Congratulations to Rosa Gatti, the 2011 Mary Garber Pioneer Award winner.
Gatti, ESPN’s longtime communications chief, was hired to run ESPN’s public relations in 1980, the first year it operated as a single network.
Gatti’s hiring made her one of the company’s foundational figures, guiding the network’s PR efforts as ESPN grew into the colossal sports media conglomerate of today.
From 1980-2008, Gatti oversaw communications for ESPN, Inc., the company that includes six domestic television networks, ESPN International, the company’s regional television and radio, along with ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com.
Now she’s an adviser to ESPN Communications and directs the company’s corporate outreach programs.
Gatti is the first public relations person to receive the Pioneer Award since its inception in 1999. Until now, the honor has gone to reporters and editors.
“I was stunned and so honored to be selected for this award, typically given to journalists,” Gatti said. “To be in the company of so many great pioneers, led by Mary Garber, is really special and I am truly touched to receive this honor.”
Going on her fourth decade at ESPN, Gatti is known for more than being good at her job. She helps others be good, too.
Throughout her career, Gatti has provided guidance and encouragement to male and female reporters, editors, producers, sports information directors, college students and public relations representatives.
“We are so excited to be able to honor Rosa,” said Amy Moritz, president of AWSM. “She has done so much to help women in the field of sports public relations and has been a huge resource for those in sports journalism. Rosa exemplifies what this award is about — professional excellence and helping other women in the sports media field.”
In 1973, a year after graduating from Villanova, Gatti was hired as a secretary in the university’s sports information office. But by late 1974 she had risen to become the first female SID at a school in the NCAA’s major university division.
From 1976-1980, she was the SID at Brown. She was one of few women working in sports information or sports journalism at the time.
In 1992, Gatti founded the first diversity committee at ESPN. She has served as vice-president of CoSIDA (the national organization of college sports SIDs), won numerous awards, and served on many boards and committees, including The V Foundation for Cancer Research and the U.S. Olympic Committee’s public relations advisory committee.
“As ESPN has grown into a conglomerate, Rosa’s personal and professional approach has remained the same,” said an AWSM member who nominated Gatti.
Another said, “She is a quiet but confident mover and shaker.”
The Mary Garber Pioneer Award recognizes those who have paved the way and serve as role models for women in sports media. 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.
It was renamed the Mary Garber Pioneer Award in 2006 to honor one of the industry’s original pioneers. Gatti will be honored during the Mary Garber Pioneer Award winner lunch at AWSM’s national convention. The 2011 Convention will be held from June 23-25 in Charlotte, N.C.