ASHLAND, VA.--The Virginia Sports Information Directors (VaSID) on Thursday presented the organization’s Distinguished Service Award to two statewide legends in the field of athletic communications. Debbie White, currently the Executive Director of Communications for the Atlantic 10 Conference and formerly of Old Dominion University, and Gary Michael, formerly of James Madison University, received the honor at VaSID’s annual meeting at Randolph-Macon College.
The award is given to individuals who have promoted college athletics and the concept of the student-athlete. The honor is bestowed only to professionals who have been a part of the athletic community as a coach, administrator or member of the media for a minimum of 20 years.
White joined the Atlantic 10 Conference in January of 2017 after serving as the Senior Associate Athletic Director at Old Dominion University, where she supervised the entire external relations of the department. She joined the staff at Old Dominion in 1979 as the Assistant Sports Information Director and was promoted to Sports Information Director the following year, playing a key role in the national exposure that both the men’s and women’s basketball programs enjoyed in the early 1980's. During her tenure as SID, White served on the 1981 and 1982 United States Olympic Sports Festival media staffs, and represented the United States on the media coordination team at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia.
After a one-year journalism teaching stint at Virginia Commonwealth University in 1985, White returned to Old Dominion as an Assistant Athletic Director and was promoted to Associate Director in 1995 and Senior Associate in 2003. She was an 11-year member of the NCAA Communications Committee, and served on the NCAA Basketball Marketing Committee and the Creative Content Committee for the new Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. She also served as the press moderator at the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four for 19 years, was a 16-year member of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame honors court, and is a past president of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Tidewater region. White earned the distinction of being the first full-time woman sportswriter in the state of Virginia, serving on the staff of The Daily Press in Newport News from 1974-77, covering high school and college football and basketball, women’s sports and sailing. She also served as the Sports Information Director at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y. from 1977- 79, and was one of only three women SID’s in the nation at that time in an NCAA Division I institution.
A native of Lexington, Va., White holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from West Virginia University and a Master of Arts in education from the College of William and Mary. She and her husband Steve reside in Williamsburg and are the parents of three children.
Michael retired after 30 years of service as a member of James Madison's sports media relations office. He was hired in 1980 as an assistant SID and was promoted to director in 1985, a role he has held for 25 years. As director, Michael handled all publicity efforts for JMU's football and men's basketball programs. He has also coordinated all communication efforts for an athletics program that grew from 24 to 28 teams. At one point in his career in Harrisonburg, Michael worked almost 300 consecutive JMU football games, spanning from 1985 to 2009. He also worked more than 700 career men’s basketball games. He also was a key contributor to the operation of the Colonial Athletic Association men's basketball tournament each year .
Previous Distinguished Service Award winners:
Bob McLelland, Roanoke Times
Marshall Johnson, Associated Press
Bill Snellenberger, Lynchburg
Bob Moorman, Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association
Paul Webb, Old Dominion
Bill Deekens, Richmond News Leader
Bill Brill, Roanoke Times
Charles Christian, Norfolk State
Dallas Shirley, Southern Conference
Weenie Miller, Hampden-Sydney
Dr. Leotus Morrison, James Madison
Millie West, William & Mary
Dean Ehlers, James Madison
Vic Fulp, Richmond Times-Dispatch
Wayne Block, Christopher Newport
Jack Williams, Virginia Tech
Doyle Smith, Virginia
Kevin Keys, Liberty & West Virginia
Col. Earl "Bud" Skeens, Ferrum
Dr. Jim Jarrett, Old Dominion
Rich Murray, Virginia
Dave Smith, Virginia Tech
Carol Hudson, Old Dominion
Milla Sue Wisecarver, James Madison