Industry veteran Ted Terry receives honorary degree
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
by Jeff Crosby, Publisher, InterVarsity Press
When it comes to the value of books, bestselling essayist Anne Lamott has it right.
“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth,” Lamott writes in her beloved Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. “What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”
It’s also an apt description of what Noble Marketing Group Founder and Director Ted H. Terry has been fostering for more than five decades.
Recently, to the delight of scores of people in the industry who have worked with him, Terry’s work has been recognized by the awarding of an honorary degree specifically for his role as a sales representative to independent trade bookstores for more than five decades in the ECPA, CBA and ABA segments of the industry.
It’s an honor that all of us in the industry should feel proud of.
Presented on May 7 at the Northwest University commencement exercises in front of more than 4,000 people at Overlake Christian Church in Redmond, Washington, Terry received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
“Ted Terry is a credit to the whole publishing industry, and an example of its best people and highest aims,” Joseph Castleberry, president of Northwest University, said in announcing the honorary doctorate. “I hope that writers, agents, editors, publishers, sales reps, marketers, retailers, and others in the industry will see a part of themselves in Ted’s success, and recognize that the honor he is receiving, in some way, belongs to them also. I think I can speak for all universities in saying we deeply appreciate the way they serve us and their authors and readers.”
Terry, who founded Noble Marketing in 1999, began his career with Thomas Nelson Publishers in 1966, responsible for sales in 13 western states. Three years later, he was hired by ABA publishing giant W.W. Norton as a west coast regional sales director, a role he maintained for 11 years.
In 1979, he and his wife and five children moved to the Seattle area where he began work with the Lee R. Collins and Associates group, which 20 years later Terry purchased and re-branded as the Noble Marketing Group – with the name being suggested by one of his sons because it described the noble work that the group was doing.
“Looking back over fifty years, I would say having a part in presenting books that became New York Times number one bestsellers was very gratifying. Working with authors who were considered to be the brightest of the brightest was an exciting high point of my selling experience,” Terry said. “With this also came significant challenges, however. The discipline of being a road warrior with a very large territory, was only accomplished with a loving wife and family that always expressed respect and appreciation for my chosen profession.”
Service to publishers and book retailers has been a family affair for the Terry’s, both literally and figuratively.
Two of Terry’s sons, David and Jon, followed him into sales representation work with ECPA member publishers including The Baker Publishing Group, InterVarsity Press, Crossway, Kregel, and David C. Cook, among others. Marietta, his wife of 54 years, has her own gift sales representation firm and the couple often travels together with Ted presenting books and Marietta gifts to the Christian retail stores whose owners and buyers think of them as members of their family. A third son, Ted Terry, Jr., worked for Lion Publishing’s U.S. division and for the Dickson’s gift company prior to becoming the manager of the Lakewood Church Bookstore in Houston.
“We usually award an honorary doctorate each year at commencement to call attention to inspiring models of what we are trying to form in our students—integration of faith, learning, and life in service to the Kingdom of God,” Castleberry said. “I always explain to recipients that in my view, the honorary doctorate connotes higher achievement than the PhD. The conferral of the PhD degree certifies that its recipients are intelligent and well-educated, and qualified to make significant contributions in the future. But such degrees cannot guarantee success in the lives and careers of those who earn them. In contrast, the honorary doctorate documents the fact that serious leaders in the academy consider people to have achieved remarkable success in their lives and work.”
At the recent International Christian Retail Show in Cincinnati, a number of publishers weighed in on Terry’s accomplishment.
“At a time when the role of the publisher, the bookseller, and the sales representative — who is the vital link to both — is changing in unprecedented ways, it is only fitting that Northwest University should stop and take time to recognize one of the truly revolutionary men who has shaped, influenced, and in ways, defined that vital relationship of publisher to bookseller for his entire career,” Dave Hill, executive director of sales and marketing at Kregel Publications, said. “Ted Terry has molded and shaped countless bonds within both the CBA and ABA markets in ways that have allowed some of the most influential publishers in both of these worlds to almost seamlessly stream quality and life-changing books and the messages they contain from the authors to the reader with accuracy, intensity, excitement and, yes, even love. Ted knows what it means to be both a lover of the messages he carries to booksellers and a faithful and creative voice for those messages so they reach the ultimate consumer with power and authenticity.”
Dwight Baker, president and CEO of Baker Publishing Group and an original publishing partner with Terry at the time of the Noble Marketing Group’s launch, said: “Operating in a business setting that has frequently surrounded his team with high water, Ted Terry always maintains a firm grip on the rudder. From the moment that Ted developed Noble Marketing Group, we at Baker Publishing Group recognized him as a smart and determined leader. Sixteen years later, I am pleased to report that our mutual commitment to providing fine Christian books is stronger than ever, and it has never wavered during our enduring partnership. We cannot overestimate the blessings that Ted Terry has provided to book readers - and to our many professional companions who serve them.”
Reflecting back on five decades in book publishing and selling, Terry said, “When I entered this industry 50 years ago, my first boss cautioned me about accepting the position. He said to me, ‘If you decide to take this job, you will most likely be doing this until you retire.’ Today, I would encourage anyone with a desire to select a career in publishing – go for it. And in so doing, be prepared for a lifetime of great fulfillment.”