Paul J. Reiss

Paul J. Reiss, 93, died on Feb. 28, 2024, in Lake Placid with two sons by his side.

He was an accomplished educator, administrator and generous community leader and volunteer. He was a humble intellectual with a gentle manner, and a model husband and father of nine. A man of deep Christian faith, Paul was disciplined, thoughtful and generous to people of diverse ages and backgrounds with his time, guidance and attention. He was especially devoted to Rosemary, his best friend and late wife of 67 years and a hands-on partner in raising their large family.

Paul was born on Hillcrest Avenue, the third of Daisy (“Peggy”) and Julian Reiss’s six children. He attended St. Bernard’s School in Saranac Lake, was a Boy Scout and took his first job as paper boy for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

After graduating from LaSalle Military Academy on Long Island, he attended St. Michael’s College, spent a year in seminary, and then transferred to Holy Cross College where he earned his BA. He earned his Master’s in Sociology at Fordham University and went on to Harvard to work on his PhD. It was there he met Rosemary Agnes Donohue, a student at Emmanuel College, and they married in 1955. Taking a job teaching sociology at Marquette University in 1957, Paul moved his family to Wisconsin.

In 1959, Paul took over the hosting of a new summer camp in Lake Placid for inner-city New York City middle school boys. For the next 50 years, honoring his father’s request, he sustained and administered all aspects of the program, and added a girls’ program in 1993. The summer camp, together with the Nativity Mission Center in Manhattan, served as the model for the development of a nationwide network of over 50 Nativity Miguel schools. The Reiss Foundation camps now include a St. Agnes Day Camp and continue to run under the leadership of family members of the next two generations.

In 1963, Dr. Reiss was appointed to the faculty of Fordham and became Chairman of the Sociology Department, Dean of the College at Lincoln Center, and then Academic VP in the early 1970s. For over a decade, he served as Executive Vice President of Fordham University, attending to all aspects of a diverse university with multiple campuses. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he commuted weekly every summer between the Bronx and Lake Placid and joked, “One third of my life was spent in each of those two places, and the other third on the Northway and Taconic Parkway.”

A lover of the outdoors, Paul taught his kids to ski at Fawn Ridge, Easy Acres, and Mount Whitney and he enjoyed cross-country skiing through his mid-80s. He taught all his children to play tennis, paddle a canoe, hike a mountain and sail a sunfish. He also never stopped giving his children and grandchildren encouragement, wise counsel and support for all their athletic, academic and professional endeavors.

Paul played piano amazingly well by ear, often delighting friends, family, and strangers. He sang with gusto, including in the St. Agnes choir. He served as a lay reader and Eucharistic minister at St. Agnes Church.

Paul became President of St. Michael’s College in Vermont in 1985, started teaching again and committed to getting close to the students in part by building a President’s home on campus and donating it to the college. He oversaw the renovation or new construction of 80% of St. Mike’s buildings and facilities, including the library and office computers, and led the faculty in recommitting to its mission and Catholic identity.

Dr. Reiss was a representative to the 1989 Vatican consultation that refined the role of religion in Catholic higher education. He was honored to meet Pope John Paul II and invite him to “come skiing in Vermont.” Named 1996 Vermont Distinguished Citizen of the Year, Paul was awarded honorary degrees from Middlebury College and Showa University of Japan. His published works in sociology address family issues, higher education and moral values in Catholic education.

When Paul retired from St. Michael’s College in 1996, he and Rosemary kept an apartment in Vermont where they could “winter” away from the ADKs and remain active at St. Mike’s and the larger Burlington community.

Paul published his book “Dad” about the life of his beloved father, Julian J. Reiss, which covered both youthful adventures and Julian’s pioneering work in profit sharing, social justice and civil rights.

Paul co-founded Mercy Care for the Adirondacks in 2007 and was its first president, and then was board chairperson. He was a friendship volunteer for over 10 years, providing personal transportation to local elders. As president of the Lake Placid Sinfonietta and board member for many years, he and Rosemary almost never missed a Wednesday evening concert in the park with grandchildren or a Sunday concert at the Arts Center.

Paul eagerly pursued landscaping, gardening, tree work and the constant hands-on upkeep of camp facilities in addition to a decades long battle against beavers damming the outlet brook and flooding the property.

Paul is survived by three daughters, Cathy (C.C.) Sloan, Julia (Jeff) DeSantis, and Martha (Ted) Acworth; six sons, Paul (Joanne), Greg (Liza), Mark, David (Pam), Steve (Shannon) and John (Marybeth); 30 grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; many nieces and nephews; his brother Peter Reiss; and sister Patricia (Patti) Brooks.

Paul was predeceased by brothers Thomas and Robert Reiss and sister Mary Watson.

Donations in Paul’s memory may be made to Mercy Care for the Adirondacks or St. Michael’s College/Nativity Scholarship Fund.

Calling Hours will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday March 15 at the M. B. Clark, Inc., Funeral Home, Saranac Ave., Lake Placid. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 16 at St. Agnes Church, Hillcrest Ave., Lake Placid. The Rev. John Yonkovig will officiate.

Visit www.mbclarkfuneralhome.com to share a memory, upload a photograph, sign the online guest book or leave condolences to be added to the memorial tribute book for the family to cherish.