Scholastic CEO, a local of Pittsburgh, dies aged 84

NEW YORK (AP) – Richard Robinson, the longtime head of Scholastic Inc. through bestsellers such as JK Rowling’s “Harry Potter” novels and a wide range of educational materials, reading clubs and book fairs, has passed away. He was 84.

The children’s publishing giant announced that Robinson died on Saturday, but did not immediately name a cause. According to the publisher, he was in excellent health.

“We are deeply saddened by the sudden death of Dick Robinson,” the Scholastic board of directors said in a statement. “Dick was a true visionary in the world of children’s books and a tireless advocate of literacy and the education of children with a remarkable passion throughout his life.”

Scholastic is the world’s largest publisher of children’s books and has long announced that it distributes 1 in 3 children’s books in the United States. The public company’s estimated net worth is around $ 1.2 billion, down from $ 1.6 billion in 2016, but well above the low of under $ 800 million during last year’s pandemic.

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In addition to the “Potter” books, Scholastic also publishes popular series such as “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, “Captain Underpants” by Dav Pilkey and “Clifford the Big Red Dog” by Norman Bridwell. Scholastic is otherwise an integral part of the classroom through its clubs, newsletters, and other programs, including a partnership with writer James Patterson. Participants in Scholastic’s annual Art & Writing Awards for Students included Robert Redford, Stephen King, and Lena Dunham.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden tweeted Sunday that “Robinson was a giant and a legend in children’s literature,” citing his “enduring legacy” as a supporter of libraries and reading.

A native of Pittsburgh and a graduate of Harvard College, Robinson was the son of Maurice R. Robinson, who founded Scholastic as a classroom magazine in 1920. The younger Robinson worked as a teacher and bricklayer, among other things, before joining Scholastic in the mid-1960s. He was named President in 1974, CEO in 1975, and Chairman of the Board in 1982.

Robinson’s time at Scholastic was marked by global expansion, financial ups and downs, even with the historic success of “Harry Potter” and occasional battles with censors who opposed books like “Potter”, “Captain Underpants” and Alex Gino’s “George . fought “as inappropriate for younger readers. School books were often on the American Library Association’s annual “Book Challenged” list.

“We strongly believe that our books and magazines must cover difficult topics that are relevant, even if we get backlash or are boycotted,” Robinson told The Associated Press in 2020.

Robinson also led historical changes in business and culture, be it the rise of digital media or an increased emphasis on diversity and reviewing the past. In 2016, Scholastic drew “A Birthday Cake for George Washington,” a picture story about one of Washington’s slaves, after widespread allegations that the book portrayed a benevolent portrait of enslavement. This spring, Pilkey agreed to withdraw “The Adventures of Ook and Gluk” because of “harmful racial stereotypes”.

Speaking to the AP last year, Robinson said that Scholastic aimed to educate readers in an impartial manner.

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“We deal with issues like global warming and racial inequality in a way that doesn’t polarize the issue, but rather gives standpoints on both sides and is a balanced neutral position, but not in a sense of boring,” he said. “Here are the arguments on the other side. Here is what people are saying. Here are questions you can ask in order to form your own opinion. “

Robinson is a past chair of the Association of American Publishers industry group and a member of the Association of Educational Publishers Hall of Fame. In 2017, Robinson received an Honorary Prize from the National Book Award for contributions to the literary community. Two years later he was quoted by PEN America for his contributions to free speech.

“Working with you and the Scholastic team on Harry Potter has been one of the most significant and meaningful partnerships in my life,” Rowling, the British author for whom Scholastic served as the US publisher of her Potter books, said in a statement from Intended for the PEN Award in 2019. “There is a unique relationship between authors and the publishers who have supported them – and you, Dick, have supported me and my work in countless, indescribable ways.”

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