Remembering Joyce Kachergis—Award-Winning Book Designer and Scholarly Publishing Innovator

Joyce Kachergis
Joyce Kachergis with UNC Press production team (1977). Photo courtesy of the Kachergis family

Award-winning book designer Joyce Kachergis passed away at her home in Pittsboro, North Carolina on January 1, 2018 at the age of 92.

Joyce was the Design and Production Manager at the University of North Carolina  Press (1962-1977) when I got my first job in scholarly publishing, over 40 years ago. An early adopter of using computers for book design and typesetting, Joyce applied for and received a grant from the Kresge Foundation for UNC Press to establish an in-house composition facility, which became a model for other university presses. Joyce was a mentor, colleague, and friend to many in the University Press community over her lifetime, and never fully retired from designing books. She will be greatly missed.

Today we welcome a guest post from Jerry Minnich, a retired editor from the University of Wisconsin Press. Jerry has written a wonderful remembrance of Joyce, his longtime friend and colleague, and we thank him for letting us include it below.
—Marjorie Fowler, Digital Assets Coordinator, UNC Press


Remembering Joyce Kachergis—Award-Winning Book Designer and Scholarly Publishing Innovator 

Joyce Kachergis was the most remarkable person I have ever known.  She said that her parents raised her, in Omaha, Nebraska, to believe that she — and all women — could do anything that a man could do.  And Joyce lived her life believing in and carrying out that charge.

I met Joyce in the early 1970s, and enjoyed her friendship right up to the end of her life.  We served on various committees for the Association of American University Presses, she at the University of North Carolina Press, I at the University of Wisconsin Press.  Our closest collaboration came in 1977, when the UNC Press hosted the annual meeting of the AAUP, held that year in Asheville. Joyce’s idea was that we would send the same manuscript to five different university presses, and have each carry the project through all the stages of publication — acquisition, administrative review, finance, editorial, design and production, and sales and marketing, right up to the point of manufacture.  In this way, publishers and those seeking to enter the field could get a broad idea of how a book is conceived in all its facets by a university press.

Perhaps Joyce’s major contribution to publishing was her mentoring and encouragement of young women new to the publishing field, not only the scores of women who worked with her over the years, but also others who came to her for advice.

I provided a manuscript, for a book called No Time for Houseplants, which was duly sent to five university presses that volunteered to participate:  North Carolina, Toronto, Chicago, MIT, and Texas.  All the papers were then gathered together to form One Book Five Ways, which was unveiled at that Asheville meeting and received with great enthusiasm by the members.

It was an instant hit. William Kaufmann, of Los Altos, California, published the book, which received unqualified accolades, one reviewer calling it “a testimony to the ingenuity of scholarly presses.”  It has been used in publishing courses for more than forty years.  The book is now published by the University of Chicago Press.  (The model manuscript, No Time for Houseplants, was itself published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 1979.)

This was only one of Joyce’s contributions to the world of publishing.  In addition to her main calling, serving as designer and producer of award-winning books at the UNC Press, and for a time at the Stanford University Press, Joyce was a principal founder of Women in Scholarly Publishing (WISP), along with Nancy Essig.  The two, conferring in 1979 at the annual meeting of the AAUP in Salt Lake City, soon recruited Carol Orr, Joanna Hill, and Barbara Ankeny, and WISP was born.  It has since served to encourage and benefit women in scholarly publishing.

In 1980, in Pittsboro, North Carolina, Joyce and her daughter Anne founded Kachergis Book Design, to serve publishers too small to have their own design and production departments, and larger publishers confronted with difficult books that would place undue stress on their staffs.  Kachergis Book Design has, in 38 years, designed more than 2,400 books.

Perhaps Joyce’s major contribution to publishing was her mentoring and encouragement of young women new to the publishing field, not only the scores of women who worked with her over the years, but also others who came to her for advice.  This is Joyce Kachergis’s enduring legacy, one that will last not only through the generation of those she affected, but for the next generation of women in publishing.  The seeds of equality implanted by her parents in Omaha, ninety years ago, nourished by Joyce over the years, will bear fruit well into the future.

Jerry Minnich
Madison, Wisconsin
January 16, 2018