Mary Garber Pioneer Award

Since 1999, AWSM has annually recognized an individual who serves as a role model and helped pave the way for women in the industry with its annual Mary Garber Pioneer Award. Hall of Fame broadcaster and AWSM charter member Lesley Visser was the first woman honored.

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 Association 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 Pioneers

Helene Elliott

Elliott, one of the first women to cover the NHL and the first female journalist to be honored in the Hall of Fame of a major professional sport, began her career at the Chicago Sun-Times before working at Newsday. She joined the Los Angeles Times in 1989, moving from a focus on hockey to general sports columnist before retiring in February 2024 after 34 years at the paper. A New York native and Northwestern graduate, Elliott has covered 20 Olympics.

Pam Oliver

Oliver began her career as a news reporter before transitioning to sports with the Fox affiliate in Tampa in 1990. After brief stops with the CBS affiliate in Houston and at ESPN, she joined Fox Sports in 1995 to work with the network's top NFL broadcast team. A mentor to numerous Black sports reporters, she also has covered the NBA for Turner Sports. Pam has been honored with a Gracie award by the Alliance for Women in Media and named WISE Woman of the Year.

Johnette Howard

Howard is one of the nation’s most accomplished sportswriters and a bestselling author. Her tremendous career includes writing columns, long-form features and enterprise stories at The Washington Post, Sports Illustrated, Newsday, ESPN, The National Sports Daily and The Athletic. Howard's sports columns for Newsday were nominated for the 2000 Pulitzer Prize in general commentary.

Doris Burke

In 2017, Burke became the first woman in a national television role to serve as a regular NBA analyst. She became the first female broadcaster to receive the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame's Curt Gowdy Media Award in 2018. During the 2020 NBA playoffs, Burke became the first woman to serve as the game analyst on a network television or radio broadcast during the conference finals and finals.

Andrea Kremer

An Emmy award winner with experience covering more than 25 Super Bowls, the Olympics and more, Kremer serves as chief correspondent for the NFL Network. In 2018, she was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and became the first full-time female NFL game analyst for Amazon Prime’s “Thursday Night Football." She helped launch CBS Sports' "We Need to Talk" in 2014, the first all-female nationally televised weekly sports show.

Jackie MacMullan

An award-winning columnist, author and commentator, MacMullan spent more than 40 years covering the NBA. She began at the Boston Globe in 1982 and became the paper's first female columnist in 2002. She was named as the first woman to receive the Curt Gowdy Award from the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame for excellence in basketball writing and reporting in 2010, the same year she transitioned to ESPN as a senior writer. MacMullan retired in 2021.

Jane Gross

The first female sports reporter to enter a pro basketball locker room – while covering the New York Knicks – Gross played a crucial role in the progression of equal access. Her access at Knicks – and later, Nets – games prompted the NBA to encourage teams to “open their doors.” Gross, who spent the bulk of her career at the New York Times, retired in 2008.

Suzanne Smith

The only woman directing NFL broadcasts, Smith has worked at CBS Sports for more than 30 years. She started in 1983 as a production assistant and directed her first NFL game in 1990. She also is a coordinating producer for the first women-only sports TV talk show, “We Need to Talk.” Smith founded Girls Nite Productions to inspire young women who have aspirations of working in sports media.

Terry Taylor

Taylor retired in 2013 after 21 years as the first female sports editor for the Associated Press. She joined the AP in Philadelphia in 1977 before moving to sports in 1981, working as a reporter, desk supervisor, assistant sports editor and deputy sports editor on the way to being named sports editor. A Temple graduate, she is credited with building AP’s sports group into a worldwide breaking news powerhouse.

Robin Herman

In 1973, Herman was the first female sports reporter hired by the New York Times. Two years later, she and Canadian reporter Marcel St. Cyr became the first women allowed in a men’s professional locker room – at the NHL all-star game. A member of the first class of women admitted at Princeton, she also wrote for the Washington Post, was an assistant dean at Harvard and published a historical science book.

Susan Fornoff

An AWSM co-founder while employed at the Sacramento Bee, Fornoff also worked at the Baltimore News American, San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle and USA Today in roles ranging from sports reporter to copy editor. The author of two books, she formed GottaGoGolf in 2009 as a digital magazine and is publisher at Blue Coast Media Group – which provides B2B (business-to-business) content.

Nancy Cooney

An AWSM co-founder while employed by the Sacramento Bee, Cooney went on to spend 17 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer in positions including sports editor, investigations editor and metro editor before joining ESPN as a coordinating producer in 2007. As a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan, she studied women in sports journalism during a one-year sabbatical.

Lisa Olson

Olson was the first female sports columnist at the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia, where she lived for eight years after working as a sports reporter at the Boston Herald. In 1990, she was the victim of a sexual harassment incident in the New England Patriots’ locker room that is considered a watershed moment for women in sports media. Her other stops include the New York Daily News and AOL Sports.

Sandy Rosenbush

Rosenbush co-founded the Sports Journalism Institute (SJI) in 1992, whose mission is to increase diversity, while she was the first female president of the Associated Press Sports Editors. SJI has trained more than 350 minority student journalists. A former editor at Sports Illustrated, the New York Times, International Herald Tribune and Washington Post – she works as a news producer for ESPN.

Rosa Gatti

At age 24, Gatti became the first female sports information director at a major university – Villanova, her alma mater. She went on to spend 33 years at ESPN, retiring in 2013 as the company’s senior vice president/corporate outreach and communications counsel. One of the first female executives hired by ESPN, she led the company’s public relations efforts and its drive for diversity.

Julie Cart

Cart worked at the Los Angeles Times from 1982-2015 in roles ranging from sports reporter to metro reporter to environmental reporter. In 2009, she and Times colleague Bettina Boxall won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. After leaving the Times, she joined CALmatters, a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works.

Linda Robertson

Robertson has written for the Miami Herald since 1983. As a sports columnist and reporter, she has covered 13 Olympics, Wimbledon, the Tour de France, World Cups, Final Fours, NBA finals and more. Her award-winning work has been featured in multiple editions of “The Best American Sports Writing.” A former AWSM president and journalism fellow at the University of Michigan, she moved to news in 2016.

Mary Schmitt Boyer

Boyer, a longtime sports reporter at the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, was elected as the first female president of the Pro Basketball Writers Association in 2013. A former AWSM board member, she has written or co-authored seven sports books. Boyer’s other stops include the Washington Post, Minneapolis Star-Tribune and Kansas City Star. She left the Plain-Dealer in 2014, transitioning to a role in the healthcare field.

Julie Ward

Ward was deputy managing editor at USA Today from 1989 through 2007. She led the team that won the 2002 Associated Press Sports Editors award for the story that revealed the 302 members of Augusta National Golf Club and its policy to exclude women from membership. She first joined USA Today in 1984 where she worked as a reporter and assignment editor. Ward also worked for the St. Louis Globe Democrat and the Belleville (Ill.) News Democrat, where she was a columnist.

Kristin Huckshorn

An AWSM co-founder, Huckshorn was the first female sports reporter at the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News and went on to open the first U.S. newspaper bureau in Vietnam while working for Knight-Ridder’s news service. A former AWSM president and co-founder of the scholarship/internship program, she also worked as deputy sports editor at the New York Times and as a coordinating producer at ESPN.

Cathy Henkel

A former AWSM president, Henkel served as sports editor at the Seattle Times for more than 20 years – leading the department to multiple Associated Press Sports Editors “Triple Crown” awards. One of the first female sports editors of a major metropolitan newspaper, she left the Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard in 1987 to join the Times as an assistant sports editor and was promoted four years later.

Christine Brennan

AWSM’s first president and co-founder of the scholarship/internship program, Brennan is a sports columnist for USA Today. Hired in 1981 as the first female sports reporter at the Miami Herald, she later worked at the Washington Post before joining USA Today. Brennan has written seven sports books, including best-selling Inside Edge, and is a commentator on ABC News, CNN, PBS NewsHour and NPR.

Melissa Ludtke

Ludtke began her journalism career as a freelancer for ABC Sports in 1973. Five years later, while working at Sports Illustrated, she successfully sued for female journalists’ rights to be allowed into major-league baseball locker rooms. Ludtke later worked for Time magazine, CBS News, Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism and the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis.

Tracy Dodds

Dodds began her career in 1973 as a sports reporter with the Milwaukee Journal and went on to write for the Houston Post and Los Angeles Times before moving into management. She was the second woman elected as president of the Associated Press Sports Editors – while working as sports editor at the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman. An Indiana graduate, Dodds also served as AWSM’s president.

Michele Himmelberg

An AWSM co-founder and its second president, Himmelberg 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. She led AWSM's efforts to establish written, equal-access policies in all four major sports leagues. She became the first female sports columnist at the Orange County Register and transitioned to PR in 2008, joining Disney Parks.

Claire Smith

Smith is the only female journalist honored in baseball’s Hall of Fame. A former AWSM board member, she covered baseball for 25 years – working at the Hartford Courant, New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer – before joining ESPN as its coordinating editor for MLB broadcasts. In 1984, a day after Smith was pushed out of the San Diego Padres’ clubhouse, MLB ordered all locker rooms to be open to women.

Lesley Visser

Visser’s famous firsts include first female NFL beat writer while working at the Boston Globe (where she began her career), first female analyst on a televised NFL game (while working at CBS) and first female journalist enshrined in the pro football Hall of Fame. Visser, who also worked for ABC/ESPN, additionally was the first female sideline reporter at the Super Bowl and first woman to work Monday Night Football.

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