Pacific Coast Business Times will break its own glass ceiling this year when it installs Sage Publications co-founder, chair and owner Sara Miller McCune into our Business Hall of Fame.
With her late husband George, Miller McCune launched Sage Publications in New York in 1965 with what the Sage website describes as the the proceeds from the sale of a used air conditioner.
Fast forward to 2013, and Sage has become a powerhouse of academic and institutional publishing with 1,300 employees, offices in Washington, D.C., London, New Delhi, Kolkata, India and Singapore and annual revenue of more than $250 million. The Thousand Oaks-based company is approaching its 50th anniversary in a couple of years, and Miller McCune said her senior management has been thinking strategically about how to celebrate that milestone.
In Santa Barbara and Ventura counties and beyond, civic leaders have been impressed with her devotion to corporate social responsibility. I was in the audience in Los Angeles in 2003 when Ernst & Young named her an Entrepreneur of the Year. Her talk about giving back was nothing short of inspirational. Later that year she won a national Spirit of Entrepreneurship award from EY.
At an April 10 Corporate Philanthropy Roundtable Program in Santa Barbara, Miller McCune joined Eduardo Cetlin from the Amgen Foundation and Wendy Hawkins from the Intel Foundation for a roundtable discussion on corporate giving.
She described how Sage’s corporate giving has grown “from under $600,000 to more than $8 million a year” in just 10 years. She said the company’s philanthropy combines “financial support plus time plus talent as well” to leverage resources and focus its efforts.
Sage’s core business is publishing scientific and academic journals and it is natural that much of Sage’s philanthropy in the U.S. is aimed at improving education, which Miller McCune described as “one of the top five problems in the world.”
Using volunteerism as a springboard, Sage tries to leverage employee enthusiasm into concrete results. One particularly gratifying accomplishment was helping one of the Conejo Valley high schools launch an international baccalaureate program that transformed it from an also-ran to a magnet for the greater East Ventura County region.
With Sage’s philanthropy heavily focused on education and related activities, McCune said that her personal giving and the McCune Foundation’s funds have become more important to areas such as the performing arts. “We’ve had to do some triage,” she said.
Among major projects, she and fellow Business Hall of Fame recipient Mike Towbes worked together to save and redevelop the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara. Miller McCune also has made major donations to Cottage Hospital’s rebuilding effort.
With Towbes, she has become one of very few go-to leaders when it comes to philanthropic issues.
More recently, she has turned her philanthropic efforts to publishing, where the Miller-McCune Center for Research Media and Public Policy publishes Pacific Standard, a monthly magazine that’s gotten a lot of notice on the East Coast. She has been a supporter of Mission & State, a nonprofit journalism organization that hopes to provide in-depth reporting to the South Coast. The Business Times is eager to help advance that effort.
As a media company owner on a much smaller scale, I really look up to Miller McCune, who has found that unique combination of toughness, class and charm that it takes to operate in today’s hyper-competitive media environment.
In picking our first woman to join the Business Hall of Fame, I certainly can’t think of a better candidate than Sara Miller McCune. She will join Towbes, retired San Luis Obispo County banker Carrol Pruett, Oracle Chairman Jeff Henley, Jordano’s President Pete Jordano, labor and workplace pioneer Hank Lacayo, the late Martin V. Smith and the late Jack Gilbert in the Hall of Fame, which was launched in 2010 on the 10th anniversary of the Business Times.
Our 101 One Hundred & Business Hall of Fame reception will be held at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore in Santa Barbara on the evening of Tuesday, May 14. For more information, contact Jennifer Hemmy at [email protected]s.com or (805) 560-6950 ext. 228, or check out our website at www.pacbiztimes.com.
• Contact Editor Henry Dubroff at [email protected][EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an updated and expanded version, written for the April 12, 2013 print edition, of an online article that was first published on April 10].