Kate Douglas Torrey, the first woman to serve as director of the University of North Carolina Press in its 90-year history, will retire this summer after 23 years with the publishing house. Torrey joined UNC Press as editor-in-chief in 1989 and was named the Press’s sixth director in 1992.
In 2009, Book Business magazine listed Torrey as one of the “50 Top Women in Book Publishing.”
Torrey has worked in scholarly publishing for more than 36 years, during which time she has been active in the Association of American University Presses, serving as its president, on its board of directors, and on numerous AAUP committees. Torrey represented university presses on the Board of Directors of the Association of American Publishers from 2006-2010. She is a past president of Women in Scholarly Publishing and has served on several panels evaluating scholarly manuscripts for the National Endowment for the Humanities.
During Torrey’s 20-year tenure as director, UNC Press has won many prestigious awards, including 4 Bancroft Prizes from the trustees of Columbia University for books about diplomacy or the history of the Americas; 2 Francis Parkman Prizes from the Society of American Historians for the best book in American history; 6 Frederick Jackson Turner Awards from the Organization of American Historians given to the author of a first scholarly book dealing with some aspect of American history; and 3 Frederick Douglass Prizes awarded by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History at Yale University for a book on the subject of slavery.
Torrey is also one of the principal investigators for a $900,000 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant on “Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement,” which was recently renewed with an additional $500,000 grant.
“This is an important time in university press publishing,” Torrey said. “There are new developments almost daily in the e-book realm, with the coming aggregation of scholarly book content from JSTOR, and with new devices, platforms, business models, and opportunities to expand the reach of our authors’ work. It has been a real privilege to lead this distinguished publishing house, and I know its future is very bright indeed.”
Jack (John P.) Evans, chair of the Press’s Board of Governors and Hettleman Professor of Business Emeritus at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, praised Torrey for her distinguished service.
“Kate Torrey has provided consistently extraordinary leadership for UNC Press through twenty years of dynamic change and challenge in academic publishing. Under her stewardship UNC Press has sustained an excellent staff, attracted award-winning authors and projects, and served the University of North Carolina system and the state of North Carolina in an exceptional manner. She will be difficult to replace, but she has made the Press directorship an attractive position.”
A search committee has been formed as part of the selection process for the next director. It will be headed by a member of UNC Press’s Board of Governors, Eric Muller, who is Dan K. Moore Distinguished Professor, UNC School of Law.
Torrey graduated with honors from Stanford University and holds a master’s in American history from the University of Chicago.
Founded in 1922, UNC Press is the oldest university press in the South and one of the oldest in the United States.