Cathleen Titus ’71

Cathleen Titus ’71

Written by Nataly Cifuentes ’16

Cathleen Titus '71

Cathleen Titus ’71

How does a girl from a pre-feminist time rise to an international career filled with travel, intellectual challenge, friends and colleagues around the globe, and still find time for family? Meet Cathleen Titus, who, after graduating from the all-girls Marymount School in New York, sought out a top-ranked, modest-sized Northeastern women’s liberal arts college. In 1967, she began her undergraduate studies at Manhattanville College where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

While Cathleen’s class just missed Manhattanville’s official transition from being an all-women’s college to a co-educational institution in 1972, she did attend on the cusp of dramatic change. “I was lucky enough to experience a huge cultural shift during my four years. Instead of being predictable, life became much more uncertain and exciting – art, racial demonstrations, music, anti-war protests, and women’s rights – reality changed daily. It challenged us to think, interpret, choose,” she reflected. “I entered a Catholic women’s college, and left a non-sectarian, co-ed one.” Another eye-opening experience for Cathleen was her participation in a collaborative program called SHARE (Sacred Heart Academic Rehabilitation Experiment), in which students were matched with a diverse group of academically underserved students.

Cathleen believes that her liberal arts education, especially as an English major, gave her an advantage in communication and general knowledge and provided a foundation for her career. Several of Cathleen’s professors were particularly inspiring during her time at Manhattanville. Professor Margaret Williams’ understanding of the origins of Middle English, literature and communication impressed her, while Robert O’Clair taught her how to appreciate the language of Keats. Additionally, Professor Katherine Alexeieff sparked Cathleen’s interest in Russian literature, planting the seed of curiosity about other cultures.

After completing her undergraduate studies, and in immediate need of a job, Cathleen began working for the King Features Syndicate Division of Hearst Corporation, “home to the world’s most famous and loved comic strips, columns, editorial cartoons, puzzles, games and licensed brands.” While she was initially offered a typing job at the company, her skills attracted the right attention and she soon graduated into the Editorial Department. She worked on several of the companies’ popular columns where her background as an English major served her well in writing about a variety of topics. Later, Cathleen expanded her professional horizons by accepting a position within the merchandising and licensing department,  promoting the sale of King Features’ various brands and characters, including Popeye and Betty Boop. Eventually, Cathleen’s achievements earned her a position as Vice President of International Licensing overseeing a network of 25 international agents, with over 1,000 products and publishing licenses.

“I was always in the international division which was fascinating to me. I’ve been fortunate to deal with agents and customers from around the world, and I gained invaluable knowledge of cultural nuances, legal and financial systems,  and the structure of many types of international businesses, such as fashion, publishing, food, fast-moving consumer goods, giftware, advertising and promotion, and digital games, among others, as well as intellectual property and international finance. I made lifelong friends; plus, I got to travel to cool places,” Cathleen says. “I also learned to negotiate in 20 different countries.”

While on the surface her trajectory at King Features was straight up, her path also presented her with challenges. As she worked full-time, Cathleen also attended night classes at Baruch College in New York, where she earned her MBA in International Marketing. Since she had never taken business courses before Cathleen had to take a number of foundation courses in addition to those that were required for her degree. Balancing night classes and a full-time job was far from easy, she now says, but good time management (and a sense of humor) helped her through the difficult years.

Furthermore, the business atmosphere at the time when Cathleen began working was not entirely accepting or respectful of women. With no female mentor to look up to or seek advice from, Cathleen learned to be assertive on her own, and to demand the respect accorded so automatically to others. Strength of will and a natural supply of energy allowed her not only to thrive within King Features but also as a working mom.

Moving up the ladder at King Features has given Cathleen a great deal to be proud of. In considering her proudest achievement, Cathleen says, “I have always sought to find the commonality among differing cultures, while appreciating all that is unique about each. After that, formulating a customized approach to each market – the essence of ‘think global, act local’ becomes the goal. Adaptability is also critical, as is staying on top of new technologies. During my time at King Features, I’ve seen licensing evolve from toys and T-shirts to apps, avatars and digital comics.”

Cathleen Titus '71

Cathleen Titus ’71

Cathleen is also proud to have attended Manhattanville. Her fondest memories include “the excitement of learning, the camaraderie of my friends, the ‘occasional’ visit to Hilltop (a long-ago bar on Anderson Hill Road), late-night card games in the dorm, just growing up together over the four years, wondering where life would take us.”

Asked for her advice to young women who would like to pursue careers in business, she says, “Young women today have far more opportunities to network and gain real-world knowledge and experience before leaping into the career fray. Don’t be shy, reach out – opportunity isn’t looking for you… And find a mentor!”

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