Cathleen Black ’66 became the chancellor of the New York City public school system in January 2011 after a distinguished and successful career in publishing. Black is the first woman to head the nation’s largest school system, with a $23 billion budget, 135,000 employees and more than one million students. Black was most recently chair of Hearst Magazines; she served as president of Hearst Magazines for 15 years, where she launched O: The Oprah Magazine and published some of the nation’s and world’s largest circulation magazines, including Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, and Good Housekeeping. At a press conference announcing the appointment, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said “Cathie Black is a superstar manager who has succeeded spectacularly in the private sector. She is brilliant, she is innovative, she is driven— and there is virtually nobody who knows more about the needs of the 21st century workforce for which we need to prepare our kids.” Black said that she is “very excited about this incredible opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our young people.”
Since she graduated from Trinity, Black has had a remarkable and trailblazing career in publishing. In 1979, she was the first woman to be the publisher of a weekly consumer magazine, New York. She was named president, then publisher, of USA Today in the 1980s when the first national newspaper was launched, and built it into a profitable publication that, today, is the widest circulated print newspaper in the United States. After her eight-year tenure at USA Today, she served as president and chief executive of the Newspaper Association of America, the industry’s largest trade group. She became president of Hearst Magazines in 1995 and, this past summer, became chair of Hearst Magazines. According to the New York Times, “At Hearst, she helped convince Oprah Winfrey it was time to extend her brand to publishing, personally visiting the talk-show host with a mockup of what was to become O, the Oprah Magazine — one of the biggest success stories in the industry.”
Black is one of the most powerful women in business, earning a place several years in a row on Fortune magazine’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” and Forbes magazine’s “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” where she ranks along with two other Trinity leaders, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi ’62 and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius ’70.
In 2007, Black published a book, Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life), in which she reflected on her career and provided advice to young people starting out in the world of work. In the book, she explains how she achieved the “360-degree life” — a blend of professional accomplishment and personal contentment. She came to Trinity’s campus to talk about her book in January 2008; more than 300 Trinity students and alumnae attended the standing-room only event.
Black served on Trinity’s Board of Trustees for several years in the 1980s. She was the Commencement speaker at Trinity in 1983, and received an honorary doctor of laws from Trinity in 1989. In her blog about Black’s appointment, Trinity President Patricia McGuire wrote, “She will bring a fresh style and deep commitment to excellence to her new leadership role. The children of New York City are lucky! We are all cheering for Cathie’s success long into the future.”
In a profile of Black in the TRINITY magazine, she reflected on “the influence of the great education she got at Trinity. She says she had great professors and praises President McGuire for ‘an amazing job’ in keeping Trinity ‘relevant.’ But perhaps the best example of the value of a Trinity education is a story she recalls of being interviewed by a Trinity student. ‘She was a transfer student from a large university and I asked her why she left a large co-ed school for a small all-women’s college and she said, Because at Trinity, I get to be the reporter and I get to be here to interview you. And I thought that is such a good example of how Trinity builds confidence and teaches young women to be leaders.’”