Hall of Fame Portrait: Marjorie Scardino’s Impact and Legacy

The Lamplighter Honors, presented by the AAP PreK-12 Learning Group, celebrate the extraordinary accomplishments of the learning resource industry and the ongoing mission of helping every child receive a world class education. At the 2013 Lamplighter Honors Gala, held December 9 at the Russian Tea Room, representatives from across the education and publishing world will join together to honor this work and recognize the individuals who have made significant contributions to advance the field through their ideas, talents, and tenacity.

Marjorie Scardino, former CEO of Pearson, will receive the Hall of Fame award for her industry leadership during the transition to the digital era; her focus on developing whole learning solutions, rather than just individual products; and her devotion to giving children the support they need to reach their dreams. Below, Josh Lewis, a Pearson board member during Marjorie’s tenure, explains her impact and legacy.

Starting with a trophy case of rich man’s assets that had little to do with education, Marjorie built the world’s leading, largest education company. That act of corporate transformation required extraordinary execution and even more extraordinary imagination. By the end of her tenure, the modern Pearson had no peer. And that is largely because Marjorie has no peer.

Education is, as we all know, a unique sector. And, done right, education has a transformative impact on human lives, often young lives. It requires public, non-profit and for-profit actors, playing different roles in a complex choreography. The most successful and durable of these actors – whether an inner-city K12 school or an ed-tech startup or a globe-spanning multidivisional company – are all animated by a core set of common values, all based on a shared understanding of purpose. Why we exist. Why we do what we do. What our truest aims are. One cannot put on these values, any more than a doctor can feign interest in her patients or a pastor interest in his congregants.  And that purpose ultimately comes down to service.

Marjorie not only understands and lives and models these values.  She also captured them in few and powerful words, and made sure all her colleagues, inside and outside of Pearson, were crystal clear on them. She helped everyone understand that while “profits sustain us, they do not define us.” That if they were ever in doubt, just be “brave, imaginative and decent.” And, in an act of stunning insight, she drove the concept of efficacy – which is often discussed but acted upon far less frequently – deep into Pearson’s soul. That was one of her last big brushstrokes as Chief Executive. I think it may be her greatest legacy, and believe it will sustain Pearson for generations to come.

As testament, a group of Marjorie’s colleagues recently gave her a compass, thanking her for always showing them just where “true north” was.  They could not have picked a better metaphor. Come back to Pearson, or the education sector writ large, long after we are all gone from it. You will find that Marjorie’s values are still at the core of its very best, still serving as a compass, still helping transform the lives of the people it exists to serve.

Josh Lewis
Founder and Managing Partner, Salmon River Capital
Non-executive Director, Pearson

Lamplighter Honors