In Memoriam: Longtime Directors & Boards Editor Jim Kristie

By April Hall

Jim Kristie, former editor of Directors & Boards, passed away April 8.

Kristie joined the magazine in 1981, just five years after its founding when the magazine’s offices moved to Philadelphia. He remained editor, eventually adding the title of associate publisher, for 35 years. He retired in 2017.

“As for how I lasted this long? I guess the simple answer is that I never found anything else I wanted to do more,” Kristie told Talking Biz News a few months before his retirement. “I always felt I had one of the best jobs in journalism. And I have always had great ownership of the journal with Milt Rock and his son Bob Rock.”

The following is publisher Bob Rock’s letter from Directors & Boards' First Quarter 2017 issue, Kristie’s last at the helm:

‘Hey Jim . . . Yo Bob” is how I have begun many days at work. With these greetings, Jim Kristie and I kicked off the day, which was often punctuated with several impromptu conversations about Directors & Boards as well as a wide range of topics including politics, sports and philosophy.

There are few people who know me as well, and I in turn know few people as well as I know Jim. He is a great colleague and a dear friend. As he heads off to his retirement, I feel pride for what Jim has built for us, gratitude for what he has given me and loss for what he takes with him. All of us at the company will miss his encyclopedic knowledge, journalistic talent and editorial skill. Most of all, we will miss his warm smile, kind heart and cheery disposition.

This issue (Q1 2017) of Directors & Boards is his last. Five years after its 1976 inaugural edition, Jim came to D&B, bringing a discerning eye and a perceptive ear. In the early days, Jim worked closely with my father, Milt Rock, and together they developed the insightful, instructive, and inspirational voice of the journal. A couple of weeks ago the three of us had lunch together, and Milt congratulated Jim for “sparking the professionalization of the field” and “stimulating a continuing boardroom dialogue” on the critical issues facing the governance of American corporations.

For 35 years Jim has provided unparalleled thought leadership in corporate governance, a field he helped to pioneer and professionalize. With wisdom and wit, Jim has educated and inspired several generations of public company directors, chairmen, CEOs, other senior management and board advisors. Now in his 36th year as editor of D&B, Jim is one of the longest-tenured editors in the publishing industry. Unless you are willing to continuously keep abreast and stay relevant, you don’t get to hang around as the editor of a highly impactful journal, particularly one in a high-profile field such as corporate governance. Jim stayed abreast and remained relevant for three and a half decades!

Upon the announcement of Jim’s retirement, he and I received many letters noting and often bemoaning his departure. All of them praised Jim for his editorial skills, insights, and perspectives. One recently retired chairman mentioned Jim’s “knack for seeing around corners,” referring to his abilities to anticipate issues and challenges coming to the fore. Another wrote: “You are a legend. Thanks for your many contributions over four decades to improve corporate governance.” A leading top management consultant spoke of Jim’s “uncanny capability to stay fresh,’’ which made D&B “the best of the breed.” And a leading scholar in corporate governance wrote: “You have masterminded the great content of the definitive magazine in the field, read and appreciated by all.”

Perhaps my favorite letter, because it echoes my sentiments, instructed me “not to let him retire!” Though I have considered bolting him to his chair, I thought it best to honor Jim’s desire to depart to share and enjoy with his wife Jean the intellectual and cultural life of Center City Philadelphia, where they recently moved.

Working alongside Jim has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional life. I often have sought out his advice, which he has shared freely. I will miss his wisdom, support and friendship. And each morning when I think of saying “Hey Jim,” I will miss his “Yo Bob.”

This post will be updated once memorial arrangements are announced.

Published date: April 8, 2021