Bernard Gersten attends the Acting Company's 2010 Masquerade Gala. (Photo: Marc Stamas/Getty Images)

Bernard Gersten, former executive producer of Lincoln Center Theater and a leader of the New York Shakespeare Festival, died Monday at the age of 97. 

A recipient of 15 Tony Awards, including a 2013 Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement, Gersten served as executive producer of Lincoln Center Theater from 1986 until his retirement in 2013. He began his career as the associate producer of the New York Shakespeare Festival, now the Public Theater, which he built into prominence alongside Joseph Papp.  

Productions during his 18-year tenure at New York Shakespeare Festival included Hair,” “A Chorus Line” “That Championship Season,” “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf” and “Buried Child.”

While at the Lincoln Center, Gersten reactivated the Vivian Beaumont Theater, which had previously been dark, and produced more than 150 productions, including the premiere of “Six Degrees of Separation,” David Mamet’s “Speed the Plow,” a revival of John Guare’s “House of Blue Leaves” and the revival of “South Pacific.”  

“Bernard Gersten’s intelligence, innate sense of goodness, bravery, wisdom, generosity, elegance and wit, and most important, deep knowledge and love of the theater, made him a giant in our profession and a beloved friend to many,” said André Bishop, producing artistic director of Lincoln Center Theater.  “LCT would not be here today were it not for the talent and love of this extraordinary man.”