The university community is invited to a gathering in honor of Mary Lincoln from to Wednesday in the Pollock Ballroom of the Barsema Alumni and
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Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
August 28, 2007
DeKalb, Ill. — Stop the presses. Mary Lincoln, the woman who put Northern Illinois University Press on the map as a university publishing house that produces nationally significant works, is retiring at the end of this week.
Lincoln has worked at NIU for 31 years and served as director of the NIU Press for 27 years. She holds the distinction of being the longest-serving university press director in the country.
The NIU Press publishes non-fiction on a variety of topics in the humanities, arts and social sciences. The press has more than 400 books in print on aspects of history, politics, anthropology and literature.
“She took the university press and made it quite prominent and distinguished in its specialty fields,” said Jerrold Zar, who served as vice provost for research and Graduate School dean from 1984 to 2002, and as such chaired the University Press Board.
“What the NIU Press does, it does very well,” Zar said. “Interestingly, it’s probably more well-known outside the university than inside.
“It’s a feather in the cap of NIU to have a good press,” he added. “It adds to the prestige of the university as a research institution, because the press ultimately fosters and promulgates research.”
Lincoln began working at NIU Press soon after completing her doctorate in English at Washington University in St. Louis. When she became director in 1980, the press was publishing just two books per year. Today the press averages about 21 new titles annually.
“She really rescued the press,” said Julia Fauci, graphic design supervisor for the NIU Press. She has worked with Lincoln for 20 years.
“For a while there, the press was only publishing two books a year and they were expensively produced. Mary brought the press in line financially and expanded the regional history book publications, an area that is very competitive,” Fauci said.
Lincoln felt a strong conviction that it was important for NIU Press to publish books on Illinois and the Chicago region. The regional history series has flourished and produced the press’s all-time best seller, “City of Big Shoulders: A History of Chicago.”
The press also boasts a national reputation for excellence in Russian, American and transportation history.
“NIU Press has an excellent reputation in the academic community,” said David Kyvig, a Distinguished Research Professor of history at NIU. “When I taught history at the University of Akron, my colleagues considered it to be a great achievement to get a book accepted at NIU Press. They all had great success.”
Lincoln worked with the late W. Bruce Lincoln, a world-renowned historian of Russia, to help establish the NIU Press as one of the nation’s elite publishers of scholarship on Russia. Later in her career, the two were married.
“Mary also has been a real benefactor to the university,” Kyvig added. “She established the W. Bruce Lincoln Memorial Lecture in her husband’s honor. It has made a substantial impact on the outreach of the history department and education of our own students.”
While the regional emphasis of the press brought works about Illinois and Chicago to the world, the Russian Studies works are probably the most distinguished of NIU Press series.
“Mary built the series, and she is very well-known within the Slavic studies profession,” said Christine Worobec, Distinguished Research Professor of Russian history at NIU.
Worobec has served as general editor of the Russian Studies series since 2001 and before that was co-editor with W. Bruce Lincoln. Each year the series considers more than 100 manuscript proposals and publishes about three to four titles.
“Mary is highly professional and very solicitous of scholars’ needs,” Worobec said. “She has an eye for what works and what doesn’t. One of her real fortes is a very sharp business sense. Mary not only acquires manuscripts but also must run the press operation on a tight budget. She’s a whiz at it.”
Lincoln also is beloved by her colleagues. Three of her staff members have worked alongside her for more than two decades.
“She is a really good person,” Fauci said. “Mary gives us all input, so we always feel like it’s a real team effort.”
Lincoln will continue to live in DeKalb. She plans to spend more time with her six grandchildren.
“I have loved this job,” Lincoln said. “I think it’s the most interesting job on campus. It’s always challenging. There are always new ideas, new authors and new projects. It’s a pleasure to work with a professional staff eager to publish better books and books that will reflect well on NIU.”