By MERI-JO BORZILLERI
Of Christine Brennan’s AWSM accomplishments — Mary Garber Pioneer Award winner, first president, now Ann Miller Service Award winner — her favorite remains one that comes with neither a gavel nor a commemorative crystal.
Brennan, a columnist for USA TODAY Sports, spearheaded the formation of the scholarship/internship program that has been helping female college students since 1990.
She, along with Lesley Visser, got seed money by pooling their $250 paychecks from doing a local Washington, D.C. cable TV sports show. Brennan convinced her Washington Post sports editor, George Solomon, to talk his counterparts at other papers to match it, which provided $1,000 to kick off what has become AWSM’s foundational program.
“Of all the things we’ve been able to do, and I do mean `we,’ I am most proud of the scholarship/internship program,” said Brennan, who said she and Kristin Huckshorn formed the inaugural “scholarship committee,” while sitting on Brennan’s living room floor going through the first batch of applications. “Talk about a mom-and-pop operation.”
Brennan will be presented the Ann Miller Service Award at AWSM’s 2016 convention, set for July 28-31 at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Miami. The award, first presented in 2014, is given to an AWSM member for outstanding service to the organization. Joanne Gerstner and Lydia Craver were the first two winners.
The award is named for Miller, a charter AWSM member and retired Hawaii-based sportswriter who served as treasurer for the group’s first 10 years and also as board chairman. Miller worked for 33 years at the Honolulu Advertiser and later Star-Advertiser and has attended nearly every convention.
She continues to serve by assisting on the award selection sub-committee.
Brennan was named AWSM’s first president in 1988, serving two years before becoming board chair in 1990-91. She has been a tireless and outspoken advocate of AWSM ever since. The longtime conscience of the organization, Brennan is one of the few members – if not the only – consistently involved since AWSM’s beginning. Her connections and ideas have enriched conventions with key speakers and panelists.
“AWSM has always been a huge part of my life and always will be,” she said.
A charter AWSM member, Brennan was the 2004 Pioneer Award winner and has served on the new Pioneer Award Committee.
“To me, AWSM has always been about giving back,” Brennan said, pointing out that her career was already established when AWSM started in 1987. “That sounds so hokey, but it is.”
Brennan, who is one of the nation’s few female sports columnists, is a regular commentator for ABC News, CNN, PBS NewsHour and NPR. One of her three books on figure skating, Inside Edge (1996) was named by Sports Illustrated as one of the top 100 sports books of all time. She was elected to her alma mater Northwestern University’s board of trustees in 2013.
She hopes that other AWSM members would consider funding scholarships too. Seven college students will receive AWSM scholarships and internships in Miami.
“We’ve done great. … We’ve got some wonderful charitable people who have donated,” Brennan said. “Wouldn’t it be great to get to 15 scholarships?”
For years, Brennan has contributed to the program by funding two scholarships in honor of her late parents, Betty and Jim Brennan. Providing them has been gratifying in ways Brennan never expected. Every year, she said, she gets to hear her parents’ names mentioned.
“It’s like they’re in the room,” she said. “The actual names being read in public… It’s just a second or two, but it’s just wonderful. AWSM gives me that moment every year, and I love it.”