graduation from Radcliffe College

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Winifred Neisser remembers teaching at the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Winifred Neisser remembers teaching at the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Winifred Neisser remembers moving to Puerto Rico, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Winifred Neisser remembers moving to Puerto Rico, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Winifred Neisser talks about her transition to the broadcast industry

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Winifred Neisser recalls her work at WMTV-TV in Madison, Wisconsin, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Winifred Neisser recalls her work at WMTV-TV in Madison, Wisconsin, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Winifred Neisser remembers moving to Los Angeles, California

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Winifred Neisser recalls working with Phyllis Tucker Vinson Jackson

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Winifred Neisser describes her work as NBC's vice president of family programming

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Winifred Neisser talks about her collaboration with Jim Henson

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Winifred Neisser recalls her transition to the television movie division of NBC

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Winifred Neisser describes her role in the Danielle Steel movie franchise

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Winifred Neisser describes the changes in the television industry

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Winifred Neisser talks about the regulations on broadcast networks

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Winifred Neisser remembers joining Columbia TriStar Pictures

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Winifred Neisser describes her career at Sony Pictures Entertainment, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Winifred Neisser describes her career at Sony Pictures Entertainment, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Winifred Neisser remembers producing 'Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story'

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Winifred Neisser recalls producing 'Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years'

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Winifred Neisser remembers producing 'Broken Trail'

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Winifred Neisser talks about the importance of stories that resist racial stereotypes

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Winifred Neisser describes her current projects

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Winifred Neisser talks about Amy Biehl, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Winifred Neisser talks about Amy Biehl, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Winifred Neisser describes what she may do in the future

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Winifred Neisser talks about African Americans in broadcast media

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Winifred Neisser describes a story that she likes

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Winifred Neisser describes her advice to aspiring broadcasters

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Winifred Neisser reflects upon her life

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Winifred Neisser reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Winifred Neisser describes her concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Winifred Neisser talks about her family

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Winifred Neisser talks about balancing life and work

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Winifred Neisser describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Winifred Neisser narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$6

DAStory

7$3

DATitle
Winifred Neisser recalls moving to Mequon, Wisconsin, pt. 2
Winifred Neisser remembers joining Columbia TriStar Pictures
Transcript
Yeah, so here we were, so we were moving into foreign territory. Now, you know, I was twelve years old and I didn't wanna move anyway 'cause all my friends were back in Milwaukee [Wisconsin]; I had gone to the same school from kindergarten through eighth grade; most of my friends in school were going off the Rufus King [Rufus King High School; Rufus King International High School, Milwaukee, Wisconsin], so I was like, if they can do it why can't I? And my parents [Winifred Parker White and Walter White, Sr.] said well, you're not old enough. You're not old enough to understand why we--why we're making this move, and we promise that we will bring you back to visit your friends in Milwaukee. Now the drive from Milwaukee to Mequon [Wisconsin] is about fifteen minutes, but to me it was like moving to the moon because it was so different. And, and, and I didn't wanna do it, and I didn't even know what my parents were going through because they really kept it--kept it very quiet from, from us. The, the first real inkling that I got that we were moving into hostile territory was when we actually moved into the house, and my mother said to us, "Don't answer the phone," (laughter). And (unclear), "What are you talking about don't answer the phone?" She said, "I'm--until I tell you differently, do not answer the telephone." So--and it was because they were getting all kinds of threatening phone calls from people. So we moved in the middle of the school year--or not in the middle but towards the end of the school year. We mu--we must have moved in March or April, and my mother drove us into Milwaukee everyday so we could continue--so we could finish our school years at Philipps School [Emanuel L. Philipp Elementary School, Milwaukee, Wisconsin]. And, and, and the only reason I bring this up is because, even though there were the neighbors who were hostile and, and nasty, one day towards the end of the school year my mother locked her car keys inside the house just as she was supposed to come and pick us up. And so she, she didn't know what to do in the days before cell phones and all of that. So she went--she went to our next door neighbor, who was actually a Jewish doctor, who was actually very nice, Dr. Finkelstein [ph.]. He wasn't home. So then she went to the next house, and she knocked on the door. And this is a woman she actually didn't know very well, and her name was Mrs. Kenop [ph.]. And she explained her situation to Mrs. Kenop, and Mrs. Kenop said--she--and my--and my mother said, if you could just call my husband and tell him that he needs to go pick up the children, or if you would let me come in and I would, you know, call him. I just need somebody to know that I can't get there. And Mrs. Kenop said, "Take my car," and gave my mother the keys to her car. So I re- I have--I just have this very vivid memory of standing there waiting for my mother and my mother driving up and going, "Where did you get this car?" It wasn't a particularly nice car, but it was--it was not her car. And that was--and that was one of the first signs to the family that things were gonna be okay, that there were--there were really decent people in the neighborhood who were, you know, willing to help us out. And, and, and things did sort of start to turn around a little bit after that.$Your career at NBC basically ends in '95 [1995], is that--?$$ Yeah, basically NBC Productions went through a major restructuring. The people that had hired me and put me in that position were replaced, and they didn't fire me. They actually said, "What would you like to," you know, "would you like to stay on or would you like to leave?" But I realized I was kind of out of sync with this new group that was there, and at this point I had two kids. I had--let's see; this was, like, the end of '94 [1994], so Nick [Nicholas Neisser] was two and Alexis [Alexis Neisser] was four. And I thought: I don't mind taking a little time off here and regrouping and trying to figure out what I wanna do next. So I said--so I came to the end of my time there, and I was really planning on taking time off. And went to a cocktail party for a friend of mine who was an agent, and--I, I can't remember if she was being promoted or something. And I ran into a woman who worked at what was then Columbia TriStar [Columbia TriStar Television] and who had been my--who had sold movies to me. The--basically, when you were at the network, there were certain producers--you were assigned certain producers and they would always bring their projects to you. And this woman and I had worked on a few projects together, and I ran into her at this cocktail party--Helen Verno. And she said, "What are you up to?" Because since I'd been at NBC Productions I hadn't been dealing with, with her anymore because we were now competitors. And I said, "Oh, I'm just leaving NBC Productions," and she said, "Oh, my god, my development person is just leaving. Would you think of--would you consider coming to work for me?" So I was--my leave of absence was I think three weeks before I was back (laughter) working again. And I went to work at what was then Columbia. This was before Sony [Sony Pictures Entertainment] bought the studio.$$Okay, okay, all right, so, so at Columbia, which, which becomes Sony later on--$$ Right.$$Yeah--$$ Now I will say that part of way that I did--part of the reason I took the job was because she said to me--you know, she said, "I don't think I can pay you what NBC was paying you." And I said, "Well, look, I was really planning on taking time off, so if you tell me I can go home every night at six o'clock and, and that you're not going to ask questions if I take off to go on a fieldtrip at my kids' school, and give me, you know, a certain amount of flexibility, then I don't mind working for less money." It wasn't that much less, but it was still less. And she said, "Fine," and so that was--that was my compromise of going back to work.$$Okay, that was a good move for--$$ It was. It, it actually was--it was a great move. And it turned--and you know, and it was just lucky that the studio was ten minutes from my house, so (laughter). Whereas NBC had been like a forty-five minute commute.