The Association for Women in Sports Media is pleased to announce Michele Himmelberg is the recipient of the 2020 Ann Miller Service Award, presented annually to an individual who has made significant contributions to the organization.
An AWSM co-founder and its second president, Himmelberg led the initial membership recruitment for AWSM, identifying where women were working in sports across the country. She also wrote regularly for the ASWM newsletter, volunteered at many conventions and served as a judge for the scholarship/internship program and member of the selection committee for the Mary Garber Pioneer Award. In 1990, Himmelberg represented AWSM as media spokesperson and contact with the NFL during the investigation of harassment charges against the New England Patriots. She continues to recruit members, serve as an adviser and mentor young women in sports media roles.
"I am deeply humbled that AWSM is placing me alongside remarkable, dedicated women like Celeste Williams, Lydia Craver, Joann Gerstner and others who did the critical behind-the-scenes work to help AWSM grow, thrive and remain relevant into our fourth decade," Himmelberg said. "Past winners of the Ann Miller Service award have given us financial and operational stability; a job bank in a time when networking was largely word of mouth; annual conventions that demand a huge commitment of time; our vibrant college chapter program; and essential communication in the form of newsletters, then a website and social media. I am in awe of each of them, and my hope is that all members will look at what they've done and be inspired to find a way to serve AWSM."
Himmelberg was also the 2001 recipient of AWSM’s Mary Garber Pioneer Award, given annually to individuals who have distinguished themselves in the field while reflecting and advancing the values and mission of AWSM. She was the first woman to successfully challenge the NFL for equal access with legal actions brought by her newspapers, in 1979 in Tampa Bay, and in 1981 in San Francisco, where a judge ruled that barring women from post-game interviews was a clear civil rights violation. Himmelberg's goal was for all women to have the opportunity to cover sports on a level playing field, and she managed AWSM's efforts to establish written, equal-access policies in the four major sports leagues.
She was 17 when she started covering "Title IX" and high school sports, and went on to work at newspapers in Florida, at the Sacramento Bee and at the Orange County Register. She became the first female sports columnist at the Orange County Register, where she also covered Olympic Games, profiled elite athletes in all the major leagues and became a leading sports business writer. She transitioned to public relations in 2008, joining Disney Parks.
"Michele has been instrumental to the growth of our group and the roles women can now hold in the sports media field," AWSM president Ashley Colley said. "Her dedication to AWSM is something many of us strive to match. Being able to present her with this award for her years of service to the group and the legacy she has left for us to build off of is a huge honor."
Established in 2013, the service award is named in honor of Ann Miller, a longtime Hawaii-based sports reporter who was AWSM’s treasurer for the organization’s first 10 years, served as board chair and has attended nearly every convention despite the long travel distance.