Bookbuilders of Boston is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing together people involved in book publishing and manufacturing throughout New England. Our blog describes industry events that we sponsor or attend.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

2011 Dwiggins Laureate Sarah Bodden Kopec: The industry has changed, but the ethic has not.

At our Annual Meeting on June 23, Bookbuilders of Boston presented the 2011 W.A. Dwiggins Award to Sarah Bodden Kopec. In a gracious and thoughtful acceptance speech, she fondly remembered her father, W. Michael Bodden, as "my first and best publishing role model. . . . He taught me . . . to work for and represent the publisher’s interests, and expect high quality product from your suppliers, and . . . to treat the suppliers as partners. My dad was the Dwiggins Award recipient in 1974. Thirty-seven years have passed since then, and the industry has changed, but that ethic has not."

Dwiggins Committee Co-Chair John Walsh (who received the award in 2002), presented the traditional silver bowl to Sarah before an audience of some 80 members and guests at Boston's Colonnade Hotel. In his presentation, John recounted Sarah's 25-year career at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, beginning with a temporary assignment that led to a full-time job as an associate art editor in the school division, and progressing steadily through a shifting publishing landscape to her current role as Vice President of Strategic Sourcing.

Other Dwiggins laureates helped guide Sarah's career: Doylie Venn ran the Radcliffe Publishing Procedures Course when Sarah studied there in 1986, and Pat Thoma hired her for her first full-time job at what was then called Houghton Mifflin.

John read tributes from many of Sarah's colleagues, who called her "the most fair and honest person I know, with regard to both business and friendship," and praised her "professional courtesy and respect and sustained exceptional performance" and her "direction and positive, bright outlook." People she supervised thanked her for providing them "a chance to be part of something bigger," and "a sunny spot in an otherwise cold landscape. . . . [a] sensation . . . of coming into work not because you are paid to, but because you want to. Now that is pretty special."

While earning high marks at her day job, Sarah shares her leadership skills with Bookbuilders year after year. She has chaired or been a member of many event committees, and been elected as Board member, Board chair, Vice-President, and President. Her favorite Bookbuilders program, she said, is the New England Book Show, which she chaired or co-chaired three times (including the gala 35th and 50th anniversary events).

In presenting the award, John Walsh noted that each year since 1957, a recipient has been chosen whose accomplishments show a depth and versatility that echo those of the man in whose memory the award is named, William Addison Dwiggins. One of the most admired book designers of the 20th Century, Dwiggins was also a renowned illustrator and calligrapher, designed seventeen type families, and wrote the influential book "Layout in Advertising," in which he coined the term "graphic design." He decorated his Hingham home with furniture he built and murals he painted, and built a 30-seat theater where he designed and made marionettes to present plays that he wrote.

Accepting the award, Sarah spoke of her co-workers as "fun, smart, creative people, who all enjoy what they do, love to collaborate, and feel good about the product they produce. (This includes my husband, Walter!)." She gratefully acknowledged her "wonderful suppliers . . . professionals who do the best work they can on every project, despite tight deadlines, and tighter budgets. We couldn’t publish the breadth and variety of quality materials without your contributions, and I’m so honored that many of my supplier colleagues chose to be here tonight. It means a lot to me."

Sarah reflected on the revolution in publishing over the last quarter-century. "There will always be a demand for content," she concluded, "and I’m interested to see how Bookbuilders . . . will transform itself in coming years. I think every person in the room loves books and making books, and I hope quality book making remains at the core of the organization."