Harold W. McGraw, Jr.
Publisher, Educator, Man of Values and Integrity
By Stephen B. Shepard
Our new Center for Business Journalism is named for one of the great gentleman publishers of the 20th century: Harold W. McGraw, Jr., the former CEO and chairman of McGraw-Hill, who died in 2010 at age 92. I was privileged to know Harold during the 20 years I served as editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek, then owned by McGraw-Hill.
It’s easy to list Harold’s accomplishments: How the company’s revenues doubled on his watch as CEO. How earnings per share tripled. How he took a principled stand in fending off the unconscionable takeover attempt by American Express in 1979. How he rallied the business community to take up the cause of literacy. How he helped create the Copyright Clearance Center to protect the intellectual property of publishers. How the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education has brought honor and visibility to the best teachers and their innovative ideas. How his philanthropy has helped so many libraries and schools.
He simply and deeply believed that professional editors should be free to render their judgments independent of any political, personal, or commercial interference.
If you were to ask anyone who knew Harold professionally what came to mind about him, you’d hear the same words over and over again: Values. Integrity. Principled. Honorable. Educator. Concerned. Courteous. Courtly. Approachable. Humble. Self-effacing. Harold was very proud of BusinessWeek and always respected its independence.
He’d sometimes write me a note when he especially liked a story. But he never once interfered. If one of his many friends in business or government complained to him about a story, I never heard about it. He simply and deeply believed that professional editors should be free to render their judgments independent of any political, personal, or commercial interference. Editors were free, he once told me, to make their own honest mistakes – as long as they owned up to them and did what they could to correct them.
In October 2004, when BusinessWeek was celebrating its 75th anniversary, Harold’s son Terry, then CEO, presented me with a framed cover of that week’s issue. Also in the frame was a very special and touching gift: a green fountain pen that was Harold’s personal pen. The gift hangs in my New York apartment, and I shall always cherish it.
A few months later, when I was about to retire from BusinessWeek, I told Harold that I had been offered a wonderful new opportunity to become the founding dean of a brand new graduate school of journalism at the City University of New York. I’m not sure how much he understood because his health was already failing, but I went on. I told him that this would be the first publicly supported graduate journalism school in the Northeast, opening opportunities for minorities, immigrants, and others who didn’t have a lot of money for graduate study. At that point, he smiled, and I knew that his educator’s heart understood. We’re grateful to Harold’s children, Sue, Terry, and Bob McGraw, for establishing this Center in their father’s name. We are very honored.