Back from Lincoln Center
Not a Nerd
Back from Lincoln Center
Joe McKaughan’s ambition took him from Griffin, Ga., to Georgia Tech to New York City. Now it has brought him back home.
McKaughan, IM 64, is the publicist for the Atlanta Symphony, the Atlanta Opera, the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra, Doc Severinsen and his Tonight Show Big Band and the Main Street Players, a Griffin theater troupe.
He returned to his hometown in October 2000 after spending 33 years working in public relations for the arts in New York, including 22 years as vice president of public affairs at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, home of the Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, New York City Opera, New York City Ballet and The Julliard School.
"Tech was a great training ground for life and your thought processes," McKaughan said. "It definitely kept you on track and gave you what you needed to see your way through your courses and your schooling and come out better for it. In addition to training you for a job, Georgia Tech was good at training you for life.
"Every day I use skills I learned at Georgia Tech. I took one public relations course with (Phil) Adler and that one course put public relations into a framework a layperson could understand. I built my career on that."
After graduating in spring 1964, McKaughan took a summer job as a stagehand with Theater Under the Stars at Chastain Park.
At the end of the summer, McKaughan was hired to manage public relations for Atlanta’s Musical Theater, a job he kept for two years. He managed public relations for Theater Atlanta for another two years and then became public relations director for the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in New York. In 1970, McKaughan began working in public affairs for Lincoln Center in New York City.
Seven years later, McKaughan was made vice president of public affairs for Lincoln Center.
"It was amazing. I handled the media for so many big companies and productions," he said. "In the early 1980s, the Bolshoi Ballet came to Lincoln Center. That was the middle of the Cold War, there had been a bomb threat in the Lincoln Center Plaza and we had to evacuate everyone. We couldn’t find a spokesperson from the Bolshoi, so I had to handle the questions from the media. Someone asked me if there was anything in the program that would have incited a bomb threat. I told them the company was dancing ‘Boléro,’ so I didn’t think so."
In 1992, he left Lincoln Center to establish his own public affairs company. On his own, McKaughan has worked with the American-Russian Youth Orchestra, Bournemouth Orchestra of England, renowned pianist Ruth Laredo and many others. He said his greatest satisfaction has come in working with groups who may not be well known, but fill a need in the arts community.
McKaughan said one of his favorite clients is Doc Severinsen, bandleader for "The Tonight Show" when Johnny Carson was host. When Carson retired from the show, Severinsen and his band boarded a bus and began touring the country. "He’s very down to earth," McKaughan said of the musician.
Throughout his career, McKaughan maintained ties to Georgia through his parents and friends in Griffin and Atlanta. "I liked the sensibility of Georgia and the South. I knew I was coming back here someday. There is a sense of community and family here that is very profound."
Now McKaughan fields questions from friends, both Northern and Southern, about his return to Griffin.
"Up there the interesting question was, ‘You’re going back where?’ The people in Griffin ask, ‘Do you miss New York?’ The answer to that question is that I miss the restaurants," he said. "But I’m totally thrilled to be home."
Wendy Richardson, IE 88, said she isn’t a nerd, but she is president of Nerdy Books and co-author of its Just the tips, man series of software tip books.
"There are five nerdy guys and one athletic girl who carry you through the books. I’m actually the voice behind the nerdy comments," Richardson said.
Richardson certainly doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of a computer geek. Her photo on nerdybooks.com shows a smiling beauty. But she isn’t just another pretty face.
"This kind of dispels the rumor that you have to be a nerdy guy to know and write about software — and to graduate from Georgia Tech," she said.
She worked in engineering after graduating from Tech, then launched her own software training company, Software School.
Last year, the offshoot Nerdy Books released its first four tip books, teaching Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Windows Me. Four more are on the way to help computer users master Windows 2000, Internet and Outlook, Office XP, Photoshop and CorelDraw.
In addition to co-authoring the books and running two companies, Richardson juggles the responsibilities of motherhood. She and her husband, Will, a high school writing teacher, have two children, ages 2 and 4.
Many of the reviews are downright glowing. Syndicated columnist Bob Schwabach said, "We loved this book! The tips are far more useful on a practical level than going through any of the huge reference books for Word. Cheaper too." Netsurfer Books called the series "one of the most practical and informative little software aids we’ve seen."