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Why University Presses Matter

15th November 2012

We are excited to have Fordham University Press Director, Fredric Nachbaur, blogging for us as part of the University Press Week blog tour! The tour continues today at Texas A&M University Press. A complete blog tour schedule is also available here.

Witnessing all the damage caused by Sandy has me feeling a melancholy. I was born and raised in New Jersey and spent many summers “down the shore.” In recent summers I have taken my daughter to some of the same beaches I enjoyed as a kid. I’ve been a New Yorker since 1991 and am a regular visitor to Coney Island, and lived for a short time in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It is quite devastating to see all the massive destruction done to our great city and state and to our neighbors in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. As I was preparing to write my post for University Press Week, I reflected on how university presses have bonded together in the past during times of tragedy to help us all understand what is happening at the moment and how we can move forward. “Books for Understanding” was developed by the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) soon after 9/11 to bring the latest and most valuable scholarship to readers in an easy to find and easy to use place. The AAUP instantly became a resource for people who wanted to know more and to find it from reliable sources—University Presses—the pillars of knowledge. The day after hurricane Sandy hit, a reporter from the Huffington Post contacted me about a Fordham University Press (FUP) author who wrote a history of the NYC subways. She wanted to interview him about the flooding of the tunnels and the mass transit shutdown. It is a prime example of how the media turns to university presses for expertise during times of crisis.

We emphasize scholarship by being witnesses to global events, detectives for finding the best authors, and sharers of critical information that has been researched and vetted. Combining efforts to make all of our books on a specific topic of current concern to citizens of the world is invaluable. There are several lists related to Hurricane Sandy, including one on Katrina. Knowing this, I’m not feeling as sad. Thank you AAUP! In preparation for University Press Week to celebrate the AAUP turning 75, Will Underwood, Director of Kent State University Press, asked fellow directors to gather some endorsements from key stakeholders. Happily, I got a great response from faculty and administrators on the Fordham campus as well as some FUP authors and friends. Here is what the Provost of Fordham University wrote:

“As the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) celebrates its 75th anniversary, Fordham University joins in honoring a rich history of committed leadership and collaborative service to the academy and to society. Fordham University Press has partnered with AAUP since 1938 to advance academic excellence in the full pursuit of truth and to enrich public discourse through the dissemination of scholarly research of the highest quality across the disciplines. We look forward to our work with the AAUP to engage evolving challenges and opportunities for university presses in the decades ahead.Stephen Freedman, Provost, Fordham University

FUP celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2007.  Established in 1907 to help Fordham faculty publish monographs based on their research, we now publish up to 70 books per year from faculty at institutions all over the globe. Not unlike the AAUP, FUP is a small organization with big ambitions. We have established ourselves as a leading academic press concentrating in history, literary theory, philosophy and religion. We also publish well established series in continental philosophy, American philosophy, medieval studies, World War II, and the Civil War among others and have created new series spanning a diversity of topics from Orthodox Christianity to Italian American studies. We have a long history publishing regional books focusing on New York City and the Hudson Valley. In 2010, we established the Empire State Editions imprint to better brand and market these titles.

To kick off the festivities of UP week, we hosted an open house for faculty showcasing their work as authors and series editors. Despite the previous evening’s nor’easter, we got a nice turnout and received positive feedback.  Here are a few shots.


On Veteran’s Day, FUP hosted a Veteran’s Day public program entitled Five Historians Reflect on World War II: What We Know, What We Still Need to Learn and What We May Never Know. It turned out to be a successful event with a lively engaged audience. Here are some pics.

Dr. Scott H. Bennett, author of Army GI, Pacifist CO: The World War II Letters of Frank and Albert Dietrich

Dr. G. Kurt Piehler, Dr. Scott H. Bennett, Dr. Sidney Pash, Dr. Ann Pfau, Dr. John Chambers, Dr. J. Garry Clifford

FUP is lean, resourceful, hardworking, and determined. I’d say that about captures the definition of a university press and the AAUP. I’m proud to be a member of this superb, caring, humane community. Happy birthday AAUP. Here’s to another 75 years.

I’ll end with a quote from a friend and a fan of university presses:

“What words to describe the university press? Patient, ambitious, demanding, sustaining, generous, utterly essential. Serious thinking is unimaginable without it.”
—William Germano, Dean of Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Cooper Union

Fredric Nachbaur (Twitter: @FNachbaur) is the Director of Fordham University Press.


Next stop:  Texas A&M University Press.