Employees are sequestered in a room, working on a project that they are sworn to secrecy about. You watch them come and go, never knowing what they do all day, never imagining that it was all an elaborate hoax until you read about it in the newspaper. Is this a new summer blockbuster? Nope, it’s a page out of Karen Lippy’s company history.
Karen Lippy has worked at York Graphic Services/YGS since April 3, 1968. Karen was seventeen when she started part-time in the proofreading department and after graduating from high school, Karen switched to full-time. Over the years she has served in proofreading, typesetting, electronic page layout, and most recently as our receptionist.
I had the pleasure of sitting with Karen and asking her a few questions about her time here at YGS and the things she has observed and learned during the last 44 years. Her stand-out memory was the scenario described above – York Graphic Services made national news for their role in the Howard Hughes biography hoax.
In 1972, author Clifford Irving created a media sensation when he claimed to have co-written an authorized autobiography of Hughes. Clifford Irving’s publisher was McGraw-Hill, a client of York Graphic Services. Employees really were sworn to secrecy regarding their daily activities surrounding the autobiography. Just before the book’s publication Hughes denounced Irving in a teleconference. Irving was later convicted of fraud and spent 17 months in prison. In 1974, the Orson Welles film “F for Fake” included a section dealing with the entire Hughes biography hoax. In 1977, The Hoax by Clifford Irving was published in England; it is the story of these events. The 2007 film “The Hoax,” starring Richard Gere, is based on these events.
Karen’s extensive history with YGS has been full of life, happiness, and change. When asked why she stayed at YGS so long, Karen paused for a moment and answered; “There were a lot of places I could have done what I was doing, but at YGS, I knew who I was working with and I trusted them.” That trust in her peers is what Karen sees as the YGS “X-factor,” the thing that other companies just don’t have.
Through the years, Karen has seen YGS in all of its incarnations, but her co-workers haven’t changed. YGS remains a place where hard work and reliability come standard and trust is a core value.
Karen has worked with Jim for the past ten years and has had the unique opportunity of sharing his identity with visitors as they visit the plant. “It’s funny to see their reactions” she shared, “Jim will walk out and say hi to them and after he leaves, they ask who he is. When I tell them he’s the owner, it’s always a look of surprise.” I asked her what she thought of Jim’s leadership for the last ten years, she smiled and said, “Jim is so forward thinking. He’s always reading and meeting new people that bring fresh ideas to YGS. He’s never afraid of a challenge, but remains completely down-to-earth and approachable. It’s rare to find someone like him.”