Stengel, 51, began his TIME career in 1981 as a writer, and among many other assignments, he covered the 1988 and 1996 presidential campaigns. As a senior editor for the magazine, he oversaw the Nation and Arts sections and was editor of Time.com, the magazine's website. He left TIME in 2004 to head up the National Constitution Center, a museum, education center and think tank on Independence Mall in Philadelphia dedicated to teaching the importance of the Constitution and civic engagement.
In making the announcement, Time Inc. editor-in-chief John Huey said he found Stengel "an especially exciting new M.E. because he has both the outsiderĺs perspective and the insiderĺs appreciation and knowledge of who and what makes TIME tick. His intellectual depth and breadth are long established, as are his leadership qualities and competitive spirit. But in his stint as head of the Constitution Center he has gained a new appreciation for the skills and strategy required to harness the energy of an organization like TIME."
The announcement ended weeks of speculation over the successor to Kelly, who spent more than five years as managing editor, a tenure that was capped last week when TIME won two National Magazine Awards, including one for general excellence.
Stengel graduated in 1977 from Princeton University where he and Kelly were classmates and played on the school's 1975 NIT-winning basketball team. He is the author of several books and collaborated with Nelson Mandela on the South African leader's bestselling autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. He has been a frequent commentator on CNN and MSNBC, and his eclectic career also included a stint in 1999 as senior advisor and chief speechwriter for presidential candidate Bill Bradley.
"It's been wonderful being outside the media scrum for a while," Stengel said, of his two years away from journalism at the National Constitution Center. "I started consuming news like a regular person. It's been a good lesson. I think what Time can do in this age of media glut is to be the guide, to help people separate the wheat from the chaff, to give them the information they need to know." He takes over officially on June 15.