Remembering Joy Margheim

Joy Margheim outside her North Lincoln house.

Last fall UNP had the great fortune to hire Joy Margheim as an associate project editor. No stranger to the Press, Joy originally joined the Manuscript Editorial department as a project editor in 1996 after she completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, and the scholarly publishing program at Arizona State University. In 1998 Joy was promoted to managing editor. She left the Press for a move to Portland in 2001 and worked as an associate editor at the Oregon Historical Society Press. After that she began freelance editing for a number of university presses, including Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, Princeton, and Yale.

(Browse a list of the eighty-six UNP books that Joy copyedited.)

In August of 2017 Joy, her husband Robb, and their dog Roxanne moved back to Nebraska and in January of this year Joy returned to full time work in the Press offices.

Unfortunately, after an initial diagnosis and cancer battle in 2017, Joy learned earlier this year that the cancer had returned. She lost her second battle on February 19.

With Joy’s ties to the Press spanning more than twenty years, current and former staff members had great stories and memories of Joy that they wanted to share with the book publishing community.


“I think we were running in the Havelock run, and I was feeling saucy because I’d been training and got to thinking that maybe this was the one where I would keep up or maybe even pass Joy and Tish and everyone else. I may even have been talking a little smack. Joy politely listened with a subtle smile, then skewered me with the most memorable and polite comeuppance I’ve ever received, which didn’t even hit me until well into the race. After I was done jabbering near the start, and right before we took off, Joy said, ‘Clark, that’s great. You can tell me all about it when you get to the finish line.’

It wasn’t until about the four-mile mark that I realized I’d just been eviscerated in the nicest way possible.” —Clark Whitehorn

[Editor’s note: Joy beat Clark in that race by more than four minutes.]

“After Lincoln-based Cliffs Notes had been purchased by IDG Books Worldwide and was being dismantled and restructured, I called the managing editor at the University of Nebraska Press for an in-person information interview. That person was Joy Margheim. She didn’t have any positions open at the time, but we had a nice visit about editing books. Just a few weeks later, she called me and said the Bison Books project editor was leaving, and not at a convenient moment in regard to the workload—would I consider filling a temporary position? Why, yes I would, I said, and filling that role facilitated my transition from educational to academic publishing and eventually a full-time permanent project editor job. Joy was a good manager—strategic, decisive, thinking and thoughtful, so intelligent, hardworking, patient, and quietly humorous. She is a strong and positive memory in my work life, and I’m so glad we crossed paths and worked together for a time.”—Linnea Fredrickson

“I didn’t know Joy well but I was thrilled when I found out that she was coming back to UNP. In addition to having a reputation for stellar work, she was smart, kind, and thoughtful—just the sort of person you want to have around.”—Jana Faust

“Joy was always a positive healthy lifestyle influence. She stopped by my desk not very long after I started working at the Press and asked if I was a runner and if I’d be interested in joining the Press’s Corporate Run team. I laughed out loud and said no way was I a runner. Probably after some gentle encouragement from Joy in a year’s time I was a runner and joined the team the following year.”—Erica Corwin

The UNP team before the 1999 Havelock Run
Back row: Clark Whitehorn, Terri Dunn, Erica Corwin, Molly Helmers
Front row: Tish Fobben, Chase the greyhound, Joy Margheim, Cari Margheim

“I remember Joy primarily as my first boss. We had attended the same scholarly publishing program at Arizona State, so perhaps that gave me a leg up in the hiring process, I don’t know. I feel lucky to have had Joy as a role model as I was starting my career. I always respected her opinion and judgement, and I am eternally grateful for her patience as I matured both personally and professionally. I recall long manuscript editorial meetings around a small table in her office, where she fielded a large number of complaints and a fair amount of whining from a young staff. She, herself, couldn’t have been much older than 30. Joy led our department through the move to the Haymarket, with all its bickering over who got an office with walls; a transition in directors; and the difficult decision to eliminate freelance proofreading during a time of extreme budget cuts. I loved the idea that she was returning to the press in her original role as project editor. It seemed so very much like I remember Joy—unassuming and dedicated to her work. She will be missed by so many and is forever in our hearts.”—Molly Helmers

“Joy and I missed each other by about a year—she left the press and I arrived in the early 2000s. I learned a little about her through seeing her notes in project files and from running with our friend Tish. Eventually she came back to the press as a freelance copyeditor. On the freelancer board, her name usually had five or six projects listed under it. I was always amazed at how she could juggle so many—and they weren’t necessarily simple projects. I relied on Joy for projects that concerned Nebraska or the Great Plains or subjects that were completely unrelated to this part of the world. Her name says it all: Joy was a joy to work with. She was kind, dependable, and serious about her work. Last November Joy and I spoke to a publishing class at UNL about copyediting. While I’d rather not speak in front of a group, Joy said doing so didn’t bother her at all. Her comfort and ease in front of the class rubbed off on me. Joy spoke engagingly and passionately about her work in publishing. I was as impressed as the students. Also in November Joy was rehired as a project editor, and in early January she started in-house, but soon after that she received her diagnosis. Tish and I spent a good deal of time with Joy during her final weeks. And as I work on the final few projects she edited for me, I read her emails and am reminded of her professionalism but also her concern for and kindness toward others—always. Joy is the kind of person who makes you better for having known her.”—Joeth Zucco

“I first met Joy when she joined the book group I had started. One day, shortly after she joined, she called asking if I would be willing to consider a temporary position at the press. Though I had no publishing experience or background, she thought I was well qualified for it so I did. To this day I’m still incredulous. I was extremely fortunate to have had her as my mentor. She was extremely patient with me while I learned the ins and outs of publishing. I still remember the very first advice she gave me, which is “it takes a good year to truly understand what you are doing here.” And she was right. She also told me I would occasionally feel stupid and, boy did I, more than occasionally. Joy herself was a new manager, but so, so mature. I don’t think I would have been successful at that position and still be at the press today as a manager myself if not for Joy’s training and words of wisdom. That call from Joy opened a door for me and I’ll forever be grateful to her.” —Manjit Kaur

A large team of UNP runners and walkers pose in front of Nebraska’s capitol building before a late 1998 Jingle Bell Run
Back row: Mary Cadwallader, Courtney Burkholder, Brian Kelley, Jim Fobben, Gaylene Steinbach
Middle row: Joy Margheim, Charlene Porsild, Kathryn Kelley, Joe Steinbach
Front row: Robb Finegan, Tish Fobben, Clark Whitehorn, Sue Breckenridge, Erica Corwin, Chris Voss, Michael McCamley

“I became friends with Joy after she started working at UNP as a project editor back in 1997 and she made the connection that I was in her husband Robb’s YMCA marathon training class. At the time Robb was a serious runner who had qualified for the Olympic trials in the marathon. Joy supported his running but did not run herself. During Robb’s marathon training class Joy helped drive a van that delivered the runners to a twenty-mile point outside of town and provided support as they ran back into town on some very hilly dirt roads. As Joy watched the runners struggle through their epic runs at very modest paces she realized that most of them had little-to-no previous running experience and was inspired to start running herself.

Joy asked me if I’d want to run with her and that’s when I discovered the pleasure of having a regular running partner. She and Robb would drive over to my apartment for a 6am run before work. Only later did I discover that she sometimes hoped I would cancel the run in favor of hanging out and drinking coffee. More than once I secretly hoped she would cancel a run but I don’t think that ever happened.

On Saturday mornings we would do a longer run on the MoPac starting at the trail head off 84th street. The Saturday morning run was a slow and therapeutic way to burn off the stress of the week and transition to the weekend. Joy put up with my endless rambling and would occasionally interject a thoughtful comment or opinion. Later we’d reward ourselves with breakfast, often at Virginia’s Travelers Café on Cornhusker Hwy. We both loved to savor coffee and breakfast. Joy especially loved pancakes. After breakfast Joy would either go into work or copyedit from home.

Well within her first year of running, Joy was faster than me. During her first Buffalo Run, a five-mile race at Pioneers Park, I’ll never forget her cresting a hill ahead of me and I lost sight of her until after the finish line. She was focused and disciplined and I needed her immediate and indisputable example to demonstrate how those efforts paid off. Joy was also quietly instrumental in building our UNP running and walking teams for the Havelock Charity Run, Corporate Run, and Jingle Bell for Arthritis Run.

In 2001 Joy moved to Portland where she lived for the next fifteen years or so. Although our long runs on the MoPac will always be my gold standard for a weekend well begun, it seemed like a good choice when Joy traded running for long walks with her beloved dog Roxanne. Joy found Roxanne at an animal shelter in Portland and the two became fast friends. Joy was so happy to find good places for their walks and runs. When I look back at photos of Joy I have been surprised by often she is holding or petting a dog—and not always her own.

I was glad to learn that Joy had carved out time from work to follow creative pursuits such as sketching, metal working, weaving, and more. When she moved back to Lincoln in 2017, I tossed out the idea of forming a new book club but she gracefully declined, saying that she read too slowly. That might have been true and probably indicated how she preferred to read a book. My takeaway was that she felt comfortable pursuing her heart’s desires on her own and took them seriously enough to do so.

Joy has disappeared over the crest of another hill. As before I’m lucky to have her example to work with: Be kind, be focused, follow creative urgings, spend more time with your dog. And I add to this: don’t hesitate to enjoy coffee with a friend.”—Tish Fobben

2 thoughts on “Remembering Joy Margheim

  1. I worked with Joy during the year I was an assistant project editor, starting in July 1996. She had already been there for awhile. So she started with the press before 1997. I really liked her and enjoyed working with her for the year that we were colleagues.

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