In 1985, I was a lowly fact checker at TIME and Jason McManus was busy running the magazine, when a colleague showed him the company softball team’s yearbook. He read the opening essay in the photocopied booklet and asked, “Who wrote it, and should we hire him?” With that wee recognition, I was on my way to a writer’s job at the magazine.
Jason, who died at 85 on Sept. 19, was a prince of TIME. With his Ivy League degree, Rhodes scholar bona fides and experience reporting abroad, he had the cred that, in that era, helped a man rise to boss of the magazine (which he was from 1985 to 1987). He then oversaw the whole Time Inc. stable (as editor-in-chief from 1987 to 1994) during a reign that witnessed the onset of the titanic mergers and corporate ambitions–including the marriage of Warner and Time Inc. in 1990–that would shrink the power of his office and remake media forever.
Beset by immense forces, Jason still never ceased to be a master of the generous gesture. One small kindness helped make my career. So many more of my colleagues were the beneficiaries of his giant heart.
This appears in the October 07, 2019 issue of TIME.