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Fun with a Purpose: How Highlights Magazine Celebrated its 60th Anniversary

November 11, 2019
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1946 Inaugural Cover
© Highlights Magazine

It all began in a two-room office over a car dealership in 1946. After decades as teachers, lecturers, and nationally recognized leaders in education and child development, Garry Cleveland Myers and his wife Caroline created Highlights, a monthly magazine for children ages 6 to 12. It reached 20,000 children, mainly through door-to-door sales.

Fast forward 60 years and three generations of the Myers family later, Highlights partnered with the United States Postal Service to deliver the one-billionth copy of Highlights magazine to a young subscriber in Dallas, Texas. The girl and her family were presented with the one-billionth copy during a special party celebrating the 60th anniversary of Highlights magazine attended by other children from the Dallas area.

"One-billion copies is a big number. To put such a large number into perspective, I think about a United States Postal Service letter carrier placing a copy of Highlights magazine into a family's mailbox," said Kent S. Johnson, CEO of Highlights for Children, Inc. and great-grandson of the Founders. "I imagine a child coming to that mailbox and finding a copy of Highlights for Children with his or her name printed on the label. I think of the excitement that child experiences seeing what's inside that particular issue. I think about the child developing a love of reading and, we hope, a lasting love of learning through our stories and articles. Now hold that image of a single child in your mind and multiply that one child's experience by one billion. That is why we do what we do."

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The one-billionth copy of Highlights magazine was delivered to a young subscriber in Dallas, TX, on August 1, 2006. Present: Kent S. Johnson, CEO of Highlights for Children, Inc., and great-grandson of the Founders; and Christine French Cully, Highlights Editor in Chief. The child’s postal carrier, Richard Rurrett, who celebrated his 20th year of service, and Timothy Teamann, a 26-year veteran of the United States Postal Service, deliver the special copy of Highlights to the family. (Courtesy of Smithsonian National Postal Museum)

This meaningful milestone —the delivery of the one-billionth copy of Highlights magazine —also celebrated the 60-year partnership Highlights for Children has had with the United States Postal Service.

"While we marked this significant milestone in our company's history, we also celebrated the efforts of hundreds of thousands of letter carriers and other postal employees who work to deliver two million copies of Highlights magazine each month to children, families, schools, libraries, and doctors' and dentists' offices nationwide, and the letter carriers' delivery of 30,000 letters, drawings, and poems written by children back to us," said Kent.

From the beginning, Highlights has invited children to contribute to the magazine by submitting their own poems and drawings, questions to the editors, riddles, and jokes. Highlights readers consider the magazine as a personal friend, and children send the editors more than 30,000 letters a year. And every child has received a letter from Highlights in response.

A founding principle of Highlights for Children is the belief that children are the world's most important people. This belief continues to drive the company and is the underlying principle of a family of "Fun with a Purpose" products.

“As we celebrated both milestones, we emphasized the way each copy of the magazine brought positive values and Fun with a Purpose to individual children and families over the years,” shared Kent. “We reflected on just how much impact came from the ‘Dream Child’ of our company founders. In addition to the USPS, we celebrated with our printing partners, our employees and group of customers.”

"What has made Highlights popular over so many generations is our steadfast commitment to helping children become their best selves and the positive role our magazine and other products can play in a child's development," said Kent. "We've achieved our first 60-year milestone by strictly adhering to an enduring philosophy and set of values. All that we do — and will do over the next 60 years — will focus on helping children in their development of creativity, sensitivity, literacy, and ability to think and reason."

Highlighting Our Work Together

To help commemorate FBCG’s 25th milestone, we asked Kent Johnson, Highlights 4th generation CEO, to share a few memories of our work together.

“I sometimes say that I did everything I could in my career to not join the family business. And I failed,” joked Kent. “One of the first people to push me to step up and contribute to our family and business was Craig Aronoff.  Early on, Craig helped us establish our family governance, and over time I got pulled in, first to family leadership, then to company governance, and finally, about 10 years after Craig’s initial encouragement, I joined the company as an employee.”

An important accomplishment was transforming the governance structures for both the family and the business. “As the pace of change in the world has increased, we have enhanced our Board of Directors processes and composition and evolved our Family Governance systems. With help from FBCG consultants, we shrunk our Board, streamlined our board process, and moved to majority independent directors. On the family side, we enhanced our family bylaws with a focus on more efficient decision making and ongoing education for the future.”

Fun fact: Goofus and Gallant made an appearance in our book Family Business Ownership: How to be an Effective Shareholder by Craig Aronoff and John Ward published in 2002. We also included the cartoon in our FBCG history book for future generations of advisors to enjoy!

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