Changes are in store for both Cathie Black and the New York City public school system. On Tuesday, November 9th, Mayor Michael Bloomberg formally announced his decision to name Black, who is currently the chair of Hearst Magazines, the next New York City schools chancellor, a role held by Joel Klein since 2002. Pending approval from the State Education Commisioner at the time of writing, Black will lead a school system of 1.1 million children, 80,000 teachers, and the administrators who support them.
One of our Business 100 honorees in this issue, Black was raised by her Irish Catholic family
on Chicago’s South Side. After graduating from Trinity Washington University in 1966, she began her career by working with several magazines such as Holiday and Ms. and went on to blaze a trail of success through what was then a male-dominated industry. Black became the first female publisher of a weekly consumer magazine when she joined New York in 1979. After turning USA Today into the national newspaper as we know it and serving as the vice president of marketing for Gannet, she became the first woman president of the Newspaper Corporation of America. Black then joined Hearst in 1996 as the first female to head Hearst Magazines. First as president and now as chairman, she oversees fourteen of the magazine industry’s most popular titles, including Harper’s Bazaar; Cosmopolitan; O, The Oprah Magazine; and Town and Country. Black is also in charge of the 200 international editions of those magazines, which run in over 100 countries. She has also authored a best-selling book, Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life), which is in its eighth printing and has been translated for publication in twelve countries.
In her new position, Black will become the first woman chancellor of the city’s public schools. Though her prior experience does not lie in the field of education, Bloomberg is confident that Black’s four decades of experience in media and business have provided her with the skills she needs to be an effective leader.
With all her accomplishments, it’s no surprise that Black has frequently appeared on our Business 100 list. In 2000, our editor and co-founder Patricia Harty conducted an interview with Black and it is interesting to note, especially given her new role, that back then Frank McCourt, the beloved educator and writer, was on her mind.
Excerpts from Harty's 2000 interview with Cathie Black:
“I think my Irish heritage is very important, and I think it gives me a feeling of roots and history and hopefully all the good traits that come with that – a sense of humor and not taking things too seriously and realizing that life is short: enjoy it.”
“Having a woman in the job has given a lot of women in this company, and in the industry, a great shot in the arm. I want guys to think that they are going to do equally well in the company but to realize that they are competing on equal levels with a lot of terrific women too.”
"With all this good advice to offer, would [Black] ever consider writing a book? 'I probably will someday,' she muses. 'I just had a note from a literary agency and I thought, you know, maybe I should start thinking about that again.' In the meantime, there’s all that reading she has to do. 'If I can get through all of our magazines, I want to read Frank McCourt’s new book, ‘Tis,' she states. 'He gave a lecture and he was just brilliant.' It’s a word that describes her equally well."