Joanna Hitchcock, director of the University of Texas Press at The University of Texas at Austin since 1992, will retire from that position at the end of February 2011.
Dr. Steven Leslie, provost of the university, said a search for the new director will begin soon.
“The UT Press has had the good fortune of Joanna’s strong leadership for almost 20 years,” said Leslie. “She has done an outstanding job of leading the Press to become one of the very top university presses in the United States. Her skilled leadership and emphasis on quality were key to achieving its current status as one of the finest university presses in the country.”
Hitchcock said she takes pride in the fact that the University of Texas Press, one of the largest book and journal publishers in Texas, has always emphasized quality in its publications.
“It’s never been about the numbers,” Hitchcock said. “The challenge has rather been to acquire the very best manuscripts in each of the Press’s areas of specialization without succumbing to the temptation to expand beyond what the staff could handle. I’ve been at the helm for almost a third of the Press’s 60-year existence and it is time for new leadership.”
She said she looks forward to spending time visiting friends and traveling with her husband.
Hitchcock, a graduate of Oxford University, came to Austin from Princeton University Press, where she had been executive editor for the humanities and assistant director. She is a past president of the Association of American University Presses and a founding member of the Texas Book Festival Advisory Committee.
While Hitchcock has been director, University of Texas Press books have won nearly 300 awards for content and 70 for excellence in design and production. She said that while remaining committed to its core mission of publishing books for scholars, UT Press has become more entrepreneurial and adventurous in recent years, seeking out and commissioning manuscripts from writers whose work appeals to wider regional and national audiences.
In 1995, Hitchcock formed an advisory council to help match a National Endowment for the Humanities challenge grant. Working closely with this advisory council over the year, the UT Press has created 25 endowed book series, many of them named for their donors and supporting key areas of the UT Press’s program.
Hitchcock said UT Press has been embarking upon multimedia and digital projects that integrate video, audio and the written word, while converting many of its books to electronic formats for distribution to individuals and libraries. During the next few years, most of its out-of-print books will be made available again by means of print-on-demand, a technology that allows publishers to reprint single copies of books and avoid the risk of overstock.
At this turning point in publishing history, Hitchcock said UT Press needs someone who has a personal stake in, as well as a professional commitment to, its long-term future rather than a leader who is approaching retirement.