Obituary Note for William B. Eerdmans Jr.
William B. Eerdmans Jr., who led the Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company for more than 50 years, died last Friday at the age of 97.
When he was 13, Eerdmans began working at the company, which his father founded in 1911. In 1963, he succeeded his father as president and led the company for decades. During that time, the company broadened its list beyond scholarly titles, publishing books on race, gender and social issues, as well as titles on ecumenical and interfaith dialogue.
"Not for Bill the idea that publishing should cater to the latest trends. The point was to lead, not follow. Bill's command of his field was impressive and his singular publishing achievements were many and great," said Jon Pott, the company's editor-in-chief. "But it was Bill the deeply committed but high-spirited publishing personality who somehow counted for most, in the books and authors he directly pursued and in the heady oxygen he provided for the rest of us. He knew his work, but he also thoroughly relished it, from restaurant idea to finished book, from dizzying first authorial encounter to plunk of the final product on his overburdened desk."
In 2014, Eerdman's wife, Anita Eerdman, took over as president and publisher of the company. She said: "Bill loved joking around, and sometimes you could almost see the wheels turning in his head as he tried to come up with the perfect clever phase for the moment. Yet he also took his work very seriously. Until the last few years, most evenings would find him with an Eerdmans book or a potential Eerdmans book in his lap, even on vacations! He was responsible for some very important books and series that we published over the years, and our longtime interest in religious perspectives on important political and cultural issues grew out of his own personal concern about those issues.”