Barbara York is a great lady. She has been the glue that has held things together for so long. I first met her when she started as a secretary at the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Then she advanced through roles there, taking on increased administrative responsibilities, so when I was looking for someone to come in and fulfill that role at NCTA, I stole her from GMA.
Barbara gets things done. Period. And she gets it done with a terrific attitude, a great sense of teamwork and all the things you’re looking for. She gets it done, and she gets it done well.
At NCTA, you can just take a look at how we grew the show and how we changed the nature of the industry’s showcase and how we got new offices. During that time, it was the great heyday of the industry: the establishment of content, satellite delivery that allowed the breaking-in to the urban market, the great franchising frenzy.
The industry changed and it fell to NCTA to tell the story of how the industry was changing from a business that strong-wires to a business that delivered diversity and choice and content. And a principal way you do that is the face that you put on to yourself, and thus to the rest of the world at your annual conferences. Therefore, we introduced a lot of “showbiz,” a lot more pizzazz and excitement into the conference, and Barbara was instrumental, decisive, crucial in that transformation.
In 1984, I brought Barbara with me when I went to NABU, because she was the go-to person. Again, when you want to get something done, you go to Barbara. Unfortunately it didn’t work, and she went straight back to NCTA and has lived happily ever after.
We see each other frequently and it’s always great to see her. I don’t know how she always does everything with a smile. She may be dying inside, or seething inside, but she always has a smile. And she has a way of talking you through things with this smile. I think my instinct would be to say, this is the dumbest idea, and Barbara smiles and through the Socratic method, asking questions, gets you to understand it’s a dumb idea.
We were either at NCTA or NABU for six solid years, and that was solid. That’s the point: Barbara is just solid.
Tom Wheeler is managing director of Core Capital Partners and served as NCTA president and CEO from 1976-84.