Every organization needs a human conduit, a walking, talking bridge that links the legends of the past to the realities of the present. At SPORTS ILLUSTRATED that conduit is Nancy Hennicke, secretary to our ad sales manager in Chicago. Hennicke has worked for SI since May of 1954—three months before the first issue—giving her more continuous service with the magazine than anyone else.
"Young girls today are amazed," she says. "They say, 'You've been here 32½ years? What did you start as?' I say, 'Just what I am today.' They can't believe it. It's different for them today; they all want to become Dick Munro [chairman and chief executive officer of Time Inc.], and maybe they can be. Me...." Her voice trails off, and then she smiles. "I'm probably the happiest person in the company."
"In an area like sales, what you don't get is a sense of history," says Barry Briggs, Chicago ad sales manager and Hennicke's boss, "so when Nancy speaks about the past, it's a really special thing. It makes you feel like you're part of it."
The past that Hennicke speaks of began at 221 North LaSalle Street, home of SI's original Chicago-based advertising office. Getting news from the magazine's headquarters in New York City meant a trip from the 17th floor to the Teletype machines three floors below.
October 5, 1986
Therein, jokes Hennicke, lies her claim to fame. In June 1954 she picked up the Teletype notice from New York that announced that the new magazine—rumored to be named Score—would henceforth and forevermore be known as SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.
"People often say you ought to be able to run this place after all those years, but that's not true," says Hennicke. "I'm just a secretary." Sure, and the Sears Tower is just a building. Those who have worked closely with Hennicke praise her sense of organization and pride in her work. That many of her former bosses—including Tom Hickey, SI's ad sales director, and Dave Long, SI's ad sales manager—moved up the corporate ladder is in itself a tribute to Hennicke. "You could almost build a case that we succeeded because of her," Long says. "Nancy is that office, and she's the best boss I ever had."
Hennicke, 54, has served 10 publishers, 9 advertising directors and 8 Chicago managers. "So I'm number 8?" Briggs asked Hennicke recently.
"But wouldn't you agree that I'm the most charming and handsome?"
"Of course," she replied with a laugh, "because I want to go on to number 9."
In a quieter moment, however, Hennicke turned reflective. "If you want to put it in perspective," she said of her years at SI's first Chicago site, "that little place was mine."
SI still is, Nancy.