Richard Robinson, longtime Scholastic CEO, dead at 84

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2019 Invision

Richard Robinson poses at the 2019 PEN America Literary Gala at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, in this Tuesday, May 21, 2019, file photo. Robinson, who as the longtime head of Scholastic Inc. presided over such bestsellers as J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels and Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games series along with a wide range of educational materials, reading clubs and book fairs, has died. He was 84. The children's publishing giant announced that Robinson died Saturday, June 5, 2021, but did not immediately provide a cause. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

NEW YORK – Richard Robinson, who as the longtime head of Scholastic Inc. shaped the reading habits of millions of young readers through such bestsellers as J.K. Rowling's “Harry Potter” novels and through a wide range of educational materials, reading clubs and book fairs, has died. He was 84.

The children's publishing giant announced that Robinson died Saturday, but did not immediately provide a cause. He had been in excellent health, according to the publisher.

“We are deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Dick Robinson," Scholastic's board of directors said in a statement. "Dick was a true visionary in the world of children’s books and an unrelenting advocate for children’s literacy and education with a remarkable passion his entire life.”

Scholastic is the world's largest publisher of children's books and has long said it distributes 1 out of every 3 children's book in the U.S. The publicly traded company's estimated net worth is around $1.2 billion, down from over $1.6 billion in 2016 but well above a low of under $800 million during last year’s pandemic.

Besides the “Potter” books, Scholastic also publishes such popular series as Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games,” Dav Pilkey’s “Captain Underpants” and Norman Bridwell’s “Clifford the Big Red Dog.” Scholastic is otherwise a classroom fixture through its clubs, newsletters and other programs, including a partnership with novelist James Patterson. Participants in Scholastic's annual Art & Writing Awards for students have included Robert Redford, Stephen King and Lena Dunham.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden tweeted Sunday that “Robinson was a giant and a legend in children’s literature” and cited his “lasting legacy” as a supporter of libraries and reading.

Robinson, a Pittsburgh native and graduate of Harvard College, was the son of Maurice R. Robinson, who founded Scholastic as a classroom magazine in 1920. The younger Robinson worked as a teacher and bricklayer, among other jobs, before joining Scholastic in the mid-1960s. He was named president of in 1974, CEO in 1975 and board chair in 1982.

Robinson’s time at Scholastic was marked by global expansion, by financial ups and downs, even with the historic success of “Harry Potter," and occasional battles with censors who objected to books like “Potter,” “Captain Underpants” and Alex Gino’s “George” as inappropriate for younger readers. Scholastic books often were in the annual list of “challenged books” that is compiled by the American Library Association.