Hall of Fame baseball players, managers, executives and media stars gathered in midtown Manhattan last week to celebrate and raise money for the new Claire Smith Center for Sports Media at Temple University's Klein College of Media and Communication.
The event at Manhattan's Hunt & Fish Club was a fundraiser for the new center, and a tribute to Klein College alumna Claire Smith, KLN '79, herself the first woman sportswriter honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Smith has joined the Klein journalism faculty and will be co-director of the center. Also joining as associate director is longtime Philadelphia 76ers announcer Marc Zumoff, KLN '92.
"This event was a huge opportunity for Temple University," said Interim Vice President of Institutional Advancement Nina Weisbord. "We were truly in the presence of giants on Monday, especially our alumna Claire Smith, and we are so grateful to our supporters for their roles in bringing this center to fruition."
Those "giants" included: Joe Torre, Hall of Fame player and former manager; Rob Manfred, commissioner of Major League Baseball; Joe Maddon, manager of the Los Angeles Angels; C.C. Sabathia, former All-Star pitcher and vice president of the Players Alliance; Ken Griffey Sr., former All-Star; David Cone, former All-Star and current commentator for the New York Yankees; Bobby Valentine, former All-Star player and manager; Suzyn Waldman, Yankees commentator; Donald Fehr, executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association; Steve Garvey, former All-Star player; Ken Rosenthal, journalist for MLB Network and Fox Sports; Rob King, senior vice president of ESPN; and Xavier James, chief operating officer of the MLB Players Association.
Smith noted that the event marked a new era for her, one in which she steps into an educational role at her alma mater.
"The gala was overwhelming. It at once marked an emotional closing of one door, and the exciting step through another," she said. "Embodied in the celebration were friendships and memories from my 40 years of covering baseball. Those peers I worked alongside, those players, managers and execs I covered were among the greatest professionals I've ever known."
Athletic Director Arthur Johnson recognized that Smith is in a category all her own, and a clear superstar within the baseball community as well as the media. "Based on the MLB royalty who attended the event, it is clear that Claire Smith earned the respect of the players and administrators she covered and her peers during her pioneering career," he said. "We are extremely fortunate to have a 'Diamond' return home to prepare the next generation of journalists."
Klein College Dean David Boardman remarked on the hopeful sentiment felt by all in attendance. Not only was this a celebration of past accomplishments, but an opportunity to look forward to what the sports journalists, marketers and professionals will accomplish in the future.
In his introductory remarks at the event, Boardman said: "Unlike many such events, we're here not only to look back at the remarkable career of Claire Smith, we're here to look forward to the remarkable things that Claire and our students and faculty at the new Claire Smith Center for Sports Media at Temple University are going to achieve … with your support."
Zumoff said he is looking forward to all the center will accomplish, as well as the opportunity to work with Smith. "When she speaks, has a command of the room and a gravitas that you automatically listen. You don't care about whatever it is that's on your mind, you only care about what she has to say."
The Claire Smith Center for Sports Media will focus on teaching, training and research in the areas of sports journalism, advertising, public relations and production. The center will have a particular focus on what Boardman called the "Claire Smith values" of integrity, excellence, working across delivery platforms, and breaking down barriers of race and gender.
Klein College has reached about 75% of its fundraising goal of $1 million in order to officially name the center in honor of Smith, as well as ensure its sustainability. Supporters can help achieve that goal before year's end with a tax-deductible donation or a multi-year pledge, which can be made here.