Harvard Press Director to Retire in May
Rosenthal to Accept Post at Farrar, Straus After 17 Years at Harvard
After 17 years as director of the Harvard University Press, Arthur J. Rosenthal announced yesterday that he will leave Harvard in May to become publisher of the Hill and Wang division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Inc.
Rosenthal, who founded Basic Books in 1949 and whom his colleagues credit with building the Harvard University Press' reputation to one of the nation's finest after signing on in 1972, said "age 70 is a normal year when people leave in this business."
Saying that he was enticed by Farrar, Straus and Giroux to join the leading New York independent trade publisher nearly a month ago, Rosenthal looks forward to "making Hill and Wang a force again...a challenge that will keep me young for many years to come."
President Derek C. Bok praised Rosenthal for restoring the Press' financial health and for publishing such a distinguished list of books during his tenure. "We are all greatly in his debt," Bok said.
According to Rosenthal, Administration Vice President Sally Zeckhauser will chair a search committee to find his successor. Although Zeckhauser could not be reached for comment, Rosenthal estimated that the selection process would last approximately three months.
But many colleagues said Rosenthal's shoes would be difficult to fill.
Yale University Press Director John G. Ryden '61 said Rosenthal's successor must sustain Harvard's commanding position in the university press industry.
"Harvard has been one of the great leaders in expanding publishing out to scholars in other disciplines, students and informed readers in the general public," Ryden said.
"Arthur Rosenthal made Harvard the flagship University Press in the U.S.," said Aida D. Donald, editor-in-chief of the Harvard University Press. "We will miss him tremendously, but he leaves us very strong, and, like him, we have great faith in the future of the Press."
Professor of Science Edward O. Wilson, who has had several books published by the Harvard University Press, including his Pulitzer Prize-winning In Human Nature, said Rosenthal's best qualities have been keeping editorial standards at very high levels and maintaining an excellent relationship with faculty members.
"I believe my experiences with publishing are typical of those of other Harvard faculty members under Rosenthal's tenure." Wilson said. "His performance and that of the editorial staff has been absolutely outstanding."
Rosenthal--a past president of the Association of University Presses and a current member of the Association of American Publishers board-- created several professional book clubs duringhis career, including the Library of Science andReader's Subscription. The Harvard Medical SchoolHealth Letter, with over 300,000 subscribers, andthe new Harvard Education Letter are amongRosenthal's recent accomplishments.
When the Harvard University Press published itsfirst books in 1913, the topics included littlemore than highly specialized scholarly treatises.Since then, however, the trend has been to covercontemporary issues in an academic setting withthe emergence of such topics as AIDS, women'sstudies and technology of the future.
According to Rosenthal, university presses willplay a greatly expanded role in the publishingmarketplace of the next decade with "books ofacademic distinction which appeal to a wideaudience of avid readers."
Sheldon Meyer, the senior editorial VicePresident of the Oxford University Press, said oneof his industry's main concerns is the shrinkingmarket for specialized academic books since fewerindividuals are purchasing them and libraries haveless money to fund them.
"Harvard, however, has managed to combine thetwo roles of the scholarly university press," saidMeyer, "by going beyond the scholarly audience andreaching the general informed audience withquality titles."
On leaving Harvard, Rosenthal will also becomevice-president and member of the board ofdirectors of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Company president and chief executive officerRoger W. Straus said "I know many of the fineauthors he has worked with and they share myassessment of his gifts as a publisher. All of mycolleagues join me in eagerly awaiting Arthur'sarrival next May.