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Hedley Donovan papers

Identifier: ua-2015-0090

Scope and Content

The collection contains personal and professional correspondence, writing, speech scripts, administrative reports, diaries, photographs, and newspaper clippings. See the "Arrangement" section for detailed description.


  • 1920s - 1990


Language of Materials

Collection is in English

Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law Title 17, U.S. Code. Requests to publish should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives.

Biographical Sketch or Historical Note

Hedley William Donovan was born May 24, 1914 in Brainerd, Minnesota to Percy and Alice Donovan. In 1917, the Donovan family - Percy, Alice, Hedley, and his siblings David and Elizabeth - moved to Minneapolis. Donovan attended Stephen A. Douglas Elementary School, Jefferson Junior High School, and West High School, where he graduated in 1930. Donovan then attended the University of Minnesota from 1930-1934 and graduated magna cumme laude with a Bachelor of Arts in History. While in attendance at the University, Donovan was editorial chairman of the student newspaper, The Minnesota Daily, chairman of the Student's Forum and the Arts College Intermediary Board, and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Delta Upsilon fraternities. From 1934-1937 Donovan attended Hertford College at Oxford in England as a Rhodes Scholar.

From 1937-1942 Donovan served as a reporter for The Washington Post in Washington D.C. He was assigned to cover Capitol Hill and later the White House, for which he covered President Franklin Roosevelt's press conferences and other presidential activities.

From 1942-1945 Donovan served for the United States Naval Reserve as a Lieutenant Commander during World War II.

Upon the conclusion of his war service in 1945, Donovan returned to journalism as a writer at Fortune magazine, was promoted to Associate Managing Editor in 1951, became Managing Editor in 1953, and served in that role until 1959 when he was made Editorial Director of Time, Incorporated. Donovan remained director until 1964 when he was named by Editor-in-Chief Henry Luce to be Luce's successor. Donovan served as Editor-in-Chief of Time, Inc. from 1964-1978, for which he oversaw the publication of Time, Fortune, Money, Life, Sports Illustrated and People magazines, as well as the other divisions within the corporation.

Throughought his career at Time, Inc., Donovan was most influential in neutralizing the tone of company publications, a noted shift from his right-leaning predecessor, Luce. Notable changes under Donovan's leadership include suspending the publication of Life magazine in 1972, and launching People magazine in 1973.

Following his retirement in 1978, Donovan served as an advisor to President Jimmy Carter in 1979. Donovan devoted the remaining years of his retirement to writing and teaching. He published Roosevelt to Reagan: A Reporter's Encounters with Nine Presidents in 1985, which was a critique on the presidents he reported upon over the course of his editorial career. This was followed by an autobiography, Right Places, Right Times - Forty Years in Journalism, Not Counting My Paper Route: A Memoir, published in 1989. Donovan also taught at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Donovan married Dorothy Hannon on October 18, 1941 and the couple had three children: Peter, Helen, and Mark. Hedley Donovan died on August 13, 1990 in Port Washington, New York. In 1992, Donovan's children, sister Elizabeth Edmonds, along with the Time Inc. Foundation and the Henry Luce Foundation, established an endowed undergraduate scholarship in Donovan's name in the Department of History at the University of Minnesota.


34 Cubic Feet (30 boxes)


This collection contains the personal and professional papers of Hedley Donovan, an alumnus of the University of Minnesota, prominent journalist, and former Editor-In-Chief of Time, Inc


The collection is arranged into 13 series, described as follows:


Materials related to Donovan’s career at Time, Inc. organized by sub-series of general information and by specific magazine title

Audio Visual

Tape and video cassettes that contain recordings of interviews with Donovan, interviews Donovan conducted, and seminar speeches he gave throughout his career

Carter Administration

Correspondence, memos, and reports related to Donovan’s role as advisor to President Jimmy Carter in 1979


Personal and professional correspondence between politicians and Time Inc. staff

Dinners, Lunches, and Parties

Various social events to which Donovan was guest and/or speaker


Donovan was an instructor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University from 1979 through the mid-1980s. Materials include syllabi, lecture notes, etc


Correspondence with Time Inc. founder Henry Luce and his wife Clare Booth Luce


Correspondence, "memorabilia" - i.e. ephemera related to Donovan's childhoood, education, and career. This series includes childhood diaries, family history documents, scrapbooks of articles published in school newspapers, and family correspondence


This series contains head-shots taken of Donovan throughout his career, and photographs from his travels in the 1960s - 1970s to Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. There are also photographs of him and his family from his childhood


Transcripts and research from over three 3 decades of speeches given by Donovan to Time Inc. staff, affiliates, and to outside organizations


Itineraries, research, notes, and interviews from Donovan's national and international travel, 1950s - 1980s. Donovan interviewed many major leaders in world politics throughout his tenure at Time Inc

The Washington Post

Clippings of The Washington Post articles authored by Donovan during his tenure at the publication, 1937-1942


Drafts, full compositions, research, and notes for articles Donovan wrote throughout his career, in addition to materials compiled to write his autobiography and book about his coverage of Presidential politics

Source of acquisition

The collection was donated to the Archives by the Donovan family in 2015

Related Materials

The New-York Historical Society Museum and Library preserves a collection of Time Inc. Corporate Editorial Records, 1948-1983, which includes Donovan's tenure at the corporation. Finding aid link:

Processing Information

Processing was completed in July, 2016 with support from the Donovan family

Hedley Donovan papers
Rebecca Toov
July 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University Archives Collecting Area