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Columbia Spectator Staff

Phyllis Garland, the first female and first African-American faculty member to receive tenure at the Columbia School of Journalism, died of cancer on Nov. 7. She was 71.

Phyl, as she was more commonly known, began her reporting career at The Pittsburgh Courier where, despite the small number of female staff members, she became editor of the paper. Garland was also New York Editor of Ebony magazine.

Garland came to the Journalism School in 1973, when she taught a class on reporting cultural affairs and served as a master's project advisor. She was the founder and administrator of the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia. She retired in 2004.

"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," Journalism School dean Nicholas Lemann said in a statement. "Hers was a life wonderfully well lived."

To many of her colleagues, Garland will be remembered "as a trailblazer, a role model, a teacher, as someone who spoke her mind without alienating people," Associate Professor of Journalism June Cross said.

"She was very generous with her time and with her knowledge," former student and senior staff editor of Jet magazine, Clarence Waldron, said. "She really wanted us to get it and get it right. She set very high standards and pushed all of us to meet them."

Waldron is an adjunct professor at Garland's alma mater, Northwestern University. He began working at Jet, a magazine published by the same company as Ebony, after receiving a job offer on Garland's recommendations. Two years ago, when Garland retired, she sent a box of her meticulously organized teaching materials to him. Her concern was always passing on her knowledge to others, Waldron said.

In addition to a dedication to students, Garland had a deep love for music, especially jazz and soul. She was a contributing editor for Stereo Review and author of The Sound of Soul. She wrote Ebony's first story on jazz musician, Winston Marcellus, in the early 1980s.

Her apartment was stacked from floor to ceiling with CDs. Cross said only Tower Records could rival Garland's collection.

"She was a team player," Professor Emerita and Dean Emerita Joan Konner said. "She rolled with the punches. She was a contributor all the way along ... She was a newspaper reporter through and through."