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News Release

March 17, 2014

Ohio University Press celebrates 50 years of publishing 

During the week of February 16–22, Ohio University Press, nonprofit publisher of books for both academic and popular audiences, celebrates its 50th year as publishing house.

A number of activities are scheduled for Ohio University Press Week, including talks by the director of the Press, Gillian Berchowitz, a poetry reading by a Press author, and an open house on Fri., Feb. 21st at the Press offices on 215 Columbus Road to which all are invited. The open house, from 4–6 p.m., includes refreshments, drawings, and a chance to meet local authors and members of Ohio University Press.

Founded in 1964 by then-president Vernon R. Alden, the Press’s core mission has been to put important scholarly and creative works into print, and to make the fruits of scholarly research accessible to general audiences. Through coverage in various media and through the sales of books, the Press extends the Ohio University name into the world.

“Ohio University Press today is an international publishing house with distribution channels around the world,” said Berchowitz. “Along with our trade imprint, Swallow Press, the Ohio University Press proudly serves as Ohio University’s scholarly publishing arm, promoting the culture of scholarly exchange and making books about big ideas in the humanities, arts, and sciences available worldwide in print and digital formats.”

Ohio University Press publishes books about its local area and region, specifically Ohio, the Midwest, and Appalachia; it publishes books of national interest, especially in literature and history; and it publishes books about other parts of the world, most significantly in the area of African Studies in which Ohio University Press is a leading publisher.

The majority of Ohio University Press authors are scholars affiliated with other universities, but several books have been written by Ohio University professors. (The Press publishes books about the university through its 1804 Books imprint.) In addition to scholars, Press authors include journalists, farmers, photographers, illustrators, counselors, cooks, gardeners, lawyers, and librarians.

A staff of nine full-time employees in Athens, Ohio, acquires, edits, produces, and sells between 40-50 books each year, generating close to $1 million in annual sales. Ohio University Press is a member of the American Association of University Presses.

Ohio University Press Week Schedule of Activities

Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2 p.m.

Athens City Hall

Ohio University Press Week Proclamation by Mayor Paul Wiehl.

Staff and invited guests.

Sunday, Feb. 16, 4 p.m.

Athens County Historical Society and Museum

Gillian Berchowitz talk to kick-off OU Press Week

Monday, Feb. 17, 12 p.m.

Ohio University Inn              

Gillian Berchowitz talk to the Athens Rotary Club

Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2 p.m.

Alden Library, Ohio University

Gillian Berchowitz talks about OU Press’s history of publishing books about Africa.

Thursday, Feb. 20, 7 p.m.

Athens Public Library

Gillian Berchowitz talks in a public forum

Thursday, Feb. 20, 7:30 p.m.

Walter Hall Rotunda, Ohio University

Joshua Mehigan (Ohio University Press author and current Ohio University Creative Writing Resident) poetry reading.

Friday, Feb. 21, 4–6 p.m.

Ohio University Press office

Open House at OU Press, 215 Columbus Road, Athens. The public is invited to attend to meet Press staff, local authors, purchase discounted books, and enter drawings. Food and beverages will be provided.

A Short History of Ohio University Press

The growth of American universities after World War II led to a corresponding expansion of scholarly research and an enormous potential for contribution to knowledge. To meet the obligation of publishing and disseminating this new research, many American universities established their own presses.

In the early 1960s, the Ohio University president Vernon Alden decided to create a university press. “At Harvard we had a university press,” he recollected, “and I was familiar with various presses around the country. I had naturally assumed most first-rate universities would have a press.”

Alden formed a committee charged with establishing a press, and soon they had recruited Cecil Hemley, a co-founder of Noonday Press and a senior editor at Farrar, Straus, and Cudahy in New York. In hiring a director from the commercial publishing world, Ohio University wanted to create an example for other university publishers.

“University-published works need not be stodgy and esoteric,” explained Alden in a 1963 press release announcing Hemley’s appointment. “As a matter of fact, we believe important and exciting works can be produced by the university press.”

In addition to the core mission of disseminating research-based books for scholars, there were two other types of books that Ohio University Press sought to publish: books that interpreted and synthesized scholarly research for nonspecialists, and books about the university’s geographical region.

From 1964 to 1965, Ohio University Press published twelve titles with a staff of three people. In 1965, it was admitted as a member of the Association of American University Presses after only one publishing season.

In 1979, Ohio University Press established a licensing agreement with Swallow Press, a literary and western publishing house with an esteemed reputation and a solid backlist of books which the press could distribute and reissue as needed. In 2008, Ohio University Press purchased Swallow Press outright and since then has undertaken an effort to revitalize this important imprint.

Today, Ohio University Press and Swallow Press publish between forty and fifty books annually with a staff of nine full-time employees who acquire, edit, produce, market, and sell to the world. Ohio University Press and Swallow Press books receive coverage in top media outlets like the “Wall Street Journal” and the “Washington Post,” in scholarly publications like “Foreign Affairs” and “Law and History Review,” and in regional media like the “Plain Dealer” and “Ohio Magazine.”

In 2013, Gillian Berchowitz became director. Berchowitz has been with Ohio University Press since 1988, most recently in the capacity of editorial director. She entered publishing with Oxford University Press in Johannesburg, South Africa, and then with Ravan Press, an antiapartheid scholarly and literary press. Through her efforts, Ohio University Press has become a recognized leader in the field of African Studies. She has also furthered the press’s commitment to regional publishing by creating and publishing in the Series in Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in Appalachia.

Ohio University Past and Present Presidents Reflect on Ohio University Press

“In the early 1960’s I found only one or two Faculty members had published their works and had used outside publishers. In an effort to encourage more faculty publications, I established the Ohio University Press in 1964. I believed it would also provide a vehicle for other writers in Ohio and nearby states to publish their materials.

Of course, I was also determined to make Ohio University better known nationally and internationally. The Press would provide another outreach for achieving this. I really believe that the Press has helped Ohio University to accomplish that goal and I am delighted that the Press continues to enhance these objectives.

I am truly proud that the founding of the Ohio University Press is an important part of my legacy at Ohio.

I’m hoping and planning to be with you to celebrate the 50th Anniversary!”

Dr. Vernon Roger Alden, president (1962 -1969), Ohio University  

“For 50 years, Ohio University Press has been an invaluable ally in promoting the research and creative endeavors of faculty at Ohio University and beyond. Through the excellence of its publications, the press testifies to Ohio University’s academic distinction and supports our mission of teaching, research and service. Ohio University’s academic community is continually enhanced by the acclaim of the press and its products, and we look forward to the continued success of our cherished academic publishing arm.”

Dr. Roderick J. McDavis, president, Ohio University

For more information on the Press and the activities planned for Ohio University Press week, please visit: http://www.ohioswallow.com/fifty

 

Contact: Jeff Kallet, publicist, at 740-593-1158 or kallet@ohio.edu

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Media Contacts

Katharine Quaranta
Communications Specialist, External Communications
740.593.0858 
quaranta@ohio.edu  

Jennifer Krisch
Communications Specialist, External Communications
740.597.1939 
krisch@ohio.edu  

After hours on-call media specialist: 740.593.2200