By Lisa Wilson
APSE president

I’ll never forget my first APSE Summer Conference in 2011. I had just been promoted to Executive Sports Editor at The Buffalo News, and I was a newcomer to APSE.

I’d met a handful of editors at that Boston conference before an introduction that would change my life: “Lisa Wilson, this is Garry D. Howard.”

We talked about many things that night, including our shared experience as one of the few Black sports editors in the country, as well as the responsibility that comes with being a newsroom leader.

I walked away from that conversation with a trusted mentor who continues to guide me. Others tell similar stories. Howard always has gone out of his way to share his wisdom with editors and writers.

That’s why I’m pleased to announce that APSE is establishing the Garry D. Howard scholarship to honor our organization’s first Black president. The Garry D. Howard scholarship — one of five $1,250 college scholarships that APSE will award annually — will go to a student at a historically Black college and university.

“Garry D. Howard has been more than just a longtime friend to me,” said A. Sherrod Blakely, president of the National Association of Black Journalists Sports Task Force and a member of APSE’s scholarship committee. “He has been an amazing journalist and mentor, blazing a trail that I have tried to replicate. But as we all know, there is only one Garry D. Howard. And myself and so many journalists are forever thankful for the time, talents and treasure trove of wisdom he has poured into us. Thank you, Garry, for all that you’ve done for me and countless journalists through the years.”

Howard is the director of corporate initiatives at American City Business Journals. He started as a sports writer at the Times (Trenton, N.J.) and worked in New Brunswick, N.J., Rochester, N.Y., and St. Petersburg, Fla., before joining the Philadelphia Inquirer as a copy editor in 1987. He ascended to deputy sports editor at the Inquirer. When he left for the Milwaukee Journal in 1994, he became the only Black executive sports editor at a major metropolitan daily newspaper. The Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel merged into the Journal Sentinel, where Howard served as senior editor/sports and assistant managing editor/sports.

APSE elected Howard as the first Black president in its history (2009-10). Among his many contributions, he notably started the Red Smith Hall of Fame in Indianapolis during his tenure.

Howard left Milwaukee in 2010 to join the Sporting News as editor-in-chief. He’s been at American City Business Journals since 2014. He graduated from Lehigh University in 1982 and has served on the advisory boards at Morgan State University and the University of Maryland.

NABJ inducted Howard into its Hall of Fame in 2019. He was president of NABJ’s Sports Task Force from 1999-2001, and he received the Task Force’s Sam Lacy Pioneer Award in 2009. He’s been a member of the Milwaukee Press Club Hall of Fame since 2017.

Howard lives in Charlotte, N.C. with his wife, Donna. They have a 21-year-old daughter, Jennifer.

Rana Cash, the executive editor at The Savannah Morning News, worked with Howard at the Sporting News.

“If I had to give one person credit for helping me come out of my shell, it’d be Garry Howard,” Cash said. “He didn’t let me cower or be timid. He made me stand up, speak out and be a leader, not just in title, but in my actions. I can’t thank him enough for that. But beyond that, he’s just been one of my biggest cheerleaders. Garry’s support over the years has meant the world to me. I’m one of many who treasure his guidance, wisdom and friendship.”

That wisdom we all talk about extends beyond journalism. Just ask Kansas City Star sports editor and former APSE president Jeff Rosen.

“It was 2009, summer conference in Minneapolis,” Rosen said. “Back then, I was at the Houston Chronicle as deputy SE to Carlton Thompson. We both went to the conference. He looked fly, but I showed up in an oversized tweed blazer — shoulders too big, sleeves too long, the whole bit — with some sad slacks and very well-worn loafers underneath. Upon our introduction by Carlton at a function on the eve of the conference, Garry took one look at me and said, ‘Son, if you want to be a sports editor one day, you need to look the part.’ (Garry, of course, was dressed to the nines.)

“So the next day, early the following morning, in fact, I went shopping and found a coat that actually fit, some new pants and a nice tie. That evening, I ran into Garry again. ‘That’s much better,’ he said with a laugh and a slap on my back … ‘But now we’ve got to do something about those shoes.’ “

Phil Kaplan, now an assistant sports editor with the South Region on USA TODAY Network, first worked with Howard during his time as an APSE officer in 2009. Besides fashion tips from suit jackets to shorts, Kaplan took away many life lessons. 

“Garry always encouraged me, like he has done for so many others, to make my voice known. And now looking back more than a decade later was so important in leading an organization like APSE and to further my journalism career,” said Kaplan, who serves as APSE scholarship committee chairman. “I was very fortunate to create a friendship and mentorship at the time. I am so happy that an APSE scholarship will always have Garry D.’s name associated with it and the student selected will be selected from an HBCU.” 

Collegiate sports journalists entering their sophomore, junior or senior years in 2021, as well as graduate students, are eligible for the APSE scholarships, which will be awarded based on the students’ journalistic work, their academic record, financial need and geography. The deadline to apply is June 1

Photo by Jack Sorokin / The Lawrenceville School