Richard Robinson, CEO of Scholastic, dead at 84

Jun 19, 2021

Posted by: Amanda Kirk

Books, News, Publishers, Scholastic

Most American readers of the Harry Potter series came to know the story when it was published in the United States by Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher of children’s books. Published as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by Bloomsbury in the UK, the title of the first book in the series was altered to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by its editor at Scholastic, Arthur Levine, the latter title deemed more palatable to American children. This was a controversial move that, in retrospect, may not have been necessary to secure the book’s success.

Whatever your opinion on the title change (and there have been some heated debates on Leaky fora over the decades), the book’s publication by Scholastic ensured the publisher a warm regard in the hearts of Potter fans. So it is with sadness that we share the news that Scholastic’s longtime CEO, Richard Robinson, who led the company when the Potter series was published, as well as when it published other popular series such as The Hunger Games, died suddenly on June 5, 2021, at age 84. According to his family, the cause of death is unclear but may have been a stroke or heart attack. He was vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard and was out for a walk when he expired. He is survived by two sons. Our condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.

Robinson’s father founded Scholastic as a magazine for school classrooms in 1920. After attending Harvard College, the University of Cambridge in England, and Columbia University, and working as, among other things, a bricklayer and a teacher, Richard Robinson joined his father’s company in the 1960s. He has been CEO since 1975. In recent years, he received an honorary National Book Award and a citation from PEN America for his efforts to uphold free expression. Clifford the Big Red Dog, Captain Underpants, and the Goosebumps series are also among Scholastic’s publications. In 2016, Scholastic immediately withdrew a book about George Washington’s slaves baking him a birthday cake when it was pointed out that the depiction of slavery in the book was inaccurately and inappropriately positive.

Scholastic underwent many changes during Robinson’s tenure, including adapting to the digital age and expanding globally. The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for teens, established in 1923, have identified the early promise of many well-known artists and writers. If you are a teen artist or writer, perhaps you could be next? Read more about entering here.

The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.