Director Dean Smith Leaving Cornell University Press

Earlier today, Duke University Press announced that Dean Smith will be their next director. Dean, of course, has served Cornell University as its press director since 2015. This morning, Dean gathered the CUP staff together and told us his bittersweet news.

Surprise and shock greeted his startling announcement, but also pride, good wishes, and congratulations. During his four years here, Dean has led us all with humor, intelligence, compassion, and wisdom. We have all benefited from his guidance and mentoring and we will be saddened when he departs us and moves south.

Dean leaves us at CUP with an emboldened mentality. He has given us the spirit and desire to fly ever higher, to dream ever bigger, and to achieve ever more. In the past four years, we have become leaders in open access publishing, we have moved into journal publishing, and we have grown our front list such that we now publish 150 new books a year. Dean has brokered the agreement with Northern Illinois University Press announced publicly last week. He has overseen the development of our regional trade imprint, Three Hills. We’ve forged new and lasting strategic partnerships and collaborations with various university departments and outside service providers. He moved us into a new reporting structure under the Cornell University Library where we now have full and solid support and advocacy. He has developed a nascent endowment and fundraising capacity. And he has acquired some of our best-selling books of the past few years.

Dean Smith’s time at Cornell University Press has been a spectacular success, and he leaves us positioned for success, sustainability, and growth. We all wish him the best in his new role and want him to know that he has given us the gift of confidence and strength as a publisher of incredible authors and books and in ourselves as purveyors of publishing knowledge and excellence.

Bon Voyage, Dean. We’ll miss your bow ties, Baltimore sports books, Grateful Dead references, and unstoppable optimism.

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Director Dean Smith Leaving Cornell University Press

Something Completely Different: Working with John Cleese on a Public Talk and a New Book

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Mapping the directions of John Cleese’s Escher-like mind. Drawing by Julia Smith.

By Dean Smith

In the fall of 2015, Cornell University Press hosted a folk concert in our offices at Sage House with author and Cornell history professor Richard Polenberg to celebrate Hear My Sad Story, his new book about the true stories of folk songs like “Casey Jones,” “Stagger Lee,” and “John Henry.” Sixty people showed up for the free event. Folk music enthusiasts jammed the foyer and sat knee-to-knee on the staircase all the way to the second floor. Polenberg played four songs on his acoustic guitar and the crowd sang along with him—a magical Ithaca moment—as the sunlight shafted in from all sides after a cold rain.

After the concert, I noticed three women at the top of the second-floor steps. We’d roped off access to the offices on the second and third floors. I asked if they wanted a tour of what had been Cornell benefactor Henry Sage’s mansion and the university infirmary for most of the twentieth century. I showed them our carved oak bats and owls, stained glass windows, and fireplace tile sequences featuring fairy tales such as Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin. Our managing editor’s fireplace is adorned with Arthurian characters such as Lady Guinevere and Sir Lancelot.

At the end of the tour, one of the women, Gerri Jones, told me that Professor John Cleese would like a place like this. At first, I didn’t think I heard her right. Continue reading “Something Completely Different: Working with John Cleese on a Public Talk and a New Book”

Something Completely Different: Working with John Cleese on a Public Talk and a New Book