and activist are just some of the words used to describe Christopher Reeve. From
his first appearance at the Williamstown Theatre Festival at the age of 15,
Reeve established a reputation as one of the country's leading actors.
However, since he was paralyzed in an equestrian competition in 1995, Reeve has
not only put a human face on spinal cord injury but he has motivated
neuroscientists around the world to conquer the most complex diseases of the
brain and central nervous system.
After graduating from Cornell University in 1974, Reeve pursued his dream of
acting, studying at Juilliard under the legendary John Houseman. He made his
Broadway debut opposite Katharine Hepburn in A Matter of Gravity in 1976 and
then went on to distinguish himself in a variety of stage, screen and television
roles with a passion that continues today. Film credits include: "Superman"
in 1978 and its subsequent sequels, "Deathtrap," "Somewhere in Time," "The Bostonians,"
"Street Smart," "Speechless," "Noises Off," "Above Suspicion" and the Oscar-nominated
"The Remains of the Day."
Stage credits include: The Marriage of Figaro, Fifth of July, My Life, Summer
and Smoke, Love Letters and The Aspern Papers.
Reeve made his directorial debut with "In the Gloaming" on HBO in April
1997. The film was met with rave reviews, was nominated for 5 Emmys and won six
Cable Ace Awards, including Best Dramatic Special and Best Director. Reeve's
autobiography, Still Me, was published by Random House in April 1998 and spent
11 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. His audio recording of Still Me
earned Reeve a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album in February 1999. In his first
major role since becoming paralyzed, Reeve starred in an updated version of the
classic Hitchcock thriller "Rear Window," for which he was nominated for a
Golden Globe Award and won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor in a
Television Movie or Miniseries. He also served as Executive Producer of the
Reeve continues his directing work in television and film as well as his
arts-advisory service as a board member of the Williamstown Theatre Festival. In
early 2001, Reeve began combining his directing efforts with his activism when
he directed four commercials featuring Ray Romano, Randy Newman, Toni Morrison
and himself for Johnson & Johnson that focused on helping parents talk to
their kids. The same year he filmed a spot for the American Red Cross that
In 1999, Reeve became the Chairman of the Board of the Christopher Reeve
Paralysis Foundation (CRPF). CRPF, a national, nonprofit organization, supports
research to develop effective treatments and a cure for paralysis caused by
spinal cord injury and other central nervous system disorders. CRPF also
allocates a portion of its resources to grants that improve the quality of life
for people with disabilities.
As Vice Chairman of the National Organization on Disability (N.O.D.), he works
on quality of life issues for the disabled. In partnership with Senator Jim
Jeffords of Vermont, he helped pass the 1999 Work Incentives Improvement Act,
which allows people with disabilities to return to work and still receive
disability benefits. Reeve is on the Board of Directors of World T.E.A.M.
Sports, a group that organizes and sponsors challenging sporting events for
athletes with disabilities; TechHealth, a private company that assists in the
relationship between patients and their insurance companies; and LIFE (Leaders
in Furthering Education) a charitable organization that supports education and
opportunities for the underserved population.
In addition to his work on behalf of CRPF, Reeve's advocacy efforts include:
Lobbying on behalf of the National Institutes of Health to double the NIH
budget in five years. In part because of his leadership, the NIH budget grew
from 12 billion dollars in 1998 to nearly 27.2 billion dollars in fiscal 2003.
Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and
Human Services, Education and Related Agencies in favor of federally funded stem
Providing instrumental and crucial support for the passage of the New York
State Spinal Cord Injury Research Bill (7287C), landmark legislation that makes
available up to $8.5 million annually in funds collected from violations of the
state's motor vehicle laws to be appropriated among the leading research
facilities in New York. Reeve was also involved in lobbying efforts for similar
bills in New Jersey, Kentucky, Virginia and California;
Testifying before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and
Human Services, Education and Related Agencies on behalf of the National Fund
for Health Research Act;
Working with Senators Jeffords and Rockefeller and Congresswoman Eshoo to
raise lifetime caps on insurance policies from $1million to $10 million;
Serving as a member of the Executive Committee of Funding First, an
initiative for medical research in honor of Mary Woodard Lasker, begun by former
Senator Mark Hatfield;
Establishing a line of celebrity neckwear that is carried at over 1,000 JC
Penney department stores across the United States. A portion of the proceeds
Continuing to work tirelessly to obtain increased funding from both the
public and private sectors to cure Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, MS, ALS,
stroke, as well as to repair the damaged spinal cord;
Helping to establish the Reeve-Irvine Research Center at the UCI College of
Medicine. The center supports the study of trauma to the spinal cord and
diseases affecting it, with an emphasis on the development of therapies to
promote the recovery and repair of neurological function;
Working with Dr. John MacDonald of Washington University on a study to
demonstrate that activity dependent training promotes functional recovery in
patients with chronic spinal cord injuries.
While Reeve raises public awareness about the significance of medical research
and the challenges facing those with disabilities, he is also educating families
about the importance of having adequate health and disability coverage. In 1997,
Reeve joined with HealthExtras, the first company to offer subscribers a
tax-free non-accountable payment of 1 million dollars in the event of a
permanent accidental disability. The cost of this policy is a mere $10 a month
and is available through Visa, American Express or via the internet. Reeve
serves as company spokesman.
Reeve's community and political involvement pre-dates his spinal cord injury.
Over the course of many years, he has served as a national spokesman on behalf
of the arts, campaign finance reform and the environment. A founder and
Co-President of The Creative Coalition he helped to create recycling in New York
City and to persuade state legislature to set aside 1 billion dollars to protect
the city's water supply. Since 1976 he has been actively involved with Save
the Children, Amnesty International, Natural Resources Defense Council, The
Environmental Air Force and America's Watch. In 1987, he demonstrated in
Santiago, Chile on behalf of 77 actors threatened with execution by the Pinochet
regime. For this action, Reeve was given a special Obie Award in 1988 and the
annual award from the Walter Briehl Human Rights Foundation.
His second book, Nothing is Impossible: Reflections on a New Life, was
published by Random House in September 2002. At the same time a documentary film
about his advocacy and road to recovery aired on ABC and was distributed around
Christopher Reeve fell into a coma after going into cardiac arrest on 9th October 2004, and died the following day, October 10th 2004. His wife, Dana, made the following statement on the day of his death, 'On behalf of my entire family, I want to thank Northern Westchester Hospital for the excellent care they provided to my husband. I also want to thank his personal staff of nurses and aides, as well as the millions of fans from around the world who have supported and loved my husband over the years.'
He was survived by his mother Barbara Johnson and his father Franklin Reeve, his brother Benjamin Reeve, and his wife Dana, their twelve year old son Will and his two children from a former relationship, Matthew (25) and Alexandra (21).
Christopher and Dana married in April 1992. After her husband's accident
in 1995, Dana worked tirelessly as a motivational speaker and activist for the
paralyzed, and a proponent of stem cell research. Although never a smoker,
she died of lung cancer 18 months after her husband on March 6, 2006.
THE CHRISTOPHER REEVE FOUNDATION
The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation (CRPF) is committed to funding
research that develops treatments and cures for paralysis caused by spinal cord
injury and other central nervous system disorders. The Foundation also
vigorously works to improve the quality of life for people living with
disabilities through its grants program, paralysis resource center and advocacy
At the time of his death, Reeve's Paralysis Foundation had given out more than $42.5 million in grants to
neuroscientists since its inception in the mid-1990s. The Foundation will
continue its work.
STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP WITH THE AMERICAN PARALYSIS ASSOCIATION
The CRF wisely partners with APA to direct its funds into proven research
channels, including a collaborative network of over 300 investigators around the
world. Together, the two non-profit organizations provide support for many of
the seminal studies that will culminate in continued medical breakthroughs.
For more information on CRF and its activities:
The Christopher Reeve Foundation (CRF)
P.O. Box 277
New York, NY 10150-0277
(973) 912-9433 (fax)
This biography was last updated on 03/02/2008.
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