Patricia Cahir Thoma, c.1930–2009, art director at Houghton Mifflin & Company.
Henry Francis Thoma, c.1909–1983, Harvard professor and editor at Houghton Mifflin & Company.
Scituate-born Patricia Cahir worked at Houghton Mifflin for 44 years, starting as a secretary, holding “top design posts in the educational division” and retiring in 1996 as a company vice president. She was highly regarded by her colleagues, who acknowledged her as an innovative and demanding boss, and as a mentor as well. She was one of the first two women to be inducted into Boston’s Society of Printers and served as its president.1Nicas, Jack, ,em. Patricia Thoma, 79, top executive, mentor at Houghton Mifflin, The Boston Globe, July 8, 2009, p. B14. In 1976, the Bookbuilders of Boston awarded her its highest honor, the W.A. Dwiggins Award, as someone who “has given ‘something extra’ to her job … in terms of talent, brilliance, integrity, devotion, or helpfulness to others.”2Description of the Dwiggins Award from Bookbuilders of Boston
In 1957 Cahir married Henry Thoma, who had joined Houghton Mifflin in 1946 as an editor and served as chief of its college textbook division from 1963 until he retired in 1974. He was known as an “editor’s editor who set standards of excellence that his successors are constantly challenged to emulate.”3Harold T. Miller quoted in the Boston Globe, July 20, 1983
Ismar David worked with Patricia Cahir and Henry Thoma, beginning in 1957. Their first project was A Survey of European Civilization. They worked closely, planning which historical motifs to use for the thirteen chapter openings for the book and consulting on technical details. Mrs. Thoma counted herself “practically breathless in anticipation of receiving your sketches soon. I know they will be such a tremendous addition to the book.”4Letter from Patricia Thoma to Ismar David, August 8, 1957. Ismar David papers, box 3, folder 65, Cary Graphic Arts Collection, RIT. Two months later she would write, “Your finishes arrived last week and we are as pleased as we expected to be with them. In fact they will be transmitted to the printer as is and those suggestions in typography you sent will be incorporated with the text. It is certainly a pleasure to receive an assignment prepared with the thoroughness that this one was.”5Letter from Patricia Thoma to Ismar David, October 2, 1957. Ismar David papers, box 3, folder 65, Cary Graphic Arts Collection, RIT. For his part, David wrote, “I should like to say here that I have found all of your suggestions extremely helpful and feel that they have improved the pages.”6Letter from Ismar David to Patricia Cahir Thoma, September 27, 1957. Ismar David papers, box 3, folder 65, Cary Graphic Arts Collection, RIT.
Ismar and Hortense David and Pat and Henry Thoma enjoyed a cordial relationship. Ismar David wrote to Pat Thoma, “My greetings to your husband and kind regards to you both. I hope that next time you are in New York you will have a little more time so that my wife and I can meet you for dinner and/or the theatre.”7 Letter from Ismar David to Patricia Cahir Thoma, January 17, 1958. Ismar David papers, box 3, folder 65, Cary Graphic Arts Collection, RIT. A few months later, Pat Thoma wrote to Ismar David, “It was delightful to see Mrs. David the other day. We had a pleasant and gay luncheon with lots of fine conversation. The only thing that might have added to the occasion would have been your company with us.”8Letter from Patricia Thoma to Ismar David, April 14, 1959. Ismar David papers, box 3, folder 65, Cary Graphic Arts Collection, RIT.