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Gurley Brown Professorship

Helen Gurley Brown Professorship

The Helen Gurley Brown Chair was established by the Hearst Corporation to honor the iconic editor of Cosmopolitan magazine.

Brown was editor of Cosmopolitan from 1965 to 1997. She elevated the magazine in both circulation and advertising revenue, shaping it into an international brand. When Brown became editor-in-chief, shortly after publication of her 1962 bestseller "Sex and the Single Girl," Cosmopolitan needed revitalizing. At the time of her death in 2012, Cosmopolitan was the top-selling young women’s magazine in the world, with 64 international editions published in 35 languages and distributed in more than 100 countries.

While at the helm of Cosmopolitan, Brown became one of the country’s most recognizable magazine editors. She was a frequent guest on "The Tonight Show" and had a regular segment on "Good Morning America." When the Helen Gurley Brown Chair was established in 1985, Frank A. Bennack, Jr., president and chief executive officer of the Hearst Corp., was quoted in an Associated Press article as saying, ''Because of the innovative role Helen Gurley Brown has had in contemporary magazine journalism, it seemed to us at Hearst particularly appropriate that a professorship in her honor be established at Medill, which is a leader in teaching magazine journalism.”

In addition to "Sex and the Single Girl," Brown was author of 10 other books and was the recipient of numerous career achievement awards including the Henry Johnson Fisher Award from the Magazine Publishers of America and the Hall of Fame award from the American Society of Magazine Editors. She was also in the Publisher’s Hall of Fame.

“Helen Gurley Brown epitomizes the sort of audience-focused, entrepreneurial magazine editor that we encourage our students to be. In the early 1960s, she was spot-on in her vision of a hole in the magazine marketplace begging to be filled by a publication that empowered young women to think differently about their lives, careers and sexuality,” Whitaker said. “No matter what you may think of that vision, there is no doubt that she captured the fancy of young women. And Cosmopolitan -- which is consistently among the top-selling magazines on college campuses -- continues to capture the fancy of young women more than four decades later.”

Abe Peck held the chair from 2006-2008, and David Abrahamson held it from 2002 to 2005. Charles Whitaker held it from 2008-2018. Patti Wolter has been the Helen Gurley Brown Professor since 2018.