Helen Gurley Brown's $30 Million Gift to Stanford and Columbia
The news that longtime Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown has established the David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation at the Columbia Journalism School and the Stanford School of Engineering brought back a flood of wonderful memories for me and for ThirdAge editor-in-chief Myrna Blyth. I was privileged to be Helen's features editor in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and Myrna contributed to Cosmo during the HGB era.
"I wrote for Cosmopolitan in its days when Helen was the editor and she was truly a great editor," Myrna says. "And, yes, she wrote about sex for women in a way nobody had before but she also really produced a magazine that was far more serious and substantive than most magazines for women now are. This gift is a wonderful and appropriate legacy."
I wholeheartedly agree. I learned a great deal from Helen not only about the art and craft of writing but also about what it takes to create a great magazine and be an effective boss. She used to write personal notes, always on pink paper, to each of use when she had some praise for our work. She also wrote notes when she wanted revisions, but she knew exactly how to phrase her corrections so that we were eager to do her bidding rather than feeling wounded. I've saved a packet of those pink paper notes from the inimitable HGB and I refer to them occasionally even now when I need some encouragement about my ability to do this work. One of them says: "Sondra: That's such a darling blurb on INSURANCE . . . not a frisky subject but you made me want to read the article. H." Another one says "Pet Patter. Sondra, could we do a new lead-in? We never want to tell somebody that something is 'irresistibly zany' – we might disappoint her. It's like telling her that something is going to be hilarious or she'll go to pieces or whatever. Everything after the last 6 words is okay. H."