Sep 7, 2018
Alumni News

Paul Junger Witt
March 20, 1941–April 27, 2018

Alumnus was producer of Hollywood hits, patron of University’s arts

Paul Junger Witt (Col ’63 L/M), the famed producer of Golden Girls and Dead Poets Society and an ardent supporter of the arts at UVA, died April 27, 2018. He was 77.
Paul Junger Witt

“He was truly a gentleman, a very kind and elegant person,” says Vice Provost for the Arts Jody Kielbasa. “He had a profound love for the University of Virginia.”

A New York City native, Witt studied under Professor David Weiss when the drama department was in Minor Hall. Witt was later instrumental in the funding of the Caplin Theatre’s David Weiss Green Room.

He was a longtime member of the UVA Arts Council and a supporter of the Virginia Film Festival. On the 2014 festival’s final night, he moderated a screening of Dead Poets Society along with the film’s Oscar-winning screenwriter, in honor of the film’s 25th anniversary.

After starting out in the mailroom at Columbia Pictures, Witt partnered with Tony Thomas to produce the television series The Partridge Family and the TV movie Brian’s Song, which won multiple Emmy Awards in 1972.

They soon formed Witt/Thomas Productions, which became Witt/Thomas/Harris with the addition of Witt’s wife, writer Susan Harris, whom he married in 1983. Working with a deep sense of camaraderie, says Thomas, they produced hit shows including Soap and Benson.

“We laughed and laughed a great deal.”

Besides Dead Poets Society, the trio was responsible for other films including Insomnia and A Better Life, which tells the story of an immigrant and his son.

“He valued trying to say something,” says Thomas.

Witt “knew how to tell a story very well and he understood what made a good story,” Thomas says, crediting Witt’s tenacity and salesmanship for much of their success.

“He was a lion of a man.”

Witt is survived by his wife and five children.

—Sarah Poole