by Anneli Rufus
University of California Press' longtime editor Lynne Withey has just announced her plans to retire at the end of this year.
Named as the director of UC Press in 2002, Withey guided the company — which was founded in 1893 — through the as-yet-uncharted realm of digital publishing. Under her directorship, UC Press weathered economic hardships and expanded its operations. A national search for her replacement is underway, with plans for a transition at the end of the year.
“Lynne has provided vision and leadership for UC Press and for university presses nationally, articulating strategies for sustaining these essential academic enterprises in an industry that is undergoing fundamental transformation,” said Daniel Greenstein, UC Berkeley's Vice Provost of Academic Affairs. “Lynne leaves UC Press with a sterling reputation for impeccable quality and an able and creative staff, and in sound financial shape. But of her many accomplishments, she will be remembered within UC as a wonderful colleague, manager, publisher, and friend.”
Withey joined UC Press in 1986 as Assistant Director. She also worked as an acquisitions editor and played a major role in shaping editorial programs, particularly history, music, Middle Eastern studies, and public health. Holding a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, Withey has taught there — as well as at the University of Iowa and Boston University. She is the author of four books, including Dearest Friend: A Life of Abigail Adams and Voyages of Discovery: Captain Cook and British Exploration of the Pacific.
According to a press release from UC Press, Withey’s tenure as director fostered a 35 percent increase in annual book and journal sales: from $19.3 million in 2002 to a high of $26 million in 2008.
According to Mike McCone, Vice-Chair of the UC Press Foundation and President Emeritus of the California Historical Society: “Lynne inspires trust in people. They know she’s going to do the right thing. ... Panic is not in Lynne’s vocabulary. She stabilized the financial situation at UC Press in a calm, methodical way. I marvel at her dedication, spirit, and talent.”
Withey said that after retiring, “I want to get back to history. My original area was early American history, but I’ve gotten interested in the Spanish period in the American Southwest. I’m interested in the archaeology of the place, and in the complicated overlay of cultures. ... I don’t know if I’ll write another book, but there’s so much more I want to learn.”