By Jann Holland
Vice President, Marketing & Communications
Drury’s class of 1946 didn’t know they were graduating with an individual who later would be in touch with millions of readers in her jobs as executive editor of Vogue and editor-in-chief of House & Garden magazines. In 1946, with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Drury College, Mary Jane Pool joined a group of college friends for a gala graduation trip to New York City.
Pool had participated in the Prix de Paris competition Vogue sponsored for college seniors. Although she didn’t win a prize, when she visited the Vogue offices she was offered a job in the art department filing photographs. She would move into the merchandising and promotion departments, and in 1968, was executive editor when she was asked to take the editorship of House & Garden—a Condé Nast publication with over a million subscribers.
House & Garden would open many doors. Pool was invited to the People’s Republic of China to report on their arts and crafts for sale in the United States. Her visit was before diplomatic relations with the U.S. were normalized in 1979. In Iran, she flew in an open army helicopter to help David Massey photograph the tent city built for Iran’s 2,000-year celebration. The magazine’s report would feature the innovative architecture and crafts movement instigated by Empress Farah Diba.
In 1981, after 35 years with Condé Nast, Pool retired from her magazine life. She became a consultant to The Baker Furniture Company, and began to write and design books. Among them: The Gardens of Venice and The Gardens of Florence published by Rizzoli and Gardens in the City—New York in Bloom published by Abrams, and she co-authored with Linn Howard a series of books on the Angel Tree at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, published by Knopf and Abrams.
Pool has served on several boards—Drury University, The Decorative Arts Trust and The Isabel O’Neil Foundation. She has received a number of honors, including the Edith Wharton Women of Achievement Award. In 2002, Drury awarded her an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.
We recently had the opportunity to talk with Pool
about her career in the publishing industry.
Share one of your favorite memories from your time as an undergraduate at Drury.
My favorite painting classes were outside on the campus.
Tell us about your submission to the Prix de Paris competition that helped launch your career.
There was a poster announcing Vogue’s Prix de Paris competition on the bulletin board in Burnham Hall. I was intrigued and entered. Although I didn’t win a prize, my efforts led to a job filing photographs in the Vogue art department.
How was the jump from fashion at Vogue to home design and lifestyle at House & Garden?
Condé Nast management thought I could do the job. And I did, with their help.
So, you danced with Fred Astaire at the White House?
Yes, I danced with Fred Astaire at the White House. He was my dinner partner at a State dinner given by President and Mrs. Ford for the Shah and Empress of Iran.
When asked for interior decorating advice, you have been known to say, “Begin collecting.” What did you first collect and why?
I began collecting Early American furniture because I liked the simplicity. Later, after studying the painted finishes of the Renaissance with artist Isabel O’Neil and a couple of trips to Venice, I started my collection of painted Italian furniture.
What is your favorite book?
My current favorite books are Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside by Andrea di Robilant, and One Man’s Folly—The Exceptional Houses of Furlow Gatewood by Julia Reed.
What suggestions do you have for Drury Magazine?
I look forward to my copies of Drury Magazine. My advice is to keep publishing.
You’re packing for a summer trip to Italy. What are the three items that you can’t travel without?
On all trips I take plenty of sunscreen, a warm cardigan sweater and lots of scarves.
What advice do you have for Drury students who would like to pursue a career in fashion journalism?
Get a well-rounded liberal arts education. Keep up on what’s going on. And alums should stay tuned in to what’s going on at Drury!