Schroeder, who served as a congresswoman from Colorado for 24 years before heading the Association of American Publishers from 1997 to 2009, died March 13. Below, Tina Jordan, a former AAP v-p, and John Sargent, the former Macmillan CEO and a longtime AAP board member, share memories of her.
Once one has been in business for a while, they’re often asked, What are some of your cherished career moments? Mine is that a woman who was a presidential hopeful chose me to be her deputy. A woman who led with conviction and communicated with compassion.
Pat also had the sharpest wit of anyone I’ve met, which only comes with a sharp mind. Women around the world heralded her statement, “I have a brain, and a uterus, and use both.” At the AAP, she took on this Goliath called Google in a copyright lawsuit when they tried to steal content through the back door of libraries under the facade of “fair use.”
Her reply on behalf of publishers? No! The historic lawsuit lasted longer than anyone would have imagined, and kept Pat heading AAP longer than she probably expected. But it was lucky for me, as it gave me the opportunity to work alongside her in her final years at the helm.
Before I came to the AAP, I worked at BookExpo America and put her as moderator smack in the middle of what turned out to be a verbal mudslinging at BookExpo 2003 between Al Franken and Bill O’Reilly. It was one of the most epic author events in BEA history, and who else but Pat who could play referee between those two? I apologized after, and in my job interview with her two years later, I brought that referee’s whistle she had asked for.
Pat hired me when I was still in chemotherapy for breast cancer. While I very much wanted to work for her, I felt it only right to tell her I had to be out of the office every third Friday because I had a standing date with an IV. She just chuckled, and smiled and said, “Tina, of course you have to be out! Do what you need to do. Heavens... women get their hair done more often than that!”
That is classic Pat. That’s when I knew... Pat was not just my people but all people.
Pat was always welcoming to everyone she met, no matter their place in the pecking order. She’d give that self-published author a half hour of her time as much as she would any CEO. Thirty minutes. Always. And she always answered every email herself, within 24 hours.
And as much of a force as she was, it wasn’t her style to be a bully. In fact, she’d often sign her correspondence with “Hugs” and a smiley face. That’s how Pat rolled.
During her tenure at AAP, the National Endowment of the Arts published a report titled “Reading at Risk.” But as the brain behind the still-vibrant Get Caught Reading literacy program featuring authors with their favorite books, Pat was way ahead of what any report could tell her. She also launched the Freedom of Expression Award with human rights advocate Jeri Laber on behalf of book publishers, challenging oppressive governments by exercising their freedom of speech through their works and fighting censorship.
My heart hurts from the fact that she is gone. I miss her. I will always miss her. She was more than just a boss. She was my hero. She was our hero.
Pat Schroeder was a remarkable force in Congress and then at AAP. It is so very painful to write about her in the past tense. Pat was a fantastic human being, full of energy and determination. She was always ready for battle, and she was relentless in defending her just causes. For the AAP she was remarkably effective.
I was privileged to see Pat in action on numerous occasions. What struck me most was how she touched so many people. Going into Congress, she greeted the security guard by name. She asked about his kids, and she remembered their ages. She treated the interns at their desks no differently than the senators behind their doors. She was so obviously a hero to all the young women, but she greeted them as friends.
Pat was tough when she needed to be tough, but there was always kindness and humor. Even when things were grim she was funny. At a stressful point in publishing’s yearslong struggle with Google, Pat made us battle campaign ribbons for “the Google Wars.” She wrote strongly worded notes, but they were signed with a smiley face. She would send me emails with no text, just a bunch of goofy cartoons.
Pat got legislation changed for the AAP. She stopped a disastrous bill from reaching the floor for a vote. She spearheaded the agreement on scanning in copyright works with Google. She wrangled us when we needed wrangling and she spoke with one voice for our industry.
I hope everyone will take a moment to think about all she did for us as a nation—and then another moment to think about all she did for the world of books. I miss her already.