Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Guru Tribute to Mary Jo Haverbeck III: Poignant Reaction Continues

By Mel Greenberg

The reaction continues from longtime friends in the profession and many nurtured early in their careers by Mary Jo Haverbeck.

The Guru thinks he got everybody unless an email is buried in a thread. This is the last of the three-part package.

Karen Smith, now living in Minnesota, wrote:

I first met Mary Jo Haverbeck as a graduate assistant in Sports Information at Temple University through publicizing the sports of field hockey and lacrosse.

I remember her British accent and how she mentored a 22 year-old who was hoping to land a job in the new field of women’s sports information.

After one year I was hired at the College of William and Mary as the first women’s SID and I continued to see Mary Jo on the sidelines of epic field hockey and lacrosse games (with her prim and proper coach who always wore a skirt Gillian Rattray).

Mary Jo was a mentor and friend – always encouraging with wise counsel. She was tough as nails underneath her kindness and was a top notch journalist in every sense with strong ethics.

Together with other women SID’s we created the first Top 20 Field Hockey national poll and the first Field Hockey box score to proote publicity of the sport we both loved (I played field hockey at the University of Iowa).

Through the years in CoSida (even after I moved on to the University of Minnesota as SID) along with other early women’s SID’s, Mary Jo was a trailblazer for women in a male dominated profession.

I love this blog post of hers because it references her early work and what is happening today I media coverage of women’s sports.

My own thesis at Temple University was a survey on women's sports information directors salary and pay which mirrored the type of study MJ did. I’m sure she provided input for the study, along with Tam Flarup from Wisconsin, at our first women’s sports publicity committee meeting at in Kansas City where the idea was hatched.

So sad to hear of her passing but she certainly made a difference!

Shelly Poe, who has held many premium positions in the field and is now at Auburn goes back in the day with Mary Jo, said:

Mary Jo was my friend, colleague and cheerleader for the past 30 years and she was the first to applaud the successes of her friends and applaud the loudest.

People do not realize how much the sporting landscape has changed for women in a few decades because of the tireless efforts and proven professonalism of a few brave women like Mary Jo. They were outstanding at their work, giving the powers that were no excuse not to involve women in communications and other areaas.

Mel, last night I watched a team of mine play in the national championship game for the fourth time - that would have never been possible for a journalism student from West Virginia without a champion like Mary Jo in my corner, and in the corner for so many of us.

Every media function I went to this week, someone was asking about Mary Jo from across the national media. Her excellence and her genuine concern for others have touched so many people.

I am very fortunate this year to serve as president of CoSIDA, now 3000+ members strong, and Mary Jo is an icon to that group, because she blazed a trail, but also because she did it right, she carried the highest standards of work, and because she encouraged so many people (of all genders) along the way.

This is a sad day for CoSIDA, but a great chance to remember all that our friend has meant to us and to renew our commitment to continue that legacy. Thank you for collecting these thoughts and I look forward to reading your heartfelt tribute. Hope you are well.

Florida women's basketball SID Kathy Cafazzo, who previously had a similar job as a successor to Mary Jo tweeted Tuesday afternoon:

Mary Jo Haverbek was an amazing mentor of mine. She was a great teacher in so many ways and I learned every time we talked.

From the Golden Dome at Notre Dame:

Mary Jo was the consummate professional and a pioneer in our profession— a trailblazer in so many ways. She loved Penn State and the student-athletes that she worked with every day.

I had such an appreciation for the way in which she went about doing her job. I remember my first CoSIDA Workshop and Mary Jo coming up and introducing herself to me. At the time, I was a young 23-year-old who didn't have a clue.

After that first convention, I always looked forward to seeing Mary Jo and talking with her. I will be forever grateful for the kindness and patience she showed a CoSIDA newbie."

Bernadette Cafarelli
Assistant Athletics Director/Media Relations
University of Notre Dame

And from Old Dominion's Debbie White, who was, like many, a part of MJ's Final Four posse:

This is hard for me to put into words, but here goes…..

Mary Jo was one of the first women I met in CoSIDA and thanks to the success of our women’s basketball program in the late 70’s and early 80’s, ODU and Penn State became regular opponents and our friendship flourished.

We were roommates at the USOC National Sports Festival in 1981 where it was Mary Jo who woke me up at the crack of dawn to watch the wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles.

We reunited for 17 straight years at the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four on the media liaison team. At the 1994 tournament, it was Mary Jo who dressed up like the Easter Bunny to surprise my then seven-year old daughter.

And it was always Mary Jo talking to the student volunteers at the tournament about their career aspirations and providing sage advice.

It was Mary Jo who took the time to mentor young women in the business, to help the media on women’s basketball fact finding ventures, and to find the right hook to promote a feature story angle on women student athletes.

My colleague, my mentor, my friend - that was Mary Jo.

And from Harrisonburg, Virginia, Milla Sue Wisecarver writes:

I met Mary Jo Haverbeck as a college student in about 1975 or so. She was speaking about the profession at North Carolina Greensboro, and I drove down from Virginia to hear her speak and to have a chance to talk with her as I considered a career in sports media relations. It was her encouragement that made me decide to follow in her footsteps as a career choice.

Our paths crossed a number of times over the years, as my school, James Madison University, played Penn State quite a bit in field hockey and lacrosse, and occasionally in women’s basketball. And when I needed advice? Mary Jo was the one I called upon.

The last time I remember reaching out to her for guidance was when I was considering an offer to help manage a press center at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games. Mary Jo and I had both worked (at different venues) at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, and neither of us came away overly thrilled with our experiences, so I was reluctant to try it again. I recall her telling me at the time that every experience was different and to “go for it,” which I did, and I spent one of the most rewarding three weeks of my entire career working at Salt Lake City.

What a marvelous mentor for women in our profession! I am sure I am one of many, many women who have Mary Jo to thank for making our lives a bit better.

Milla Sue Wisecarver
Former Assistant Director of Athletics Communications, JMU

Niki DeSantis is primarily the women's basketball contact for the CAA:

I was assigned to work the NCAA Women’s Basketball First/Second Round in Norfolk, Va., at Old Dominion University and I had invited four of our interns to go along and assist for the weekend. MJ was also volunteering in Norfolk.

At one point during the practice day, MJ, one of my interns (Garka) and myself were working in the media work room and MJ leaned over and asked us if we had room in our van to take her back to the hotel with us at the end of the day. “Of course,” I said and looked over to my intern Garka and said “let’s make sure we don’t forget MJ.” We all chuckled.

Later in the afternoon, MJ came to me and said that she was through with her duties and someone else was headed back to the hotel so she was going with them. Cool… we’ll just catch up later!

Once that day of practices and press conferences were through, we loaded our van and were driving to the hotel. Garka was sitting in the far back of the van and once we were one block from the hotel, he yells out “STOP!!! WE FORGOT THE LADY!!!”

It had me laughing so hard that I needed to pull to the side of the road for a second. I forgot to tell Garka that MJ had talked to me earlier informing me that she caught an earlier ride back to the hotel.

Oops. It was just really funny that he couldn’t remember MJ’s name and just yelled out from the back of the van calling her “The Lady”, but was so concerned! We shared this story with MJ, along with more laughs.

This story spread pretty quickly among the staffers that weekend and MJ’s nickname became “The Lady” J Anytime I met up with MJ thereafter, I would greet her with “ah, The Lady” and a big hug and we always had a good chuckle over the memory.

MJ was a wonderful person and a great paver for women in the business.

MJ, “The Lady”, will always be remembered.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Blogger Brenda Cheadle said...

MJ was my senior year roommate at UD, Class of '61 and fellow teacher our first two years out of college. I knew her parents well- how proud they must be!
"Mary Jo was a kind, considerate soul with a delightfully sly sense of humor and eyes that often hinted at mischief." Vic Dorr
(She could also spot a phony at 50 yards!)
"More than a pioneer, Mary Jo was a visionary." Mel
"And Mary Jo had to do it with the only tools of the time-- common sense, confidence, and personality. "
Cathy Bongiovi
"She was quiet about her accolades. She never advertised what a pioneer she was. "Julie Williams
I plan to organize your thoughts and those of others in order to nominate MJ to the UD Wall of Fame. Perhaps someone will take up this role at Penn State as well- not for MJ but for the young women who are searching for their niche in this brief ride we all take around the sun. Brenda Cheadle

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