Last updated March 19, 2007, 8:00 a.m.
Columbia Memorial Service, Monday, March 19, 2007 at 6 p.m.
Several items below about the passing of Prof. Phyllis Garland, beloved faculty member at the J-school for 30 years, who died Nov. 7, 2006. Prof. Garland, who held the title of Professor Emerita, was 71 years old.
Columbia Journalism School mourns death of Phyl Garland - Journalist, musician, master teacher
The faculty and staff of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism mourn the death of their colleague and friend, Master Teacher Phyllis T. Garland, who died on November 7 of cancer at age 71. Phyl, as she was known, was the first tenured black faculty member at the journalism school, where she taught for more than three decades. In addition to her Cultural Affairs Reporting and Writing class, Garland was a Master’s Project advisor, and founded and then served as the administrator of the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia.
Phyl began her career in 1959 as one of the first women reporters for The Pittsburgh Courier. She would later become an editor there. Throughout the years, she covered issues relevant to African-Americans, including the March on Washington, the Civil Rights Movement, discrimination in housing, education, labor, and the arts, and then the first blacks elected to public office in Mississippi. She went on to become the New York City editor of Ebony magazine.
Phyl’s first love, however, was music. Her collection of black music - jazz, soul, and R&B recordings – covered bookcases from floor to ceiling in her Greenwich Village apartment. For 20 years, she was a contributing editor for Stereo Review, and was the author of The Sound of Soul (1969), a comprehensive book on black music.
Dean Nicholas Lemann described her as “a major presence in the life of this school for decades, and a woman of tremendous love, passion, spirit, and commitment to all the best things in journalism. Hers was a life wonderfully well lived, and that is something for us to bear in mind as we mourn her passing.”
When she retired from the school in 2004, she sang at her own party, accompanied by an all-female band. She was presented with a scroll, which described her as someone with “affection, respect and advocacy for students…a deep love of music and its interplay with culture…and a fierce appreciation of African-American artists and the essential role of the arts in American culture.”
Private funeral services will be held on Saturday, November 18 at 5 pm in McKeesport, PA.
Flowers can be sent to:
Bethlehem Baptist Church
716 Walnut Street
McKeesport, PA 15132
Please feel free to send cards to:
Myrna Garry (Phyl’s cousin)
10010 Windstream Drive
Columbia, MD 21044
Kelly Burks (Myrna’s daughter)
5108 Jamesdale Court
Glenn Dale, MD 20769
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We have just received word that Professor Emerita Phyllis Garland passed away yesterday—evidently without pain. Phyl was a major presence in the life of this school for decades, and a woman of tremendous love, passion, spirit, and commitment to all the best things in journalism. I am sure we will be holding a full-dress memorial service, but for now I just wanted to let you know the news. Hers was a life wonderfully well lived, and that is something is bear in mind as we mourn her passing.
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OFFICIAL FACULTY BIO
Phyllis Garland: B.S.J., Northwestern; L.H.D. (honorary), Point Park College. Reporter, editor, Pittsburgh Courier; assistant editor, associate editor, New York editor, Ebony; assistant professor, State University of New York (New Paltz); consultant, National Endowment for the Arts; administrator, National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia; freelance writer and contributing editor, Stereo Review; author, The Sound of Soul (1969); distinguished scholar of the United Negro College Fund; writer, documentary film, Adam Clayton Powell (1989).
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- Pioneering journalism professor earned respect - By Jerry Vondas, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Friday, Nov. 10, 2006
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Your Tributes Here
Please e-mail Sree Sreenivasan - email@example.com (subject line = Prof. Garland) - please indicate your connection to her.
- From June Cross, J-School professor:
I remember the name Phyl Garland from a time before I even knew I wanted to be a journalist; a time when, as a child, the adults around me discussed in hushed tones the efforts of the nine black students in Little Rock to desegregate Central High School and the battles between the NAACP and SNCC over whether the courts or the streets was the best method to achieve social justice. Black folks distrusted the bias of mainstream newspapers back then; and one the papers most often turned to was the Pittsburgh Courier, where Phyl Garland, a female reporter, covered arts stories; where her mother, Hazel Garland, served as the paper’s editor. The androgynous name struck me; I followed its byline from the Courier, to Ebony magazine back when that magazine covered real events, and when I finally met Phyl at one of the black national conventions in the early seventies I was bowled over by her generosity of spirit, her warmth, her wit; her admonition that I not let being a woman in what was then overwhelmingly a man’s field interfere with my determination to be a good journalist.
We lost track of one another for a long time; then, when I came to the J-school, Phyl took me under her wing and convinced me to stay over many long evenings. She made it clear that the work would not be easy but stressed that it was important; she plied me with the stories of her career over jazz, food, wine, and her numerous humorous anecdotes about both students and faculty.
On the day I received tenure last May, one of the the first calls I made was to Phyl. She was already ill by then, and weak; but when I told her the news, she assumed her “professorial” voice and lectured me for a while on the mantle she expected me to assume. I had so looked forward to her continued mentorship in the years ahead; instead, I will strive to honor the space she created here.
- From Addie Rimmer, J-school Professor:
How do you pay tribute to someone who has been a mentor, a teacher, a role model, a friend and someone who was always there for you? How do you honor a pioneer who flung open doors and kept them propped open so others might join her? How do you say thank you to an amazing woman — a smart, proud and gentle woman who was a remarkable warrior. In the face of pain, she knew how to laugh. In the face of adversity, she knew how to persevere. Of the many things I treasure about her was her amazing ability to slow you down long enough to see what was so obvious that you missed it because you were busy looking for something else. As a teacher and editor, she helped you synthesize stories from the masses of notes that filled your notebook. She listened. She asked questions. She listened and soon you heard the story you wanted to tell.
During my interviews to join the faculty, I reminded Phyl that years ago she had encouraged me to leave my native New York. Without missing a beat, she said, yes that was true. “But I didn’t tell you to be gone for so long. ” I felt like I was back home.
Two years ago it was such a real joy to celebrate Phyl’s retirement at her party in the World Room. Classic Phyl — she had invited her own backup — an all-female band so she could sing. She was ready to move on — enthusiastic about new projects and finishing up others that she had nurtured during her 31-year tenure at Columbia. Classic Phyl — still passionate about journalism and telling stories. I will miss her terribly.
- From David Klatell, Vice Dean:
Phyl was no angel, which is a good thing, because she’d have been bored
stiff. Her laugh was too physical, her interests too varied, her
passions too great, her friends and feuds too varied.
One short anecdote always seemed to capture her essence: My wife and I
had been to a concert by the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, led by trumpeter
John Faddis. The guest artist was a barrel-chested blues singer, named
McKenna. The next day in the office, I was waxing enthusiastic about the
artists and she said, Faddis can still hit those high notes better than
anyone, but you should have heard him in Pittsburgh in the ’50s, and I
knew McKenna in Kansas City when he was a skinny little rat. He’s
fattened up nicely.” And then, of course, laughter bubbled through her
until she had to wipe her eyes.
- From Judith Crist, J’45; adjunct faculty member:
My thoughts about Phyllis Garland, beloved friend and colleague:
Phyl and I met and formed a mutual admiration society in the early Sixties. Her office on the fifth floor was across the hall from the room in which I taught my critical writing classes, and Phyllis had an open-door policy. We soon shared not only her giant Webster’s when “word” problems became a class issue, but also our passion for the lively arts. Phyl educated me in the current-pop fields of her expertise. She was smart and she was witty. Over the years we were both named several times to the committees in search of a new dean. We called ourselves “threefers” (a play on the two-for-the-price-of-one “twofers” of showbiz). Phyl was a woman, African-American and junior faculty. I was a woman, Jewish and adjunct faculty. Three politically correct attributes apiece. I also served on the Genauer Prize selection committee that Phyl headed for many years. And my last in-school encounters were for that, in the sun-filled eighth-floor office she filled with plants and, above all, her lively and caring personality. She is deep in my heart.
- From Sig Gissler, special faculty member and now administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes:
I was white and she was black, but Phyllis Garland and I shared a deep
interest in the complex role of race in American society - and in the news
media’s often flawed coverage of racial issues. I first met Phyllis in 1993.
After many years as a newspaper editor, I was a senior fellow at the old
Media Studies Center at Columbia studying the interplay of race and media.
Phyllis invited me to talk to her evening class, which she led with majestic
ease. We hit it off. A year later, she supported my application to join the
journalism faculty and helped me design a new seminar called “Race and
Ethnicity in the New Urban America,” which I taught for eight years. She
encouraged me at every turn, always ready with tips, sources and
suggestions. In 1999, she pitched in again to help me and others create
what became “Let’s Do It Better: Columbia’s Workshops on Journalism, Race
and Ethnicity.” Again, her wisdom, judgment and bone-deep understanding of
racial history were indispensable. All the while, she set a wonderful
example in her devoted relationship with students. Phyllis touched many
lives. I’m glad she left a lovely thumb print on mine.
- From Helen Benedict, faculty member:
Phyl was always a great supporter and friend, from the moment I
arrived in this school 20 years ago. She was a champion of fair
treatment for women and people of color, and we went through quite
a few struggles together over these issues during the years. She
also had a love of the arts, music and writing, and a beautiful
jazz singer’s voice. She adored her students and cared terribly
about justice and integrity. She was also just a whole lot of fun.
She had so many things she wanted to accomplish with the free time
after her retirement. This premature death is heartbreaking.
- From LynNell Hancock, faculty member:
Over the years Phyl Garland has been my professor, my colleague and my
friend. In all these roles she was her genuine self–warm, caring, deeply
passionate, and a whole lot of fun. Phyl taught me all those pesky basics with humor
and patience when I was her RW1 student. Occasionally her eyes would flash
with exasperation when we didn’t live up to expectations, her commanding voice
would boom with indignation over an injustice. It wouldn’t be long, though,
before she would erupt into a belly laugh over the absurdity of it all, and
then would regale us with stories of interviewing Duke Ellington sans habille,
or chasing Martin Luther King, Jr. down the street for a story. Phyl got a
kick out of welcoming me into the faculty decades later as her colleague. She
couldn’t believe she had stayed so long at Columbia that her old students
were now moving in to the office next door. Her generosity remained in tact, as
she answered my endless questions about the Black press in America, or the
jazz greats from Kansas City. At Phyl’s retirement party I remember the late
Professor Jim Carey saying that the heart of the school was leaving with her.
No one could really replace her sense of dedication to the cause of gender and
racial equity in the student body, on the faculty. And no one but Phyl could
rock the stately World Room with her own singing voice and the sounds of an
all-female jazz trio. There is no one like her.
- From Deborah Wassertzug, Journalism School librarian:
I am so sorry to hear of the loss of another cherished member of the
J-school family. I always enjoyed my talks with Professor Garland,
which would begin with a research question on her part, but easily
evolve into discussions about music and books. (I still remember
being stunned when she told me that her book on soul was published
by Regnery, a house that has changed a lot since then!). I will
miss the exuberant way she would enter a room and greet you - so
warmly - and I wish comfort to her family and many friends who are
- From Steve Ross, J’70; former professor; editor, BroadbandProperties:
2006 has turned into a tough year.
What I cherish most about Phyl was her insistence on going her own way — and on almost always being nice about it. I don’t ever remember her going back on her word, or doing
something behind someone’s back.
Phyl will be remembered, of course, as the first female professor, and as the second black, ever tenured by the J-school. That sells her short. She managed to be a culture-vulture and a news hawk. She was a fine professor — not merely a fine “black female” professor — who was adored by most of her charges.
She taught students in her RW1 class both how to dig for local stories (a skill that’s being lost in American journalism) and to appreciate the glory of the arts (a skill that few journalists have ever mastered; heaven knows I haven’t).
When she ran the “Columbia Branch” of the national arts reporting fellowship program, she sometimes sent fellows to me for mini-courses in arts financing. That ended when the program was reorganized. But she understood that a good jazz performance starts with box office basics.
I especially remember when Phyl’s mom — also a pioneering journalist — passed on. I’m sure they’ve been catching up on the news this week… and that they are indeed smiling,
- From E.R. Shipp, J’79; former professor; Lawrence Stessin Distinguished Professor in Journalism at Hofstra University
Columbia didn’t know what to do with me and Addie Rimmer when we arrived on
the scene at the J-School in 1977 among the class with the largest number of
blackfolk to date. But Luther P. Jackson did. And so did Phyl. In their very
different approaches to journalism education - but not to overcoming racism by
not letting it be a crutch to failure - Phyl and Luther shaped the outlook of so
many of us. I was a Luther student, so during my year or so in the J-School I
spent more time in his orb than I did in Phyl’s. Over time, however, it was
evident that Phyl’s influence was not limited to blacks. She reached out to and
listened to and steered - sometimes gently, sometimes not - students of
color, women, gays and lesbians and the artsy-fartsy types in a Front Page
When I joined the faculty as a grownup in 1994, she was so welcoming. I
gained from her wisdom in not just teaching but in navigating the bureaucratic
waters. In turn, I introduced her to some of the campus life from which she had
been cloistered as a resident of that J-School building.
Phyl and I had something in common beyond journalism: We liked to eat and, to
eat well, we liked to cook. She could throw down! Because she was competitive
in this realm, I think she would appreciate my saying that so can I!
We both loved jazz. She knew jazz and was one of the first journalists to put
the virtuoso Wynton Marsalis on the national radar screen in a piece for
Ebony magazine. I could not talk jazz the way she could and, obviously, did not
know the players as she did. But she got a kick out of my story of how I covered
the unpublicized memorial service of Miles Davis at St. Peter’s Lutheran
Church, the so-called jazz parish. I’d been attending memorial jam sessions there
since I arrived in New York City as a student in the 1970s and realized that
was the best venue to catch the greatest jazz musicians for free. Just read the
obits to see who’d died and find out when the memorial gathering would take
place at St. Peter’s. Not too long before Miles’s death, I’d attended the
wedding of a distant relative, the jazz pianist Matthew Shipp Jr. Father John
Gensel of St. Peter’s officiated. When Miles died in 1991, I just presumed that
something would happen at St. Peter’s. But there was no announcement. After
working all the official public relations routes and receiving no information, I
called at night when a security guard answered the phone and asked if anything
big was scheduled there in the next few days. He said there was a funeral on
Saturday, Oct. 5. So I showed up and rather brazenly attached myself to Father
Gensel and walked in with him. Once inside, I realized that I would look like
a dummy if I didn’t recognize the music well enough to describe it in the
piece I had in mind for the New York Times. Thankfully, the music was Kind of
Blue, an album I knew inside out. (In explaining nut grafs to students I play for
them “So What” from that album). The other thing that saved me was having
Dizzy Gillespie there working the room, greeting the sidemen who’d played with
him and Miles over the decades. Phyl would have no doubt known everybody
there. How she chuckled about that story!
Phyl was part of a Columbia group that treated a guest speaker, Carole
Simpson, to dinner at a downtown restaurant that featured jazz. I didn’t notice that
this was live jazz; we were so busy eating and talking. When I did see that
this was Ron Carter and his ensemble and went (I believe with Prof. Derwin
Johnson) to thank him for the music during intermission, he blessed us out, as
they’d politely say down home. He raged. Because we were the only black group
there and we were talking so loudly, we didn’t set a good example for the rest of
the room. Yes, he did bless us out! Phyl came over to save the day as we
slunk back to our table. We minded our manners after that.
It’s a strange coincidence that Phyl and Ed Bradley, pioneering journalists
in different media but both jazz nuts, died a day apart. Both could jam, but
Bradley, being a TV guy, has more footage to document it. I don’t know about his
musical collection, but Phyl had thousands of albums, many of them quite
rare. Bradley was an ebullient amateur on the stage, but even he said he couldn’t
carry a note. Phyl carried the notes. And us.
The last social event that I attended in her presence was in January, the
90th birthday celebration of our friend Evelyn Cunningham. Evelyn, one of the
doyennes of black journalism, was another alum of the Pittsburgh Courier and had
been mentored there by Phyl’s mother, the editor. The organizers invited 45
people to tea at a fancy hotel on Manhattan’s East Side and 45 people to
cocktails at the Rainbow Room. Guess who got the tea invites? Phyl did, and I did.
When we saw each other there we couldn’t help but laugh. Two people who
could care less for all that frou-frou were there for Evelyn.
- Peter Landis, J’75; managing editor, NY1News:
Phyllis Garland scared me.
When I first came to the J School in September of ‘74, I wound up in
Professor Garland’s RW1 class, bored, and convinced that intense
study in the basics was the last thing I needed.
I learned very quickly that I was wrong.
Boy, was I wrong.
Professor Garland made me understand that there’s such a thing as
“attribution”, that I can’t report something as fact if I don’t
personally know it to be true (no…just because the police
commissioner told me so doesn’t necessarily make it so).
I also learned that stream of consciousness (or, occasionally,
unconsciousness) did not a story make.
Just when I was growing REALLY TIRED of getting assignments handed
back with lots of notations and enough squiggles to resemble a
football play…a breakthrough.
A piece I wrote about police operations in Brownsville, Brooklyn,
came back clean (or almost so). As she handed it to me, she actually
laughed and said something like “welcome to the class”. I didn’t need
to look at the yellow work paper to know that I’d finally passed
muster with Phyllis Garland.
I’ve thought about Phyllis from time to time while pounding away at
attribution with students at the J school (where I’m an adjunct) or
with reporters at NY1 News.
I found out late that she was ill and called the hospice where she
was being cared for. She wasn’t able to come to the phone but her
nurse said she would let her know I was thinking about her.
I hope she got the message.
- From Dr. Deborah S. Edelman, J’85; health writer, researcher, author:
Thankfully, I had an email exchange with Professor Garland less than a year
ago. She was my RWI instructor and an enthusiastic supporter of my work,
even though I was a science writing fellowship student and her specialty was
arts and culture. My first RWI story was about an all-black rodeo in
Harlem; she passed out copies to the whole class, totally embarrassing me.
When I went to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, to write a neighborhood feature, I
brought back an assortment of marzipan from a popular bakery there to share
with the class. She made a big fuss about that, too; my classmates were
less pleased. I loved her exuberance and feel grateful to have had her as
- From Stephen M. Silverman, J’75; news editor, People.com:
Phyllis and I taught together for eight years, during which time I’d
criticize students and she’d smile at them — and then criticize them
herself, often breaking into peels of laughter as she did.
Phyl had the most infectious and hearty laugh, as well as a steady
and determined focus. Getting her to reminisce was always the biggest
treat, because the stories ranged from her playing Bloody Mary for
Rodgers and Hammerstein (after two drinks we’d sing “Bali Hai”
together), to her being greeted by Duke Ellington in his Chicago
hotel room for an interview at which Duke wasn’t wearing a stitch.
And she simply proceeded with the interview.
We taught arts journalism, and Phyl insisted that the subject was
important because, if nothing else, the arts allow us in our everyday
lives to show the best that we can do.
And there you have it: A true pro. A dedicated teacher. A real pal.
And a gentle and very loving soul.
She had my deepest affection and admiration.
- From Thaddeus Hwong, J’93; York University professor, Toronto:
Years ago in a seminar in the World Room, Professor Garland shared with us
this little tidbit of her personal experience. One day she was walking
along, if I remember correctly, the Upper West Side, and there were these
nice little shops selling these nice and expensive things. When she walked
around she heard someone made a reference to something like why someone from
the Third World was here. She was indignant and defiant. Third World?
Where’s the First World? Why is there a ranking? Why is there a class?
Aren’t we all supposed to be equal? It’s a remiss that I didn’t have the
opportunity to take any course with Professor Garland. But the spirit and
tone of the challenge she mounted will continue to resonate in my mind.
- From Priscilla Huff, J93; producer/correspondent, Feature Story News:
Prof. Garland was my RW1 professor and I don’t quite know what would be the
lede. She was both tough and tender, a stickler for learning and immensely
supportive. She made fabulous fried chicken. She was one of my favorite
teachers at Columbia and I have fond memories of her and her class. I think,
thanks to her efforts, I can work as a journalist in all forms - newspaper,
magazine and broadcast writing. Prof. Garland was that magical combination
of an excellent journalist and a wonderful teacher.
- From Luis Moreno-Gomez, J’63:
May the Lord grant her a peaceful rest and courage to the faculty members at the school, where she is going to be missed.
- From Janice L. Greene, J’82:
Phyl was my Reporting and Writing instructor, where her incisive editing, encouragement and compassion for a young, confused, aspiring reporter helped build my confidence and increase my respect for the art and skill involved in reporting and writing, journalism’s core.
Ten years later when I approached her for mid career advice, she encouraged me still. I regret that I kept postponing a visit to her while she was in hospice. I had been thinking of her off these last few months, but those thoughts inexplicably returned and intensified in recent days. Now I know why. Even at 71, Phyl left the world far too soon.
- From Cy Welch, J’81:
Phyl Garland was the kind of professor at the J-School that really expressed
her generosity in assisting students to dig deep for their gifts. Professor
Garland was my Reporting and Writing Instructor and because of her astute
approach to bringing out my best, I successfully graduated in the 1981 class. I
continued my relationship with Professor Garland after graduation as a personal
friend. She was a welcomed guest in my California home in 1997,Professor
Garland was still helping me, as she edited a piece I was working on at the
time. Professor Garland was very proud of my accomplishments as one of her
students and friend working in Cable Television. Phyl Garland was so very
special to me. May her soul rest in peace.
- From Martha Irvine, J ‘94; Associated Press national writer, Chicago
Phyl Garland was my Master’s Project adviser and a well-loved professor — one who alway pushed me to be better, to stretch beyond what I thought was possible, to challenge how I saw the world around me.
I grew a great deal during my time and Columbia, professionally and personally — and Phyl was among those who provided the space and care that allowed me to do that.
She will be greatly missed and fondly remembered, always, with gratitude, affection and respect.
- From Anisa Mehdi, J’82; president Whetstone Productions:
Thanks to Phyl’s encouragement I published my first (and last!) story in the
NY Daily News. For her class I’d reported on the Queens Museum and with
Phyl’s red-penning and my re-writes the News picked it up. It was a
two-page center piece story with a giant photo and my by-line. I got paid
$25 to boot!
Years later I became arts and culture correspondent for New Jersey public
television and Phyl asked me to come in and talk to her class.
The arts were never fluff to Phyl. These were the pillars and grit of human
potential; the barometer of any society’s sucess.
I am grateful for her vision.
- From Richard Wexler, J’76; Executive Director, National Coalition for Child Protection Reform:
When Phyl retired, she asked some of her former students to speak
at her retirement party.
At the time I made some notes, but didnt write it all down
because, as I explained then, Phyl might see it, and find out that I *still* can’t spell.
But I explained that it was no coincidence that I wound up in her
RW1 class. I lived in New York City and Id gotten a tip that one could look
at the comments previous classes had made about the faculty.
One look at what the Class of 75 said and I begged to be let
into Phyl’s RW1 class in the fall.
And the comments Id read didnt even tell the whole story.
They only hinted at how much would be gained from the class discussions the
arguments with classmates. Theyd run well past the end of class and
spill out into the hall and keep right on going as we marched downstairs from the
Phyls RW1 class was a no cynicism zone. A lot of us went
into journalism if not to change the world then at least to improve one corner of
it. We always came out of RW1 more energized in that mission. If the fire
to do that kind of work wasnt there at the beginning, Phyl lit it; if it was
already there, Phyl stoked it.
And then there were the comments on our papers, the ones that always got to
the heart of what was wrong and how to set it right. But most important was
how she did it: Phyl always knew the difference between being tough and being
mean. Our papers bled red ink, but we were never cut.
So we could experiment, we could be free to try new things and
get some mistakes out of our systems.
Once I remember experimenting a bit with the line between news and opinion.
As we went over that paper during a conference, Phyl came to that part and
said: WHAT in the world were you doing? but followed immediately by her
I wanted to see if you could do that in a news story, I said.
Well, you CANT! Phyl said, followed by another hearty laugh.
And then talked about what could be done.
All this had a bonus. I didnt know in 1976 that someday Id spend a few
years teaching an undergraduate version of RW1; so it turned out, Phyl also
taught me how to teach.
It went beyond RW1. Phyls office was one of the oases of kindness at
the school; and I dont know that Id have gotten through the year without it.
- From John H. Britton, special assistant to the President, Meharry Medical College
When we both worked for Johnson Publishing Company, Inc. - she for
Ebony; I for Jet - Phyl Garland never failed to display the class, the
dignity and the decency that informed all that she did, including
especially her writing. She was a superb reporter and writer, and she
possessed remarkable skills as a judge of news.
I admired her intensely. I learned from her the important doors that an easy smile can open. And I regret deeply my failure to maintain contact
with her during the autumn of our years.
May she rest in peace. And may the life she lived - the dash between
her date of birth and time of death - illuminate the roadmap guiding
survivors who aspire to her kind of productive life and quality living.
- From Terry Gildea, J’04; reporter, Capitol News Connection with PRI
I was one of the lucky few to draw Phyl as my master’s project adviser
during her last year at the j-school. When my fellow students would vent
about how their advisers were too busy with other duties to care about
their work, I was always the exception. Phyl spent an enormous amount
of time working with me and the others in my group. When I told her my
intention to write about celibacy in the Roman Catholic priesthood, she
encouraged me to run after the story. She taught me how to interview
and gave me the tools to write copy that engages the reader. Her wisdom
and intellect were rivaled only by a profound grace she shared with
everyone that crossed her path. Phyl invited us to her Greenwich Village
apartment for one of our last meetings as a group. She greeted the four
of us with her wonderful smile and enough food to feed twenty people.
Hours later, she wouldn’t let anyone leave until we took all of the food
with us. Phyl was the kind of once in a lifetime mentor that few get
the chance to work with. I am truly blessed to have known her.
- From Liz Willen J’87; assistant director, Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, Teachers College, Columbia University
I’ll never forget her laugh. I might have been intimidated by
Professor Garland, except for that when I first sat down in her
office for a chat, I must have (mistakenly in my j-school anxiety)
said something funny, and she just started roaring with laughter.
After that, we spoke often - about race, city politics, my thesis on
Coney Island, music - twice I ran into her at jazz festivals and
concerts) politics and the little tricks and details that could turn
a dull story into a richer, more thorough and nuanced piece of work.
She was one of those teachers who stay with you always, and we kept
in touch for years. What a loss for the J-school.
- From Duy Linh Tu, J’98; adjunct professor; founder, ResolutionSeven.com
I took Professor Garland’s Arts and Culture reporting class in the Spring
semester of my year at J-School. She was a great professor, but my fondest
memory of her had nothing to do with the classroom. At the end of the
course, she invited our class over to her apartment for some of the best
homemade fried chicken I’ve ever tasted. The dinner party became an evening
of storytelling; Prof. Garland had a great way of turning simple moments
from her past into the most vivid anecdotes. And for a few hours, she
helped me (and I suspect many of my fellow classmates) to forget about the
pressures of J-School, deadlines, and finding a job, and she reminded us all
of the power of a good stories and great company.
- From Francis Ward, former Ebony colleague and currently a professor at Syracuse University:
My wife, Val Ward, and I had known Phyl since 1967 when Phyl and I both
worked for Ebony Magazine. She and I often talked about the upheaval events
of the 1960’s and what a momentous a decade this was. Both of us were often
irritated to the point of pure outrage when we heard or read comments that
the 1960’s were only about Woodstock, getting high, using drugs and free
sex. Phyl and I also shared a common and very deep belief that journalism
should play an important part in bringing about positive social change.
Val and I last saw Phyl during the Spring 2004 semester when she came to
Syracuse University as a panelist for a conference on the 50th anniversary
of the famous Brown vs. Broad of Education Supreme Court decision. We shared
many remembrances at the time. I’m sure all of us feel a sense of great loss
at Phyl’s untimely passing. But this is a time when all of us should recommit ourselves to the fundamental goals of freedom, justice and equality.
Phyl, you will be missed, but never forgotten.
- From Gayle Pollard Terry, ‘73, Feature Writer, Los Angeles Times:
I am responsible for Phyl Garland joining the faculty of the J school. In
the spring of ‘73, I complained to the dean about the lack of black women
who were professors. Asked for recommendations, I suggested: Charlayne
Hunter-Gault, then on leave from The New York Times; Marquita Poole, a J-school alum
and a producer for CBS and Phyl Garland, then on the staff of
Ebony magazine and based in New York. A year earlier, Phyl Garland swept
through a Women in Communications conference, identified the three black
student attendees and invited us to her home for dinner. She regaled us
with stories from her career, and encouraged our aspirations. For years,
she had no idea how she had come to the attention of the J school. The rest
- From Elise Virginia Ward, J’79; 9th Decade, Inc/The Theodore Ward Collection
Phyl Garland and I met in her Spring term magazine writing class. In striking contrast to the staid Professor Luther Jackson, Phyl could often be found scurrying around the building in her serape, like a sort of pixilated hippie, or looking up from under a pile of overdue student evaluations. In reality, she was a brilliant, focused, critical analyst whose importance to the J School’s women and students of color was profound and lasting.
Phyl’s office suite mate, Penn Kimball, was my R & W 1 instructor and, despite their frequent irritation with one another, each became my friend. Later, during the period when he and I both worked for Ed Logue in the South Bronx, Penn told me Phyl was being considered for tenure, and I asked him to head up her committee. Two things stand out from that period: Her CV, which was more than ten pages long, and a wonderful article she’d written entitled Why I Stayed in the Black Press.
She loved women’s tennis and Tiger Woods and Wynton Marsalis and Mahler as much as Ellington. She loved to cook and she loved her family.
Our sisterhood was precious.
- Esther Iverem, editor and publisher, www.SeeingBlack.com
While Phyl was on sabbatical during my year at the J-School (’83),
she was my mentor during the inaugural year of the National Arts
Journalism Program, 1994-95. She was an endless source of
inspiration, kindess and encouragement to me and the other two
fellows, whom she affectionately referred to as her “children.” I
will always be grateful for her encouragement of my voice as a critic
and for her insistence that Black people write about and critique our
own culture. I have dedicated my forthcoming book on Black film to
- From Dennis Halpin, J’74:
I was very saddened to learn of Professor Garland’s death. I was a member of her first class when she came to Columbia to serve as our faculty mentor in 1973-74. As we were all newly arrived, we shared a special bond in finding our way through the maze of Columbia Journalism School. I last saw her at our 20th class reunion in 1994 and told her I was then heading off to China. This was no surprise to her as she had encouraged me to write my Master’s thesis on my Peace Corps experiences in Korea when I was her student two decades earlier. Although I never made a career in journalism (one summer only at Associated Press in Chicago) I made use of the writing skills Professor Garland helped to cultivate in my work in government, first with the State Department and later as a staff member in the House of Representatives. Professor Garland shared her love of other cultures and taught, with her hearty laugh and twinkling eyes, how to see the hidden gems below the surface in any culture. She will be greatly missed. May she rest in peace. My sympathy to her family and friends.
- From Peter White, J98:
I am saddened to hear the news of Prof Garland’s death. How many times
did she bring her class to her apartment downtown for a real Southern
fried chicken dinner? Dozens probably. And she spent most of the time
preparing and frying that chicken herself–refusing any help with a
work she took complete ownership of. That is what I learned from her
She was my teacher for the basic news writing and reporting class. As a
rather privileged white boy and raised on Reader’s Digest, Phyl Garland
was one unforgettable character. I remember her piece on Beverly
Sills. She passed out the profile she had penned about the famous opera
singer as an example of how to get inside a character and share with
the reader her passion and respect for her subject.
Personally, I didn’t give a rat’s ass about the civil rights era or
opera either for that matter but Phyl’s piece made me care about those
things in spite of myself. Sills respect for her craft, her talent,
and indomitable spirit in a very European art form was an
accomplishment that transcended race and class. And Phyl ’s enormous
respect and understanding for Sills came through in every line. She
cared tremendously and made the reader care with the feeling she had
for Sills tucked in between the lines–not just the language and
structure of the piece.
It’s kind of like a cracker thinking Mohammed Ali was the best fighter
of all time. That might seem like a weird analogy. But Phyl could not
only get the reader to embrace complex and contradictory feelings about
an issue but also to transform the reader’s heart about it, too. And
that was a very powerful gift she had.
She was very kind and astute and taught with a gentleness that
encouraged rather than shamed. I was very privileged to know her.
- Diane Powell-Larche’ - Phyl Garland’s mom was her mentor
To really love and appreciate Phyl Garland you had to know her
parents, especially her mom Hazel Garland. I learned of Phyl’s passing just today as I
read stories on blackamericaweb.com. As a person who reads many
publications daily, I was stunned that this news escaped me until
Hazel Garland was my mentor and I her protege. As a reporter with the
Pittsburgh Courier fresh out of the University of Pittsburgh, I was
Mrs. Garland’s project. She taught me the “ropes” of writing for a
newspaper and most importantly, she taught me the importance of
women’s rights and being a leader of the cause.
I attribute my deep committment to the rights of women, particularly
black women, to Mrs. Garland. She invited me to a women’s tea in her
beloved home town of McKeesport the first week of my job. She even
paid the $5 fee for the tea. I could not make it and she and Alma
Speed Fox of the NAACP in Pittsburgh kept after me.
Today I am a member of the League of Women Voters of Atlanta board of
directors and a charter member of the Atlanta Commission on Women. I write often
about women’s causes and issues all due to my “training” received
from Mrs. Garland.
Phyl was her pride and joy and we spent hours discussing Phyl’s
achievements. Phyl was so much like her mother and that wonderful
glowing smile is one that she inherited from Mrs. Garland.