Basement Journalism to Publishing Giant
Bob Teufel ’ '59 ’91P ’16GP Gives Praise and Thanks to Lehigh
Bob Teufel ’59 ’91P ’16GP is not sure if Professor Joe McFadden was just drumming up new students or if he really was sincere when he told him to consider majoring in journalism because his first Brown and White article was that good. Either way, it started Teufel’s path to a career of a lifetime—from copy editor to president—all at Rodale, a powerhouse in the publishing world.
“I think I was Shanghaied,” says Teufel wryly, when thinking of that initial encounter with the man who became his mentor. “This was all before Watergate, and it wasn’t a popular career type of thing. McFadden was very good at finding prospects for his department and steering them to becoming journalism majors.”
Teufel rock-skipped through freshman year at Lehigh, changing his enrolled engineering major status to political science. He flourished when he found his true calling and switched again to journalism.
Becoming a four-year, late-night staff member of The Brown and White, he worked through the time-consuming roles of news, managing, executive and sports editor (in that order), while amassing countless written articles. During this schedule, he still had time to be president of Phi Kappa Theta and help win the Middle Atlantic Conference title as a member of the fencing team.
“Working on The Brown and White was probably the best internship I ever had,” he says. “Had to be there on time…had deadlines. It was not just about improving your writing skills; you learned work habits.”
Following an employment tip from McFadden, he says it was his college writing samples that landed him the job of copywriter at then Rodale Press.
“Even though I was raised in the Lehigh Valley, I had never heard of Rodale,” says Teufel, who interviewed in 1961 after his commission ended as a captain in the United States Air Force. “I bought a copy of the magazine and interviewed with Bob (Rodale). It was my work on The Brown and White that got me my job.” (President Robert “Bob” Rodale ’52 was also a former McFadden student.)
Serving the company for almost 40 years, Teufel made such outstanding contributions as creating and pioneering the concept for Men’s Health magazine; establishing Prevention as the top consumer well-being publication in the country; and producing The Doctors Book of Home Remedies, which has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.
During his 21-year tenure as president, sales rose from $60 million to more than $500 million, with now Rodale Inc. being recognized as a world leader in health, home and garden, and active sports media—a reputation it still holds today.
Teufel credits his liberal arts education at Lehigh with helping to turn him into a good writer. He says the outline of courses that journalism majors were guided to take—ethics, logic, ancient Roman and Greek history, for example—fostered a comprehensive academic program.
He recalls being handed a graded paper from Professor Joseph Abel Maurer, chairperson of the department of classical languages, who announced, “I love having journalism majors in this class because they say nothing so well.”
Teufel not only learned how to write (McFadden was a tough editor, he says), but how to do it efficiently and in volumes.
“When you are properly focused in writing, you can put out a lot of product,” he says. “When someone would say they needed 10 or 12 people to do something, I just laughed at them.”
But Teufel will be the first to tell you that directing a successfully expanding publishing business takes more than just journalism skills. He uses the simile that “publishing is like a three-legged stool,” explaining the trifecta as being equal parts editorial, advertising sales and business. “You have to be as comfortable with the numbers as with the writing.”
Coppee Hall Undertaking among Decades of Volunteerism
Teufel’s gratitude for the skills that his Lehigh experience taught him fuels his passion for repeatedly giving back to his alma mater. He continues to provide his talent and generosity to university initiatives and was paramount in the renovation of the fourth-oldest building on campus into a hub for 21st-century communication technology: Coppee Hall, circa 1883.
“When it became obvious that Lehigh was looking for a permanent home for journalism, I thought it was important to help raise money for that,” says Teufel, whose leadership as volunteer chair was critical in the transformation. “I wanted to pay back for the career opportunity that was given to me from working on The Brown and White.”
Many alumni staff members remember working subterranean on the paper in either Drown Hall or the University Center; but in 2003, the offices moved into the sunlight to Coppee Hall, along with Lehigh’s yearbook, Epitome, and the department of journalism and communication.
Journalism department Chair Jack Lule recalls the magnitude of the project and the committed alum’s deep involvement.
“Bob Teufel was essential to the fundraising that led to the renovation of Coppee Hall as a new home for journalism,” says Lule. “He was a legend in publishing because of his leadership at Rodale, and I was a relatively young department chair. I relied on him completely for his knowledge, contacts, experience—and great humor and stories.”
Teufel’s volunteerism with Lehigh has history. In 1989, he was honored for his outstanding support of the university and received the highest award that can be bestowed to an alumnus: the Alumni Award.
His involvement highlights are numerous and include roles on the Lehigh University Alumni Association, the Journalism Visiting Committee and the College of Business and Economics Advisory Council. For years, his classmates have enjoyed his fast-talking “Pennsylvania Dutch-style” dinner auction during alumni weekend to raise funds for the class treasury.
Jim Swenson ’59, a friend of Teufel’s since their undergraduate days, recognizes all that his fellow alum does for Lehigh, but particularly enjoys his auctioneering skills.
“Among everything that he does, he has been the auctioneer for many years at our reunions,” says Swenson. “Bob gets up there and sounds like he is auctioning tobacco in a shed in North Carolina.”
Also a member of the Asa Packer and Tower societies, Lehigh’s leadership giving societies, Teufel has supported many university priorities and was helpful to Bob Rodale in creating the Joseph B. McFadden Professorship in Journalism.
Far from pulling back, this past fall, Teufel joined the College of Arts and Science Advisory Council to work with Donald Hall, Herbert J. and Ann L. Siegel dean, on implementing the new five-year strategic plan.
"I was thrilled and honored when Bob agreed to join my CAS Advisory Council. His background in media and marketing is already providing us with invaluable advice on how to realize our college goals and make the world aware of our successes and ambitions,” said Hall. “Bob has been a true hero in his work for the college, for our Journalism and Choral Arts programs and for all of our students."
Teufel continues to show his appreciation for an education that guides him well in life. Whether he is cheering at home football games, “checking in” with his grandson Bobby Michaelis, who is a Lehigh freshman (son David is a ’91 alum as well), or fly-fishing in a foreign land, his dedication and gratitude to Lehigh always run Brown and White deep.