The following letter was written by Donna A. Shear, UNP Director, for the Spring 2021 newsletter, i.e.
Few people can look back at the expanse of their careers and say they’ve been blessed with such a meaningful and fulfilling one—whether it was my beginning position, right out of college, as an aide to United States Senator Paul S. Sarbanes (who recently passed away), to my time in the community newspaper world, to my more than two decades as a director at university presses, the last dozen years here at Nebraska. In between, I got to work at a start-up magazine for lawyers and as marketing director at the Jewish Publication Society, a relationship that endures today in the unique collaboration we have between the Press and JPS.
But those who know me know that despite the fact that I’ve been honored with a fabulous career, family has always been my number one priority. My husband and I have been blessed with three wonderful children, now adults, and they have blessed us with five grandchildren (so far). Our children are spread out around the country, and I want to focus on being an important part of my grandchildren’s lives. So I have made the difficult decision to retire this summer.
It’s so hard to imagine my life without the Press! It has been such a rewarding and vital part of my development as an individual. I’ve learned from my colleagues, from our authors and editors, from the members of the wider university press community, and probably most important, from the books and journals we publish. (No, I don’t read them all; I wouldn’t have time to do my job if I tried to do that!) I’ll miss the intellectual stimulation of working with intelligent, well-informed, and dedicated people. I’ll even miss some of the more esoteric conversations: conversations we sometimes have about where to place a comma, which words should be capitalized in a title, and other obscure grammar issues that, as publishers, are vitally important to us.
We’ve accomplished a great deal as a Press in the last dozen years. We’ve made much of our content available electronically and have begun the journey into audiobooks. We have nearly doubled the number of journals we publish and have grown our book output to more than 160 new titles annually. Our backlist has enjoyed a healthy rebound. One especially happy day was the one on which we welcomed Black Elk Speaks and the other phenomenal works by John G. Neihardt home to Nebraska.
We’ve been innovative, too—establishing a partnership with JPS and acquiring Potomac Books. All of the above would not have been possible without the unwavering support of the University of Nebraska administration, which acknowledges the importance of the Press to its academic mission. We’ve begun the difficult and necessary work of being a more equitable and diverse organization, not only within our staff, but in the content we publish.
I’m optimistic about the future of the Press. A new director will inherit an engaged and committed staff, brilliant authors and editors, and a wealth of content from which the people of Nebraska, the region, the nation, and even the world have benefited and will continue to benefit long into the future.
Thank you for all your support in the dozen years I’ve been honored to be UNP’s director. I look forward to my retirement in a few months, comforted somewhat by the knowledge that I’ll have the time to read so many more of the books we publish.
-Donna A. Shear, UNP Director (@donnashear)