Harry Urban, my former boss, mentor and friend, will depart Vance Publishing Corp. sometime this summer, capping a career spanning 28 years that saw him grow from associate editor of Logging Management to senior vice president of Vance.
It has been my great pleasure to have worked with Harry for 23 of his Vance years. He was associate publisher and editor of Wood & Wood Products when he hired me as an associate editor in June of 1985. Harry guided me through my formative years of W&WP and taught me a lot about how to cover the industrial woodworking industry. He constantly reminded me that “woodworking is not rocket science,” a phrase I have repeated to many a rookie editor.
While Harry never could convince me to take up fishing or become a hockey fan, his passion for staying fit was inspirational to me, though I could never come close to measuring up to his ability to run marathons or compete in triathlons.
In every essence, Harry is a leader. During his tenure as head of the Industrial Division, he created a dynamic sense of teamwork that permeated throughout the entire staff. He also spearheaded several major product initiatives that created personal growth opportunities for many who worked for him.
I don’t think I am speaking out of turn to say that one of the major reasons the Industrial Division boasts six 20-plus-year veterans — Laurel Didier, Pete Page, Karen Koenig, Helen Kuhl, Renee Stritar and myself — is that we enjoyed working for Harry. He laid down the law when he had to, but was usually open to weighing dissenting opinions to formulate the best possible plan of action.
Three Defining Moments
Harry had a knack for keeping things in even-keel perspective. Whenever I received a complaint from a particularly irate advertiser or reader, Harry would invariably say, “Don’t let it be a defining moment.”
Harry enjoyed more than a few positive defining moments during his long tenure at Vance, many of which are enumerated on page 17 of this issue. Rather than repeat them here, I will expand on two of them and add a third that I consider to be defining moments for the Industrial Division that can largely be credited to Harry.
1. The economy and President George H. Bush’s re-election bid were on shaky ground when Harry led the launch of Custom Woodworking Business in 1991. He had the vision to realize that we could better serve readers and advertisers alike by having W&WP cater to high-volume wood products plants and devoting CWB to the strong niche of custom shops that make up the base of the industry’s pyramid. The results speak for themselves. CWB is in its 17th year of existence and is widely recognized as a market leader.
2. W&WP celebrated its 100th year anniversary with gusto by publishing a commemorative Centennial edition. The 422-page bonus issue reflected on the intertwining histories of the magazine and the industry it serves. It was both a critical and financial success and remains the single-most satisfying project of my career. Harry was not only the nudge of encouragement behind the Centennial issue, he was the one who shaped its content and hired several outstanding contributing writers who helped earn the publication an honorable mention in the prestigious Jesse H. Neal Awards, considered the Pulitzer Prize of trade publications.
3. The Internet was not yet the commercial fixture it is today when Harry christened the launch of Industrial Strength Woodworking — iswonline.com — in the fall of 1996. This was before Vance had its own server and iswonline was one of the woodworking industry’s first portals of news and technical information. Today, the site is visited by tens of thousands of Internet users each month and has spawned several new Web-related properties, including redbookonline.com and the ISW Update e-newsletter.
A Well-Respected Man
In addition to his staff, Harry has the well-earned respect of many woodworking industry manufacturers and suppliers. I cannot recall attending a trade show or major industry event, where one or more customers did not ask, “Where’s Harry?”
He leaves Vance Publishing with a litany of achievements of which to be proud and an even longer list of industry friends. If you would like to join me in sending your well wishes to Harry, you may do so at email@example.com.
Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.