Ryder, Lapham Accept Top Honors at MPA’s Annual Lifetime Achievement Awards
Thomas O. Ryder, retiring chairman of the board of the Reader’s Digest Association, accepted the magazine industry’s highest honor during a packed luncheon Thursday at Gotham Hall in New York.
More than 425 friends, colleagues, well-wishers and family members assembled to honor Ryder as recipient of the Magazine Publishers of America’s Henry Johnson Fisher Award for lifetime achievement. Following moving tributes from friends and colleagues — restauranteur Danny Meyer, president of the Union Square Hospitality Group; and Gary Rich, principal of the Rich Leadership Group — Ryder moved many in the audience to tears as he recounted his ascendancy in the magazine business from humble beginnings as a child from rural Louisiana who immersed himself in the hundreds of old magazines his grandparents kept on the front porch of their fishing cabin in the woods, to his leadership of American Express Publishing and for the past eight years, head of Reader’s Digest.
"Magazines changed my life, and gave me a life," Ryder said. He told how for many of his age, magazines provided a window into to life beyond their immediate surroundings. "Magazines took me to a world outside my own and gave me a sense of what was possible. They were magical." Ryder told how at age 10 he submitted his first unsolicited article to Reader’s Digest and then for weeks waited by his mailbox for a response that never came. And how while editor of his college newspaper at Louisiana State University, he received an invitation from Life magazine to join other college newspaper editors to come to Cape Kennedy to cover the space launch. Shortly thereafter he was offered a writing job at Life and so his career in the magazine business began.
Ryder went on to hold leadership positions at CBS Magazines, the Learning Institute (which he founded), American Express Publishing, and finally the company that spurned his first manuscript, Reader’s Digest Association, where as chairman and CEO, he helped steer the giant organization onto a path of revenue and profit growth.
"I’ve tried to do good work and have fun doing it, and made sure everyone around me had fun, too," Ryder said. "Every day I pinch myself and marvel at what a fabulous way to earn a living."
Lapham Inducted into Editors’ Hall of Fame
Harper’s national correspondent Lewis Lapham was inducted into the Magazine Editors’ Hall of Fame during the MPA luncheon. Introduced by New York Post columnist Liz Smith, Lapham recalled how as a young editor his boss bestowed upon him the secret of being a great editor – "steal." Lapham told the audience how he applied that lesson by utilizing, harnessing, and complementing the talent of those around him to create clear and great prose.