Sara Miller McCune

An open book.
November 8, 2006 9:33 AM

"My priorities always include my family, my work and my community, and those are equally important to me."
Sara Miller McCune, News-Press Lifetime Achievement Award recipient
When Sara Miller McCune first learned she would be receiving a News-Press Lifetime Achievement Award, her first thought was of those who came before her.

"I was very flattered, because I know that the previous winners gather together and vote on who they think should receive the award," she said.

Ms. Miller McCune, who will be honored along with the other winners, Morris Jurkowitz and William (Tom) Thomas on Saturday at the Four Seasons Biltmore Resort, spoke to the News-Press after having just returned from a transatlantic trip -- her travels taking her to Africa for philanthropic initiatives and to London on business for her company, Sage Publications.

The itinerary is fitting, as both philanthropy and publishing are recognizable legacies of this 14-year South Coast resident. She has received numerous awards for her generosity, including the 1998 Philanthropist of the Year Award for Santa Barbara County, and the McCune Foundation has awarded grants to community programs throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

Ms. Miller McCune grew up in New York City, finding her way into the publishing industry soon after graduating from Queens College of the City University of New York. "I managed to fall in love with publishing. . . . I had always had an interest in books, reading, writing and public affairs, so it seemed natural."

She founded Sage Publications in 1965, and moved to California the year after. The Thousand Oaks-based company is now a leading international publisher of journals, books, references and electronic media, mainly for academic and professional markets.

Ms. Miller McCune is quick to credit Sage's continued success to the people she works with. The company now has nearly 600 employees around the globe, and publishes more than 300 academic journals a year.

"It's not a bad record for just over 40 years," she said.

Ms. Miller McCune and her husband, George D. McCune, started the McCune Foundation together in 1990, shortly before his death that year. She moved to Santa Barbara in 1992 to be closer to friends and now lives in Montecito.

In recent years, Ms. Miller McCune has worked with the McCune Foundation to target local communities. Recent grant recipients include the PUEBLO Education Fund, the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation and Santa Ynez Valley's People Helping People.

"Before five years ago, we weren't as focused," she explained, adding that the regional specificity has made the foundation's giving more effective.

When she's not helping support social causes, Ms. Miller McCune has been making a mark in education and the arts. She has served as a trustee for Fielding Graduate University and is a trustee of the UCSB Foundation. She is also on the board of directors for the Santa Barbara Center for Performing Arts, holding the position of chief financial officer, and has been involved in the recent restoration of the Granada Theatre.

Although she values the recognition and awards she has received, Ms. Miller McCune said that no single accomplishment overshadows the rest.

"My priorities always include my family, my work and my community, and those are equally important to me. That's why I do what I do when I do it."