The highly regarded and beloved independent pioneer died on Monday (23) after suffering a series of strokes while attending Sundance. He was 57.

Ray co-founded October Films with Jeff Lipsky and the pair went on to champion such titles as Secrets & Lies, Cookie’s Fortune, Lost Highway and Breaking The Waves.

“On October 9th, 1990 Bingham Ray and I became distribution partners,” Lipsky said. “Thanks to Bingham 10/9/90 will always remain one of the ten most important days of my life. Thanks, Bing. October will always be our month.”

When USA Networks acquired October Films in 1999, Ray pondered his next move and it was a big one. He was named president of United Artists in September 2001 and during his tenure the company distributed the likes of Bowling For Columbine, Hotel Rwanda, Pieces Of April and Ghost World.

In 2007 he joined LA-based Sidney Kimmel Entertainment and over the next three years served as president of Kimmel Distribution and president of creative affairs.

He recently served as the first run programmer at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and was a consultant to SnagFilms and adjunct professor at the Tisch School Of The Arts in New York.

Last November Ray commenced his latest post as executive director of the San Francisco Film Society following the death in August of Graham Leggat.

“Jeanne and I have known Bingham since our earliest days in the business,” Bob Berney and Jeanne Berney said. “I first worked with him as an exhibitor in Dallas, playing films he was distributing and seeing him at all the festivals. Jeanne also handled publicity on several films for him at Alive Films and other companies and was a fellow board member with him at IFP New York.

“Over the years, we were friendly competitors and comrades in the indie community. He made his mark by picking wonderful films to distribute and going all-in to support his filmmakers, but perhaps even more as an entertaining raconteur who was always the life and heart of the independent scene. We will miss him very much.”

In a statement the Sundance Institute said: “It is with great sadness that the Sundance Institute acknowledges the passing of Bingham Ray, cherished independent film executive and most recently executive director of the San Francisco Film Society. On behalf of the independent film community here in Park City for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and elsewhere, we offer our support and condolences to his family. Bingham’s many contributions to this community and business are indelible, and his legacy will not be soon forgotten.”

Pat McBaine, president of the board at the San Francisco Film Society issued a statement that read:“The board of directors and staff of the Film Society are stunned and deeply saddened by the untimely death of our executive director Bingham Ray. We at the Film Society and the entire film community have lost far too early an energetic and visionary impact player who has helped shape the independent film industry for decades in so many important and valuable ways.

“He shall be dearly missed. Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to Bingham’s family and his legions of friends and colleagues all over the world who loved and respected him.

Friends and colleagues gathered to reminisce at a reception hosted by the San Francisco Film Society in Park City on Monday.

Ray is survived by his wife Nancy King, their children Nick, Annabel and Becca, and his sisters Susan Clair and Deb Pope.