Local | Volunteer Salute

Book lover keeps pages turning for BNC

Sheila Rothenberg
Sheila Rothenberg

As “author wrangler” for the annual Book and Author event benefitting the Brandeis National Committee Tucson Chapter, Sheila Rothenberg translates her three decades of publishing experience into a meaningful volunteer activity.

“I’m very pleased to be able to do it,” Rothenberg says. “For me, participating in Tucson’s Brandeis chap­ter and having a large role in planning this event sustains the mind at a time when you might feel like you’re put out to pasture, in a way.”

Rothenberg rattles off endless names of authors she’s brought to Tucson in years past, some of whom have returned to screen their manuscript-turned-movie or have successfully launched an entire book series. “We work closely with the Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa and Mostly Books to make the author’s Tucson experience as pleasant and seamless as possible,” she says, “and in return, many of the authors we host say this event is the best of its kind nationally.”

By leveraging her friendships and extensive industry contacts from her days at Doubleday (now the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group), Rothenberg is constantly able to tap into a world of authors ranging far across genres and disciplines. In 2014 alone, Rothenberg secured Pulitzer Prize-winning Phillip Caputo, National Book Award short-lister Tom McNeal and prolific thriller and mystery writers Thomas Perry and Jacqueline Winspear.

Tucson’s BNC chapter fundraising directly supports endowed scholarships and research funding for science students at Brandeis University to combat neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and Parkinson’s as well as to maintain the institution’s library. In addition to the Book and Author events, the BNC chapter hosts more than 40 study groups on an infinite variety of topics, from books to jewelry making, baking to tourism, art to Shakespeare. Rothenberg leads the Page Turners reading club of more than 20 members. She became involved with the chapter through her longtime friend Meg Sivitz.

Rothenberg describes her life in three acts. “Act one was my marriage to Bob, act two was having my children, Michael, Josh and Susan, and attending college, and I’m living act three right now!”

Her husband of 56 years, Bob, presented her with her high school transcripts after their youngest child began attending first grade, telling her, “Now you have no excuses!”

“He knew that attending college was a lifelong dream of mine, and so I went,” she says. “I graduated at age 40 from Brooklyn College in New York.”

After graduation, Rothenberg dedicated three decades to the Doubleday publishing conglomerate. “I edited children’s books, among other things,” she reminisces. “The publishing world truly has such wonderful people.”

The Rothenbergs attended a wedding in Tucson 11 years ago, “and before we left we bought a house!” she laughs. The couple’s Catalina Foot­hills home became their post-retirement paradise away from their New York home.

Rothenberg is working on the 2015 Book and Author event, scheduled for March 11 and 12 at Skyline Country Club.

Sarah Chen is a freelance writer and blogger who lives with her husband and two children in Tucson.