Award recipients are nominated by AWSM members. They are selected by a panel comprised of past Pioneer Award winners and AWSM board members, and they are honored at AWSM’s annual convention. Many of AWSM’s past Pioneer winners are pictured in the photo above, taken at the annual convention in Phoenix in 2013.
The award has been given annually since 1999 to those who have distinguished themselves in the field while reflecting and advancing the values and mission of AWSM. The first award recipient was Lesley Visser, the NFL’s first female beat writer and the first female commentator for “Monday Night Football.”
The award was renamed the Mary Garber Pioneer Award in 2006 to honor one of the industry’s original pioneers.
About Mary Garber
Mary Garber began her trailblazing sports journalism career in 1944, when the sports editor of the Winston-Salem Journal (then the Twin Cities Sentinel) joined the Navy and Garber replaced him.
“Not because I had any ability in sports,” Garber once told the Women’s Sports Foundation, “but because it was the war, and every man was in the armed forces.”
What the woman who grew up playing baseball and football might have lacked in ability, she made up for in determination. Even though she was banned from locker rooms and forced to sit with the players’ wives instead of in the press box, Garber lobbied to continue covering sports after World War II ended.
She first gained access to a locker room at the ACC basketball tournament in 1974, 30 years after her sportswriting career began. She retired from the Winston-Salem Journal in 1986 but continued to work there part-time until 2002.
Garber credited much of her success to covering stories that others wouldn’t. During the 1950s and ’60s, for example, when North Carolina schools still were segregated, Garber covered black high schools and colleges.
Garber served as president of the Football Writers Assocation of America and the Atlantic Coast Sports Writers Association, groups that initially denied her entry. In 2005, she became the first woman to win the Red Smith Award, the Associated Press Sports Editors’ highest honor, given to someone who has made major contributions to sports journalism.
Past Mary Garber Pioneer Award recipients include:
1999: Lesley Visser
2000: Claire Smith
2001: Michele Himmelberg
2002: Tracy Dodds
2003: Melissa Ludtke
2004: Christine Brennan
2005: Cathy Henkel
2006: Kristin Huckshorn
2007: Julie Ward
2008: Mary Schmitt Boyer
2009: Linda Robertson
2010: Julie Cart
2011: Rosa Gatti
2012: Sandy Rosenbush
2013: Lisa Olson
2015: Robin Herman
2016: Terry Taylor
2017: Suzanne Smith