George B. Irish Obituary

George B. Irish Obituary


NEW YORK, September 14, 2022 – George B. Irish, vice president and Eastern director of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation of California and the Hearst Foundation, Inc. of New York, died of a heart attack Tuesday at his home in New Jersey. He was 78.

After retiring from Hearst in 2008, Irish played an important role at the Hearst Foundations, leading its Eastern team along with Paul “Dino” Dinovitz, executive director and head of its Western operations. Separate from the corporation, the Hearst Foundations are national philanthropic resources for organizations working in the fields of culture, education, health and social services. In addition, the William Randolph Hearst Foundation operates two programs, the United States Senate Youth Program and the Journalism Awards Program. Since its inception, the Foundations have made over 22,200 grants to 6,300 organizations, totaling more than $1.4 billion in funds awarded.

“George was a member of our family,” said William Randolph Hearst III, chairman of the board of directors of Hearst, president of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation and a director of the Hearst Foundation, Inc. “We are deeply saddened by his passing but filled with gratitude for his many years of stewardship, professional wisdom and, especially, his friendship.”

Virginia Hearst Randt, president of the Hearst Foundation, said: “George made the world a better place in business, in philanthropy and as a friend.”

In 1998, as Hearst senior vice president and president of Hearst Newspapers, Irish led the newspaper group as it expanded its investments in print and online operations, along with its journalistic enterprise in the digital era. Before heading Hearst Newspapers, he was a vice president and group executive for the unit for five years. Previously, he was the publisher of several Hearst dailies since he joined the corporation in 1979 when it acquired the Midland (Michigan) Daily News. Besides the Daily News, Irish was subsequently publisher of the Midland (Texas) Reporter-Telegram, the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise and the San Antonio Light.

“I had the great fortune to work for and with George for more than 20 years,” said Steven R. Swartz, president and chief executive officer of Hearst. “He was a wonderful man, a dedicated executive and a much loved member of our Hearst community and of all the communities he served so well.”

Irish was dedicated to the business of newspapers, serving on industry boards and heading print organizations throughout his career. He lived in eight different cities during his career, ultimately residing in both New York and Texas.

Among his career achievements, Irish received the 1992 Texas Newspaper Leader of the Year Award, known as the Pat Taggart Memorial Award, the highest honor given by Texas newspapers. A past president of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association, Irish then served on the boards of the Newspaper Association of America (now known as the News Media Alliance), the International Center for Journalists, the READ Foundation, the Nieman Foundation Board of Advisors and the Columbia Journalism School Board of Visitors. In addition to serving as director of the Associated Press until May 2007, Irish was also a director of Hearst. In 2009, Irish was elected to serve as chairman of the Newspaper Association of America.

Irish was especially active in the American Press Institute, serving in many capacities, including as president, chairman and director. In 2006, the group honored Irish with its Lifetime Achievement Award. Besides his career achievements, the award also recognized Irish for significantly supporting and promoting the professional advancement and leadership training of newspaper professionals. At the time, API had bestowed only eight such awards in its 60-year history.

In 2006 and 2017, Irish was honored by United Way of New York City, the New York Giants and the New York Jets at their annual Gridiron Gala for his outstanding contributions as a corporate leader to the community and the United Way. He was also a longtime United Way director and volunteer.

Irish graduated from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. He maintained a lifelong tie to the college. He was named Millikin’s Young Alumnus of the Year in 1976 and received an honorary doctorate from the school in 2000. He also served as chairman of the board of trustees.

Irish was predeceased by his first wife, Mary Rettig Irish, who died in 2005. He is survived by daughter Sandra Irish Draper, her husband Kyle Thomas Draper and their son Carson Irish Draper of Denton, Texas; and daughter Christine Irish Sheedy, her husband Malcolm Joseph Sheedy and their sons Samuel Joseph Sheedy and Luke Butler Sheedy of Dallas. A third daughter, Diane Leslie Irish, died in infancy. Irish is also survived by his brothers, Charles Irish of Centerville, Ohio, and John Irish of Toledo, Ohio. He is predeceased by his brother Thomas Patrick “Pat” Irish. He is survived by his wife Jeannie Wetherill Irish; stepdaughter Jayne Ann Puccio, her husband William J. Puccio and their children Natalie and Charlie of Newtown, Pennsylvania; and stepdaughter Amy Wetherill Cooley, her husband Michael Cooley and their children Alexandra and Anna Cooley of Villanova, Pennsylvania.