By Meri-Jo Borzilleri
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Longtime member Ann Miller received a special award during Friday’s founders breakfast at the 2013 convention recognizing her dedication to the Association for Women in Sports Media.
Miller, from Hawaii, has racked up more frequent-flier miles than anybody traveling to AWSM conventions. She believes she has attended 22 of them, including the inaugural in Oakland in 1988. She remembers the convention hotel then.
“From the outside, it didn’t look that bad,” she said. But once inside, “you just knew illegal stuff was going on there.”
A charter AWSM member, Miller served for 10 years as the organization’s first treasurer. But each time she flew in from her island paradise, she brought more than the AWSM checkbook. To a group led by strong personalities, Miller brought serenity. Past conventions featured a nightly hospitality room traditionally nicknamed “The Island of Peace.”
“She is one person who embodied the Island of Peace,” said AWSM co-founder Susan Fornoff when presenting Miller her award.
Miller remembers Fornoff handing off the treasurer duties a quarter-century ago.
“She gave me this checkbook and there was like 45 cents in it or something. There were no papers, there was nothing,” Miller said.
For years, AWSM members mailed their dues to Miller at a post-office box in little-known Mililani, Hawaii. Depending on whom you asked, the address made the fledgling AWSM appear exotic, mysterious — or slightly shady.
“Nobody had ever heard of Mililani,” she said. “They probably thought they were sending it off to space.”
The back story: Miller had purchased her first home in a former pineapple field in Mililani, a city in the center of O’ahu. She set up delivery at the only post office, an informal operation run by a local family. After she moved, she’d pick up AWSM mail whenever she’d see her dentist, whose office was nearby.
Miller stands a quiet 5-0, but her impact on the organization and as an example for female sportswriters has spoken volumes. As popular with the people she covers as she is with readers and colleagues, Miller’s the go-to person for everything Hawaii, most notably pro golf and University of Hawaii volleyball. She’ll retire in February after 33 years at the Honolulu Advertiser and Star-Advertiser.
AWSM has come a long way, and Miller has been there for the entire ride. This year’s convention in Scottsdale was impressive for its numbers and youthful faces.
“The first thing that struck me was just how large it was,” she said. “The best thing was such a huge percentage made me feel old.”
Miller, 54, plans to keep her membership indefinitely, even if most of us — along with AWSM’s current mailing address — are an ocean away. The appreciation, it appears, goes both ways.
“How else would I ever meet these people?” she said.