Follett Corporation didn’t have to look far for its new president and CEO, the first from outside the Follett family in its nearly 140-year history. On November 15, the board unanimously elected one of their own, Mary Lee Schneider, former president of Digital Solutions and chief technology officer at RR Donnelley. She was one of 13 candidates out of 70 applicants.
Schneider will assume her new role November 26, just in time to get ready for the second semester, replacing interim CEO Alison O’Hara, chair of the board who has held the position since Chuck Follett retired in June. He, along with six family members, remain on the board, but together Schneider and O’Hara comprise one of the few, if only, women-led executive teams of a company Follett’s size, $2.7 billion.
According to O’Hara, “our number one wish was for a digital native and someone facile with technology. Our commitment was to really find the best person. [Schneider] has been one of the drivers of RR Donnelley’s transformation from print to digital, which is a critical focus for Follett and our customers throughout education.” Schneider was responsible for building Donnelley’s Premedia Technologies business, which provides digital photography, color management, and digital asset management services—and for new product development. Prior to coming to Donnelley, she worked in publishing for McGraw-Hill and Time Inc.
“I am honored to take on this role and I genuinely believe there is no more exciting place to be right now than on the forefront of changes in the education industry,” says Schneider, who looks at the challenges facing education with e-books, print books, and learning platforms as opportunities. Although Schneider was reluctant to talk about specific Follett programs before she even assumes her new job, she said, “we’re going to accelerate a few programs. We have a very sound strategy. We have to speed things up and double down.”