Bernice Coe Stavis, one of the first women to head an independent film distribution company and who was the wife of playwright Barrie Stavis, died April 24 of cancer at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. She was 81.

Born in New York, Coe (as she was known professionally) grew up in Newark, N.J., but returned to her home state to attend Vassar College. She subsequently received a master’s degree from Columbia U.

Coe spent 20 years in the educational film business before founding Coe Film Associates, a firm that focuses on bringing the work of independent filmmakers to television. The firm has since supplied programming to Nickelodeon, Discovery Channel, HBO, Showtime, A&E and Disney Channel.

A mentor to two generations of female executives, Coe co-founded Women in Cable and Television and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners in 1997.

She is survived by her husband, a daughter, a son and a sister.

Donations may be made to the Bernice Coe Stavis Scholarship Fund at Vassar College, 124 Raymond Ave., Poughkeepsie, NY 12604.