Stanford permanently closes the Stanford Professional Publishing Course

Twenty years ago, I attended for the first time, a wonderful (and then, a nearly three-week) program at Stanford University called the Stanford Professional Publishing Course. When I first attended (alumni of the program can parachute in for segments of the program, so I’ve been back briefly a few times), there were 200 students, 100 book people and 100 magazine people.

The attendees were typically in their early 30s and had been identified by their employers as a talented young publisher or editor or designer who could benefit by learning about all of their industry, and not just the part of it they were involved in day-to-day. The faculty was stellar — legends of book and magazine publishing. I was in my early 30s when I attended, but I spent long hours hanging out with living legends from book and magazine publishing.

The course was fairly rigorous when I attended — a big case study was involved, as I recall. But my fondest memory of the program was getting to pretend I was a college student again, except with the maturity to know what an incredible opportunity for gaining knowledge I was experiencing — man, youth is wasted on the young.

Without recounting the people I met or the things I first learned about at SPPC, one small example is this: a lot of my early understanding of the potential of the Internet — back before even when AOL was a household word — I learned there by hanging out with Paul Saffo, a longtime member of the program’s faculty.

Today, I learned that Stanford is severing their relationship with the program. A book publishing legend, Martin Levin, a long-time member of the program’s faculty explains the details on his blog.

I can appreciate the efforts that went into reviewing whether or not Stanford should continue its involvement with the program. When I attended, it was part of Stanford’s impressive array of programs it organizes for alumni. I never quite understood that arrangement — very few attendees, if any, were alumni — but I appreciated the level of credibility that added to the program — especially in who the faculty members were.

I’m sure this will be discussed by the hundreds of alumni of the program. Many friendships and professional contacts have been forged through the community of those who have attended.

Like so much else in the book and magazine world, however, change is a part of the natural order of things.