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April 27, 2017
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People: Brisman to be Honored by Citizens Foundation

Jerry Brisman
Jerry Brisman
April 30, 2007

The Orange County Citizens Foundation is honoring a Cornwall-on-Hudson resident on Thursday night when it gives its highest honor, the Ottaway Medal, to Jerry Brisman, co-founder and owner of West Point Tours.

The Foundation, which is a non-partisan group made up of people concerned about the future growth and development of Orange County, selected Brisman for this award based on his years of service in the group.

When he got the call informing him of the award, Jerry, a soft-spoken gentleman, said he couldn’t understand why they were giving it to him. “I never like anything that honors me,” he says. “I hate to be the center of attention.”

His reaction is typical of Brisman’s low-key style that belies decades of accomplishments. A native of Rockland county, Jerry’s involvement in Orange County began when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1948. The day after graduation he married a local girl he’d met in high school, Gloria, whose father owned a small bus company, Storm King Stage.

Together the young couple traveled as Jerry completed his Army service then went to work as an engineer in the military defense industry. After 15 years of being on the road, and with four young children to raise, Jerry and Gloria returned to Orange County and eventually took over her father’s bus company.

The Brismans turned the company into the public school bus line for Highland Falls, then Cornwall and finally in 1977 they saw the potential for a whole new line of business.

“The Military Academy was celebrating it sesquiecentennial,” Jerry recalls, “and they asked us to do a one-day tour. It was so successful that they asked us to continue and that led to the creation of West Point Tours.”

Jerry credits his wife, Gloria, with organizing the first packaged tours of Orange County to visitors from outside the area to places like West Point, Bear Mountain, New Windsor Cantonment, the Brotherhood Winery and Gasho of Japan.

“I had no money for the tours, so I made up a brochure and went through the yellow pages, sending it to every group I could find,” Gloria says. She also trained students from now defunct Ladycliffe College and officers’ wives to provide the tours. The women formed an informal sorority, she says, and the company had a waiting list of people who wanted to be tour guides. Last year the company brought about 75,000 people through West Point.

It was that same drive and determination to seize an opportunity that propelled the Brismans to work with Orange County officials in the 1980s when it had no office for promoting local tourism. “We convinced the county to invest in tourism,” Jerry says, remembering how he and Gloria first formed a private organization to promote Hudson Valley tourism.

In the Orange County Citizens Foundation, Jerry Brisman served as a trustee for many years and on its transportation committee, which worked to improve access to Stewart Airport. “The foundation is a great organization that works to enhance the lives of people in Orange County,” Brisman says. It not only pushes economic development but works to save the open space that is an important part of the county’s attraction.

In addition to his work with the foundation, Brisman, who is 76, works three days a week at the West Point Tours office in New Windsor. Two of his sons, Bob and Jay, run the business day-to-day. Brisman has also served as president of Temple Beth Jacob in Newburgh and worked with the Boys Scouts and as an advisor to BOCES


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