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trailblazer Sara Miller McCune
trailblazer Sara Miller McCune

SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY strikes up a conversation with Sage Global founder Sara Miller McCune

Wikipedia describes her as “a distinguished philanthropist and the co-founder and Chair of SAGE Publications”. But Sara Miller McCune’s portrayal needs some filling up. She belongs to a gallery of select people who have made calculative moves to make the people of this world a thinking lot. The primary weapon she and her late husband George D. McCune chose for it was the power of the printed word. Way back in the 1960s by setting up the book and journal publishing house, Sage.

To make the printed word comprehensible to people even in the remote areas of the world, Miller spends a good chunk of money made from publishing every year to fund projects that boost primary education. She has set up schools in countries like Nigeria and Ethiopia for instance. Miller also supports those willing to pursue higher education – by offering assistance through Miller-McCune fellowships among other initiatives. Besides, she also financially supports grassroots programmes focussing on empowering the economically and politically disenfranchised, particularly in her home area, Santa Barbara and the adjoining Ventura Counties. This, she does, through McCune Foundation, formed in 1990 by her husband.

For social change

In New Delhi recently “on a business and philanthropy trip”, Miller throws some light on the Foundation’s work, “Our priority is to fund projects creating a social or societal change, rather than individual empowerment or development of leadership skills in individuals. Our preference is for programmes in which those involved remain in the community and affect public policy.” One primary mission is to “share with community leaders, funders and public officials the lessons gained from the practical experiences of these funding partnerships and encouraging the healthy exchange of ideas relevant to building healthier and more self-reliant communities.”

With exchange of ideas being high on the agenda, Miller has also focussed on platforms that complement such work. For instance, the Miller McCune journal to provide policy options and solutions for today’s pressing issues. An arm of Miller McCune Center in California, the magazine articles are also posted at Miller-McCune.com, thereby making them accessible to academics and researchers worldwide.

Says a smiling Miller in a feeble tone, “The readers are finding an interest in the magazine and the authors are enjoying it too.” Her modest response to her wide gamut of work, both in the field of publishing and philanthropy, often surfaces in the conversation in the form of a one-line response.

For India, she says, “There is an expansion plan.” That includes getting into the regional market, mostly through translation of their English titles. The publishing house already has 12 to 14 titles in Marathi and seven to eight in Hindi. “We are partnering with local publishers to produce books in languages like Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi and Marathi,” she says. Though initially it looked like the move would kill the market for their books in English, “it turned out to be not quite so.”

Besides, the two fellowships launched last year in memory of Tejeshwar Singh, Sage’s India chapter founder, are in the process of finding their first fellows. “We also have a plan to increase the number of fellowships,” Miller sums up, but not before thanking her employees worldwide “for their devotion and contribution in making what Sage is today”.

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