Celebrating BAR Publisher Susan Laden

Celebrating BAR Publisher Susan Laden
Celebrating BAR Publisher Susan Laden

Susan Laden at Rabbi Obadiah Bertinoro’s tomb in Israel. Photo by Hershel Shanks

Susan (Sue) Laden has stepped back from her role as Publisher of Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR). She will continue to direct special projects as a senior advisor and serve as President of the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS).

Sue was the society’s first employee, hired in 1976 by BAR’s late founding editor, Hershel Shanks, to take a part-time job opening envelopes on her kitchen table. She jokes that her biggest contribution to BAS in the early years followed that fateful moment when BAR’s entire mailing list (then about 4,000 subscribers) fell off a truck and was lost. Sue not only had retained outdated papers that everyone else would have long since discarded, but she had the presence of mind to make sense of them and so was able to reconstruct most of the list.

As the society’s needs grew, Sue grew alongside. When the organization needed more than kitchen-table flexibility, Sue researched how to grow a small publishing company and connected with executives at National Geographic, Smithsonian, Christianity Today, and elsewhere. Synthesizing those varied sources and more, she built a professional organization that handles operations, marketing, sales, and service on a level that has always exceeded its size.

At various times in its nearly 50-year history, BAS has supported four magazines (BAR, but also Bible Review, Archaeology Odyssey, and Moment, all of which were published simultaneously for several years), a merchandise program, study tours and seminars, book publishing, fundraising, and more. Sue’s management of all of these moving parts has been a big part of the magic that has allowed BAS to thrive.

Sue has managed a staff of dozens, worked with consultants, and negotiated terms with some of the country’s largest fulfillment houses and printers. She initiated, maintained, and grew sophisticated marketing, fulfillment, and renewal efforts for BAR, while also spearheading all of the society’s other initiatives.

In 1994, Sue left BAS, returning in late 2003 to reprise her role as Publisher. Within a year, she became the organization’s President, the only other person besides Hershel to have that role. Hershel and Sue maintained a contentious but warm relationship for almost five decades, friends who always challenged each other, each enabling the other to accomplish more than they would otherwise.

In the nearly two decades since, Sue has continued to oversee BAS, finding a steady path through many challenges. Following Hershel’s retirement in 2017, she also hired the only other two editors BAR has ever had.

Sue Laden, and the organization she built, has supported BAR and the other activities of the society for nearly 50 years through rapid growth and occasional bumps in the road. Thanks to her tireless dedication, BAS is well positioned to continue its mission to share the fascination of the archaeology and peoples of the lands of the Bible for 50 years to come.

Thank you, Sue, for a job well done!

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