Duvall Hecht, Founder of Books on Tape, Is Dead at 91

“Books on Tape was the vendor to look at if you were selling into libraries, because they were creating a lot of content,” said Michele Cobb, executive director of the Audio Publishers Association. “Everyone looked to Duvall and Sigrid as industry leaders.”

Duvall Young Hecht was born on April 23, 1930, in Los Angeles. His father, John, was a stockbroker, and his mother, Clarabelle (Young) Hecht, was a homemaker. After graduating from Beverly Hills High School, where he was an indifferent student, Duvall attended Menlo College in Atherton, Calif., for a year before transferring to Stanford University.

While studying for his bachelor’s degree in journalism, he was recruited for the Stanford rowing team; he excelled quickly enough to earn a spot competing for the United States in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, soon after his graduation from him. He and his teammate James Fifer competed in the coxed pairs, in which each rower uses one oar on either side of the boat, which is steered by a coxswain. They did not win a medal.

Mr. Hecht entered the Marines, where he was a fighter pilot, but continued his training in rowing, this time for the 1956 Summer Games in Melbourne, Australia. He and Mr. Fifer won the gold medal in pairs, this time without a coxswain, defeating the favored Soviet team by eight seconds.

He served in the Marines for another year before being hired as a commercial pilot by Pan American World Airways. But he was bored — flying a plane, he said, was like driving a bus — and he left after a year. He taught English at Menlo, where he also started a rowing team and coached it. Soon after earning a master’s in communications from Stanford in 1960, he began working as an investment adviser at the first of several firms before joining Bateman Eichler.

He continued in the investment world for a while after starting Books on Tape with four titles, including “Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback,” George Plimpton’s 1966 account of trying to play for the Detroit Lions, and “Zelda,” Nancy Mitford’s 1970 biography of Zelda Fitzgerald.

Mr. Hecht remained passionate about rowing even as he ran Books on Tape and worked in the investment world. He founded the rowing team at the University of California, Irvine, when the campus opened in 1965 and was its first coach. He left in the 1970s to coach the rowing team at the University of California, Los Angeles, for six years, then returned to Irvine, where he coached the team from 1992 to 2001.

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