Helene Atwan is the Director of Beacon Press, an independent non-profit book publisher founded in 1854. She began her publishing career in 1976 at Random House in New York as an assistant editor in their College Division, before moving to Alfred A. Knopf in 1977 as a publicity associate. She then joined The Viking Press in 1979 as the associate director of publicity. In 1981, she moved to Farrar, Straus and Giroux, where she began as the director of publicity. She also became a vice president of the house in 1987 and the associate publisher in 1991. In 1993, she joined the Pocket Books division of Simon & Schuster as the vice president and director of marketing. She was appointed director of Beacon Press by the board of trustees of the Unitarian Universalists Association in October of 1995.
Atwan received her B.A. from the University of South Carolina summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She went on to receive her M.A. in English Literature at the University of Virginia.