Carolyn Kroll Reidy was born May 2, 1949 in Washington, DC, one of four children of Henry and Mildred (Mencke) Kroll.
Carolyn grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland, and after graduating high school was off to Middlebury College. She graduated in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree for a joint major in English and Russian literature, but perhaps more importantly met her future husband, Stephen, while they were both serving as student guards during the campus strikes of 1970. Carolyn later went on to great success in the more buttoned down halls of publishing and media corporations, but she fully earned her “child of the sixties” stripes—demonstrating against the Vietnam War, and attending Woodstock and staying through to the very end on Monday morning.
After Middlebury, it was off to graduate school at Indiana University, where she spent three years working on her PhD, finishing her MA, and all the coursework for her doctorate. She and Stephen married in December 1974, and the young couple then moved to Germany, where Stephen was working for Radio Liberty in Munich, and Carolyn started work on her PhD thesis, “The Reader Writer Relationship in the High Victorian Novel.”
The couple moved to New York, and in 1976, Carolyn was hired by Milly Marmur as an assistant in the subsidiary rights department at Random House. Carolyn always insisted she got the job because of her ability to type more than 100 words a minute, and was always grateful to Milly for helping her break into publishing. At Random House, she also had the good fortune to sit outside Toni Morrison’s office, which served as a huge inspiration and was the beginning of a lasting friendship. From the very first, Carolyn was determined to soak up as much information about every aspect of the publishing industry that she could. Naturally, she was successful, eventually rising to become Publisher of Vintage Books and Associate Publisher of the Random House imprint, while also somehow finding time to finish her dissertation by writing one chapter every year during her vacation. She also worked at William Morrow and was President and Publisher of Avon Books, where one of her claims to fame was having launched the career of Fabio, the exceedingly popular cover model for the publisher’s line of romance novels.
Carolyn joined Simon & Schuster in 1992 as President of the Trade Division, was named President of the Adult Publishing Group in 2001, and became President and CEO of Simon & Schuster in 2008. Under her leadership, Simon & Schuster took an industry-leading position in bringing its works to consumers using new digital formats and distribution capabilities, including eBooks and digital audio. Reidy led the company’s expansion into new territories, with the founding in 2011 of Simon & Schuster India. She also made numerous strategic moves, through both acquisition and organic growth, that added new imprints to Simon & Schuster’s portfolio and ensured its presence in every segment of the publishing marketplace.
During Carolyn’s time with Simon & Schuster, the company published many acclaimed works, including books by Pulitzer Prize winners David W. Blight, Anthony Doerr, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Frank McCourt, David McCullough, and Siddhartha Mukherjee; world figures, celebrities, newsmakers, and journalists including Jimmy Carter, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Dick Cheney, Jaycee Dugard, Walter Isaacson, Phil Knight, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Woodward; bestselling novelists Mary Higgins Clark, Vince Flynn, Stephen King, Ruth Ware, and Jennifer Weiner; works of practical advice from authorities including Ray Dalio, Angela Duckworth, Dr. Michael F. Roizen, and Dr. Mehmet C. Oz, and Rhonda Byrne’s worldwide multi-million copy bestseller The Secret; and bestselling children’s and teen authors including Cassandra Clare, Jason Reynolds, Shannon Messenger, Rachel Renée Russell, and Neal Shusterman.
Carolyn was named “Person of the Year” by Publishers Weekly in 2017. Other honors included being named one of “The 50 Women to Watch,” by The Wall Street Journal in 2007, and she was also a recipient of the Matrix Award from the New York Women in Communications. She gave generously of her time to industry and philanthropic organizations, serving for many years on the Boards of the Association of American Publishers, Literacy Partners, the National Book Foundation, and the Names Project. In recent years, she devoted much of her philanthropic energy and enthusiasm to Worldreader, helping with both fundraising and strategy.
Carolyn leaves behind a rich legacy of great books published for the readers of the world, an enviable record of success as a publisher and chief executive, and countless contributions made for the greater good of the publishing community. But most of all, she leaves behind innumerable family members, friends, and colleagues who had the joy of sharing in her warmth, wisdom, guidance, friendship, enthusiasm, inspiration, mentoring, leadership, and indefatigable determination to help all the rest of us be our very best.