January 11, 1999 12:00 PM

You already know that 1999 will be a year embraced by celebration as we approach the millennium. But there’s another date that I means a lot to those of us at PEOPLE. On March 4, we will mark 25 years since our first issue hit the nation’s newsstands. What was a slender waif of a black-and-white weekly has since grown into a robust and colorful adult, able to take a serious look at breast cancer or teen pregnancy and still name at least three Spice Girls.

Come March, we’re planning a huge 25th-anniversary special issue and launching an assortment of events to be held around the country. This week we’re getting a jump on things by inaugurating a new section called The Way We Were (see page 23) that will run throughout 1999. TWWW will look at what PEOPLE was covering each week 25 years ago—from Richard Nixon and Patty Hearst to Fanne Fox and Fear of Flying.

Overseeing the section are senior editor Max Alexander and assistant managing editor Carey Winfrey. A native of Grand Rapids, Mich., Alexander, 41, who came to PEOPLE two years ago from Variety to handle our movie coverage, vividly recalls 1974 as a landmark year. “My parents were getting divorced at the same time Nixon was getting toppled by Watergate,” says Alexander, who lives with his wife and two young sons north of New York City. “All the traditional authority figures were in a state of flux.”

And speaking of flux: It could be Winfrey’s middle name. Mild of manner and wry of wit, Winfrey has been, by turns, a Marine lieutenant, an award-winning PBS producer, a foreign correspondent for The New York Times and editor of Cuisine, Memories and American Health magazines. Now 57, he lives in Manhattan with his wife and twin teenage sons and is looking forward to revisiting such seminal 1974 events as the Ali-Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle.” “Twenty-five years later, George Foreman is still fighting and I’m still editing,” Winfrey notes. “I wonder which of us will be the last one standing.”

It is sad but somehow fitting that in this anniversary year one of PEOPLE’s founding staffers, design director Dick Martell, is retiring from our publishing staff. Martell, 59, came to the magazine as a freelance art director from The Wall Street Journal in 1974 and never looked back. “For the first five years I don’t think I took a vacation,” says Martell, who will continue to advise the magazine while dividing his time between homes in New York and Florida. “I was so delighted here I felt guilty they were paying me.” Such dedication and creativity will be greatly missed.

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