Today we’re joining the Association of University Presses in honoring the memory of Mark Saunders, director of the University of Virginia Press, who passed away in May. This post is part of a blog tour highlighting people like Saunders whose dedication, expertise, and humanity drive the important work of scholarly publishing at university presses around the world.

Last week, we at the University Press of Florida had the opportunity to celebrate our own director, Meredith Morris-Babb, and to enjoy the company of all the people at our press who work hard every day to produce the books we publish. Babb will be retiring this summer. Since she is a major Star Wars fan, her staff threw her a retirement party set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” And since our press is located in the heart of Florida, what better place for the party than one of our state’s beautiful freshwater springs?

Courtesy of Florida State Parks, Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Ichetucknee Springs State Park, located less than an hour’s drive from our Gainesville office, is home to refreshing swimming holes and a pristine river beloved by visitors who come from afar to go tubing, paddling, and snorkeling in the crystalline water. It’s a very special place (and yes, we have a book about it!). After staff gathered for lunch, gifts, and an out-of-this-world photo booth, we set off on a tubing adventure together down the Ichetucknee River.

It’s not often that a university press gets to float down a lazy river under the voluminous clouds of an impending Florida thunderstorm. Acquisitions department ensconced in tubes, editorial and production staff in a raft, and marketing equipped with a paddle, we began with spirits high. But before long, the mishaps piled up—an editor fallen in, shoes lost in the current, tubes capsized, rafts waylaid by the shallows. Finally, we joined our floats together with twine to create a constellation of rafts the width of the river. The rain began. But we laughed, we talked, and we paddled on.

What we know for sure is that we made it down the river and through the storm together.

In her parting remarks as outgoing director, Babb says of university presses, “Adaptation is our strength and resilience.” Together, our staff look forward to navigating and adapting to the changes that are certain to come our way in the dynamic, ever-transforming world of scholarly publishing.

Of last week’s river adventure, it was “magical,” says Babb. “The raft was superior, doing my version of the Kessel run but a slower pace,” she reports of her float, an inflatable Millennium Falcon.


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