Printing Impressions, NAPCO Mourn Loss of Founder Irvin J. Borowsky
PHILADELPHIA—December 1, 2014—Although I knew of his declining short-term memory and health the past few years—which you’d expect for a man blessed to reach his 90th birthday milestone—the passing of North American Publishing Co. (NAPCO) founder and chairman Irvin J. Borowsky, two days before Thanksgiving, was still a hard pill to swallow on a personal level.
His entrepreneurial spirit became apparent at an early age. The child of Polish immigrants, Irvin “Irv” Borowsky grew up in South Philly. He started his first enterprise while still in grade school—printing business cards for local executives and salesmen on a printing press set up in his bedroom. With his little business, he put a number of his eight siblings through college.
In 1948, he founded TV Digest—the first publication to provide television schedules to viewers. He sold it to Daily Racing Form publisher Walter Annenberg in 1953, who changed the name to TV Guide. Thirty-five years later, the TV Guide empire was sold to Rupert Murdoch for $3 billion.
“Mr. B”, as he was reverently and affectionately called by many NAPCO employees, made an indelible impression on me during the years I worked under him as editor-in-chief of his “baby”—Printing Impressions—a trade magazine he founded to serve as the cornerstone of the successful publishing company he would go on to build.
A printer himself, Mr. B launched Printing Impressions back in 1958 into an industry already served by a dozen graphic arts industry publications. The fact that Printing Impressions remains strong, while its competitors have largely disappeared, is a testament to his vision and the continuation of his legacy by his son, Ned Borowsky, NAPCO’s long-time president, more recently named vice chairman.
Eventually, Mr. B would move on from running NAPCO’s day-to-day operations so he could focus on other interests, including philanthropy, religious callings like the American Interfaith Institute and, perhaps most remarkable, founding the National Liberty Museum in 2000.
But, for the first several years I served as editor of Printing Impressions beginning in 1985, my interactions with him and the success of his “baby” occurred on a daily basis. He would read every issue published, from cover to cover, and provide constructive criticism regarding both the editorial content and overall design.
Mr. B was the quintessential entrepreneur. He possessed that unique charismatic quality that could keep a room full of people mesmerized with the words that would so eloquently and effortlessly flow from his mouth. He had an innate sense of timing, a genuine enthusiasm, and the ability to say just the right words, at just the right time.
Coupled with a strong business sense, Mr. B was also an idea man who wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a tactical business decision one minute, allocate the necessary funds and staffing requirements the next minute, and already have a business plan diagrammed in his head by the third minute. And, like all great entrepreneurial leaders, he wasn’t afraid to alter course, when necessary, or even admit failure. In fact, Mr. B viewed failures as positive learning experiences.
He could be stern at times, but Mr. B was also quick to recognize employees for their achievements. He would often use an analogy with me about treating and interacting with employees like you would with your own children. He didn’t mean it in the sense of treating them like children, but more from the vantage of ways to nurture the sense of pride in a job well done, optimism that tomorrow will be a better day, and how to effectively communicate and reach conflict resolution with others.
As NAPCO employees, we were all children of his flock, and Mr. B stood over us like a mindful and watchful shepherd. May he forever rest in peace!