Blair Luke is retiring. For those who know and work with Luke, SI's production director and assistant advertising sales director, his departure signals the end of an era.
Luke has been part of Time Inc. for 40 years, ever since he came out of the Navy at the end of World War II. Born in Salt Lake City and a distant relative of Brigham Young ("which makes me related to just about everybody in Utah," he says), Luke grew up in the East and was a member of the first graduating class at New York City's Queens College. He studied speech, English and foreign languages with the intention of becoming a radio announcer, but Pearl Harbor intervened, and he went to war instead. He was a naval officer, spent four years in uniform, much of the time in the Pacific, and, like so many others, returned to civilian life looking for a job. He took a demotion from Navy lieutenant to office boy to go to work for Time Inc. at $28 a week.
"It was an entry-level job," Luke says. They called it CB/OB—college boy/office boy. You were given six months to locate yourself, to find a place for yourself in the company. If you didn't, you moved on. I was lucky. I got a job in LIFE production."
He stayed with LIFE for 27 years, becoming production director. In 1972 he joined SI. Everyone—clients, sales people, publishers, editors—has strong ideas on where advertising should appear in each issue, but Luke and his staff have the responsibility of positioning it. His sound judgment and credibility helped establish SI's reputation for fairness in that delicate area. He is also a genius at interpreting rate cards, explaining to ad sales people and clients the complex list of prices for ads of various sizes, shapes, colors, positions and frequencies of appearance, helping them to develop ad-placement variations and discount possiblities. (It follows that he is an excellent bridge player.)
Luke's understanding of the magazine business is remarkable, although he passes it off by saying, "When you're around for 40 years, you get a sense of what's going to work and what isn't." Sometimes a very good sense. When members of our sales force were asked to name the single most important competitive edge they had, several answered, "Blair Luke."
Now he's retiring to his home in Hillsdale, N.J., and so is his wife, Donna, from her job in the advertising department of Mercedes-Benz. We'll sorely miss Luke around here, both for the breadth of his knowledge and the clarity of his judgment. But even more for the warmth and friendliness of his nature.