Jamie Tarses, Former President of ABC Entertainment, Dead at 56

Jamie Tarses became the first woman to be named entertainment president at a major network back in 1996

Jamie Tarses
Photo: Greg Doherty/Patrick McMullan via Getty

Jamie Tarses, the first woman to head a network entertainment division, has died. She was 56.

Tarses died of complications from a previous cardiac event on Monday, according to numerous outlets, who cited a statement from her family.

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1964, according to Variety, Tarses later graduated from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

After working as an assistant on NBC's Saturday Night Live, Tarses went on to a role as casting director for Lorimar Productions. She was eventually hired back by NBC as manager of creative affairs for NBC Productions, Deadline reported.

Jamie Tarses
Fiona Goodall/Getty

Tarses served as manager of current comedy programming — where she oversaw series such as Cheers and A Different World — before she continued to earn various promotions, eventually becoming involved in the development of series such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Blossom, the outlet reported. In later roles, she helped grow hit NBC comedies like Friends and Frasier.

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In June 1996, at just age 32, Tarses became the first woman to be named entertainment president at a major network when she took the role at ABC. During her time with ABC, Tarses saw success with projects including Dharma & Greg, Sports Night and The Practice. She ultimately resigned in 1999.

After leaving ABC, Tarses worked on several other series over the years, including Happy Endings and most recently Amazon's The Wilds. A Disney+ series, The Mysterious Benedict Society, which Tarses worked on as an executive producer is expected to premiere later this year.

Tarses is survived by her partner Paddy Aubrey and their two children, Wyatt and Sloane, as well as her parents, Rachel and Jay, siblings Mallory and Matt, sister-in-law Katie Tarses, three nieces, and a nephew, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Tarses' brother, Matt Tarses, reflected on his sister's life in a statement released on Monday to The Wrap.

"For all her talent and success in entertainment, the thing Jamie was proudest of and most consumed by were her two kids," he said. "She was never happier than when she was with Wyatt and Sloane."

Betsy Thomas, a friend and collaborator, also shared a statement, noting, "Jamie had such a true love for movies, television, theater, books and ideas that both transcended her work and absolutely inspired it. She was the ultimate fan."

WME, the agency that represented Tarses, remembered her as a "pioneer in every sense."

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of our longtime friend and client," the agency said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. "Jamie was a pioneer in every sense, breaking the glass ceiling of the television industry, and embodying the passion and tenacity that made her someone who was always ahead of her time. She unabashedly loved television and was an executive who made writers feel safe and heard. We will miss her greatly."

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