by Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas
Now there are four: Gladys Erickson – 1967, Joanne Zerkel – 1986, Olga Carlile – 1992, and myself, Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas – 2013. The histories of IWPA and NFPW will forever regard us on the impressive list of national winners of the highly respected Communicator of Achievement Award.
The Communicator of Achievement competition was initiated by the National Federation of Press Women Executive Board in 1956 for presentation the following year, and then annually or as merited. It was originally called the “Press Woman of Achievement and Citation Award” before being renamed in 1989 with the title as it stands today. Nominations were started at the affiliate level suggesting the person have “experience and achievement, ability as a writer, dedication to the profession, contribution to NFPW and personality.” IWPA began honoring a member of its affiliate with the state award in 1960.
Today, the Communicator of Achievement Award is the highest honor bestowed by the National Federation of Press Women upon those members who have distinguished themselves within and beyond their profession.
Upon receiving the award in 1967, Gladys Erickson said it evoked feelings of “pride in my profession, and gratitude that NFPW awarded such an honor to a newswoman.” Erickson felt an obligation to support NFPW and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association having served as affiliate president for the 1975-1977 term. She won acclaim for her writing for the Chicago American and its successor, Chicago Today, before becoming the public information officer in 1969 for the newly created Illinois Department of Corrections. She was a book author as well as a public relations consultant and freelancer. Erickson was also IWPAs Woman of the Year in 1963, the same year she was given the Golden Cross of the Royal Order of Efpoiia by King Paul I of Greece. In 1958 she was also cited by the Greek government for her service.
“Winning the Woman of Achievement gave me a wonderful sense of self confidence in what I do on my personal and professional levels,” stated Joanne Zerkel in 1986. “It also brought me many speaking engagements at local organizations, and a raise.” Zerkel was the lifestyles editor for the 12 Star newspapers chain in the south Chicago suburb of Chicago Heights. She had been editor for part of the chain as well as a features writer and cofounder and editor of a monthly magazine. She was instrumental in founding Crisis Center for South Suburbia, a shelter for battered women and children. She had been IWPAs high school contest director for 6 years and served on IWPAs program committee.
Olga Carlile served as the president of IWPA from 1981 to 1983. She joined the association in 1967 and served in several capacities at both the affiliate and national levels. In addition to being honored as IWPAs Woman of Achievement in 1981 and 1992, Carlile was a five-time Silver Feather Award Winner in the Mate E. Palmer Communication’s Contest. Her entire career was spent in Freeport, Illinois where she started working on the copy desk, editing stories for reporters. Carlile would go on to do it all – working from assistant managing editor and a year as managing editor. Carlile published her own cook book in 1976, wrote a daily column, “Around the Table,” in the Journal-Standard and has “cooked with Julia Child, interviewed Martha Stewart and roamed the White House kitchen with chefs for the Clintons.”
Book author and short story writer, I was IWPAs Communicator of Achievement in 2008 and 2013. I served two-terms as affiliate president from 2009-2013, as IWPA 2nd vice president-membership chair, and as high school contest director for two years. I served on the national board as membership chair before being elected first to a term as executive secretary 2011-2013 and is now 2nd vice president of NFPW for the 2013-2015 term. IWPA member Lana Weiss Brown summed it up in her nomination for Illinois COA, “Seldom in the life of an organization is there a contributor as generous with her talent, expertise, and tireless efforts on so many levels as Wolf-Astrauskas. Marianne is wrapping up her four year term as IWPA President which has included many statewide and national initiatives, including hosting the national convention during her term and launching statewide initiatives for participation of writers of all ages. She actively leads the Illinois affiliate with exemplary skill and has carefully followed the affiliate’s historical trajectory with significant research, ultimately communicating the messages of its founders.” Weiss Brown added, “To the national table, Marianne brings executive roles of leadership, strong scaffolding of the national contexts, and ultimately, has worked hard to promote, preserve, and protect the soul of IWPA and NFPW.” I was never more honored