John Donatich named to fifth term as director of Yale University Press

John Donatich
John Donatich

John Donatich, who has guided Yale University Press’s growth and success as a global publisher for 20 years, has been named to a fifth term as director, announced Yale Provost Scott Strobel and Susan Gibbons, vice provost for collections and scholarly communication.

Yale is very fortunate to have John Donatich leading the Yale University Press,” Strobel said. “Through his thoughtful leadership and strong editorial judgment, the Press has launched a series of innovative initiatives in recent years aimed at broadening our understanding of humanity while also publishing consistently excellent books that further scholarly investigation, stimulate debate on pressing issues of the day, and enhance our collective cultural life.”

Donatich, who has directed the Press since 2003, launched several new initiatives during his most recent term. “Ancient Lives,” a series of biographies of thinkers, kings, queens, conquerors, and politicians from all parts of the ancient world, begins with three books in Fall 2022: “Cleopatra,” by writer and critic Francine Prose; “Crassus,” by British journalist and author Peter Stothard; and “Demetrius,” by classics scholar James Romm.

Black Lives,” set to launch in Spring 2023, is a series of authoritative biographies of individuals whose lives illuminate the breadth and richness of Black experiences. The editorial board includes Jacqueline Goldsby, the Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of African American Studies and of English at Yale; David Blight, Sterling Professor of History at Yale and author of an award-winning biography of Frederick Douglass; and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

Donatich also continued to foster growth areas and key publishing programs and partnerships. For example, the Art and Architecture ePortal provides an innovative digital environment in which to discover and interact with important art and architectural history scholarship. Launched in 2019 and supported by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the A&AePortal is published in partnership with top academic publishers and museums, including the Yale Center for British Art and the Yale University Art Gallery.

The Press’s literature-in-translation series, “The Cecile and Theodore Margellos World Republic of Letters,” brings the finest works of world literature into the English language. The dozens of authors published to date include Patrick Modiano, the French novelist and 2014 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature; Can Xue, the Chinese fiction writer and literary critic; and Serhiy Zhadan, the Ukrainian poet, novelist, and essayist who, after the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, has remained in his hometown of Kharkiv, helping to organize humanitarian aid.

Under Donatich’s leadership, the Press continued its relationship with Yale’s Windham-Campbell Literature Prizes, publishing the annual “Why I Write” lectures delivered by keynote speakers at the prize’s annual literary festival, which to date have included Patti Smith, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Eileen Myles, and Samuel R. Delany. The next book — “Catching the Light,” by poet Joy Harjo — will be published in October 2022.

Yale University Press is responding to the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Early in the pandemic Donatich sought to ease the transition to remote teaching and learning by making ebooks and online resources available at no cost to students through their institutions’ libraries, in recognition of the Press’s mission to inform and educate a diverse audience of readers.

The Press also responded to global spikes in demand for such suddenly crucially relevant books as “Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present,” by Frank M. Snowden, the Andrew Downey Orrick Professor Emeritus of History and History of Medicine at Yale, at a time when Snowden’s expertise was sought by numerous media outlets around the world. Throughout the pandemic, the Press has made financial and operational shifts of every order of magnitude, experiencing robust financial returns.

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