Robert M. MacGregor was born on August 5th, 1911, the son of Charles P. MacGregor, a Northern Baptist minister, and Mary Ellen Mercer. After graduating from Harvard, cum laude, in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression, MacGregor was lucky to find a job at Macys in New York. After seven months as assistant buyer in modern furniture, MacGregor became assistant editor at the book publishers Harcourt, Brace & Co.
In 1935, he was sent to Moscow as a correspondent for The New Republic and other magazines. While in Moscow, he married the American sculptress Emma Lou Davis, who was working on the celebrated mosaics in the Moscow subway. Between 1936 and 1938, he was in Peking, China as a correspondent for the United Press covering, among other things, the Manchurian Incident.
From 1938 until 1942, the MacGregors were at Reed College, the famous experimental school in Oregon, where MacGregor taught creative writing and was the Dean of Men.
From 1942 to 1946, MacGregor was in the United States Army as a Staff Sergeant and Battallion Survey Sergeant in the European Theatre. He was awarded a Bronze Star Medal with five battle stars. After V-E Day he was in Paris working for The Stars and Stripes Weekly Supplement, and in 1946 he became Editor-in-Chief of Army Talks, a weekly, published by the U.S. Army in Europe.
Back in New York, from late 1946 to 1948, he worked as assistant editor of Theatre Arts magazine, particularly in charge of book reviewing and book publishing. In 1948, when the magazine was sold, he acquired the book publishing department which he set up as Theatre Art Books, publishing books about acting, stage design, and various other aspects of the theatre.
In 1950, MacGregor also became Managing Editor and Vice-President of the publishing firm New Directions which publishes contemporary poetry, criticism, some fiction by such authors as William Carlos Williams, Thomas Merton, Herman Hesse and Ezra Pound, and a few plays by such writers as Tennessee Williams. MacGregor was a member of New Yorks Century Association and was on The Overseers Committee to Visit the Harvard University Press. He died in 1974.
George A. Zournas
George Zournas was born in Lubbock, Texas on May 6th, 1928. He was the son of John Zournas of Kalavryta in the Peleponessus of Greece and Lillie Jones of White County, Arkansas. The Zournases were proprietors of the celebrated Tech Cafe in downtown Lubbock. Because it was open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, it became the gathering place for people of all kinds. It was in fact, a sort of European bistro. For example, after the Avalanche Journal was put to bed, Charlie Guy, the editor, and his reporters and pressmen would come to the cafe to eat and relax. Doctors, nurses, and families of patients at Lubbocks two hospitals, then downtown, came in along with bakers, flour still on their paper hats, after the next days bread was safely out of the ovens. On Saturday nights roisters, hungry after dancing and drinking the night away at the old Cotton Club, came by to sober up and renew their energy. On Sundays, parishioners would bring their ministers and visiting evangelists in for dinner. Professors at Tech would come to talk with Mr. Peter Little, the cafes bookkeeper, who was something of a scholar of classical Greece, and after their performances, musicians, brought to Lubbock by the Civic Music Association, would be brought to the cafe by their hosts to eat, relax and have fun.
When he graduated from Lubbock High School in 1944, two weeks after his sixteenth birthday, Zournas and his friend the violinist Roger Hall shared the 1944 Lubbock High School orchestra medal. That summer, Zournas entered the University of Texas at Austin thinking he would become a Psychiatric social worker, however, he spent most of his time in the Music Department. He became a cellist in the University Symphony Orchestra, joined the musicians union and became a cellist in the Austin Symphony. He played the cello in the Universitys memorable performances of Verdis Requiem and Purcells Dido and Aneas.
In 1947, while taking a summer course at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Zournas two uncles, who were involved in the management of the Cafe, died within six weeks of one another. He returned to Lubbock and spent the following semester there as night manager of the cafe. He also took a couple of courses at Tech and played the cello in the Inaugural Season of the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra.
In the Spring of 1948, Zournas returned to Austin where he did volunteer work at the Austin State Mental Hospital taking recorded music programs into the wards and arranging live music programs. That same year he was elected President of the University of Texas Mental Hygiene Society, and was also invited to become a member of Phi Mu Alpha, the national honorary musical fraternity.
In 1948, Zournas left the University to travel extensively in Europe and North Africa. By late 1949 he was in New York City where he was asked to join the staff of Theatre Arts Books. He later became, successively, junior partner, partner, and after the death of the publisher Robert M. MacGregor in 1974, publisher and owner of the company.
In 1959 after encountering Tibetans in that part of India which borders on Tibet, Sikhim and Bhutan, Zournas took a course in Tibetan given at Columbia University by the Lama Geshe Wangyal. Zournas was the only student in the class, but in those days Columbia gave a class even for only one person. Zournas and MacGregor became good friends of Geshe Wangyal and helped him and the Tolstoy Foundation bring four of the first Tibetan refugee monks to Geshe Wangyals temple, Labsum Shedrup Ling, in Freewood Acres, New Jersey.
Zournas later became involved in Zen Buddhism and helped Nakagawa Soen Roshi, the last of the great Rinzai Zen Masters, in his attempt to establish the Dai Bosatsu School of Zen in the United States. In connection with this endeavor Zournas was chosen President of the New York Zen Studies Society.
After MacGregors death in 1974, Zournas became publisher of Theatre Arts Books, a position he held until 1987, when he then sold the company to the English publisher Routledge, which was establishing a presence, in the United States and was eager to add Theatre Arts Books superb back-list of books on the performing arts to their own fine list of books on the contemporary theatre. The Theatre Arts Books reference library was not included in the sale. The huge archives of photographs and other illustrative material used over the years in Theatre Arts magazine was given to the Theatre Collection of the Houghton Library at Harvard University in memory of Mr. MacGregor by Rosamond Gilder, the last great editor of Theatre Arts, and Zournas.