Three months after Nicholas Greene graduated from the Columbia Publishing Course in 2010, he was without a full-time job, interning, and growing more anxious with each passing week unemployed in New York City. Then, he received an e-mail from the director of the course, Lindy Hess, about a potential lead.
"She said, 'I know this might not be exactly what you're looking for, but Jon Karp is hiring an assistant,'" said Greene. He got the job, and two-and-a-half years later, he's still happily working as an associate editor under Karp, president and publisher of the Simon & Schuster flagship imprint.
"It was sort of like a personality match, more than a topical match," said Greene. "She's very much the matchmaker. It was sort of like she could x-ray you, in a way."
Hess passed away at the age of 63 on Saturday, and in the wake of her death young publishing professionals across the industry are reflecting on the way Hess launched and shaped their careers. Her role as a literary matchmaker runs high in the many anecdotes about the course's director.
"Lindy really was the ultimate matchmaker," said Ursula Cary, a senior editor at Rodale who graduated from CPC in 2003. "She got me immediately---I loved literature, but I didn't feel like I wanted to be a literary editor. I had a strong commercial instinct. She encouraged me to pursue that. With her help I was hired at Broadway even before CPC was finished."
The course was founded in 1947 at Radcliffe College to train recent graduates, and rose to prominence in the publishing industry with Hess at the helm over the past 25 years. CPC moved from Cambridge to the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in New York in 2001, and though she maintained a home in Massachusetts, Hess, a Manhattan native, was ever the New Yorker.
"I once power walked with her to a restaurant when she said that everyone else was too slow," said Kaela Myers, a 2010 CPC graduate and associate editor at Random House, recalling that Hess remarked that the stragglers "clearly don't live in the city." Hess's expansive network within her hometown's publishing scene and her intuition about each student's strengths and weaknesses resulted in countless job placements and some very storied careers.
"I can honestly say that I wouldn't have my job if it weren't for Lindy Hess," added Myers. "And her willingness to go to bat for me."