Native Tucsonan and School of Journalism alum, Edith “Edie” Sayre Auslander, died Wednesday, July 19, at the age of 83 by natural causes.
Auslander’s legacy in Tucson is a story of unwavering commitment to the place she called home and the people who occupied it.
“The School of Journalism is immersed in deep sorrow, mourning the loss of a remarkable soul, a trailblazer in journalism and a devoted servant to the various institutions she championed during her life,” Director Jessica Retis said. “As the first Hispanic to rise to leadership in various areas, her exemplary journey has left an indelible mark.”
Auslander navigated her way through Tucson society as a student, journalist, professor, mentor, and University leader in her role as UArizona vice president. Her name is familiar to many on campus because she spearheaded the creation of multiple programs and scholarships that provided support to minority students from diverse backgrounds.
Auslander graduated from the School of Journalism with a bachelor’s in 1961 and a master’s in 1975. In 1961, she was the first winner of the Daily Wildcat Donald Still Award, an annual award that recognizes a student for their outstanding contributions to the Wildcat. Auslander was inducted into the Wildcat Hall of Fame in 2001.
She began her journalism career at the Arizona Catholic Lifetime as managing editor and stayed in that position for 16 years. She moved to the Arizona Daily Star to be a reporter, copy editor, and editor from 1973 to 1981. Auslander joined the School of Journalism faculty as an assistant professor of practice in 1977. As a teacher, she mentored many students and co-directed the Editing Program for Minority Journalists, which received national acclaim.
In 1984, alum Lewis Diuguid was one of her students and was deeply impacted by her mentorship during the Editing Program.
“She was warm, kind and understanding but also a fierce, uncompromising journalist and advocate for the upward mobility of journalists of color,” Lewis W. Diuguid said. “Because she was so exceptional, I started an annual scholarship in 1985 in her name at the University of Arizona School of Journalism and continue to fund it to benefit students of color who embody the best of Edith's wonderful qualities.”
Auslander’s legacy at the University of Arizona cannot be understated. She was one of 15 founders of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists; named Tucson’s Woman of the Year in 1986; became the first self-identified Hispanic woman to be appointed to the Arizona Board of Regents and the first self-identified Hispanic woman to be a UArizona vice president. Her commitment to supporting the Latinx community locally and nationally continued throughout her career on campus.
School of Journalism alum and Journalism Advisory Council Chair Michael Chihak said he knew Auslander most of his life.
“She always kept her beginnings in her mind and heart, and that led her to mentor many Latinas and Latinos, including my wife and me,” Chihak said. “Edith was a pionera in the community.”
As vice president and member of the Arizona Board of Regents she led the establishment of the Commission on the Status of Women in 1991 and helped in the creation of the Women’s Plaza of Honor.
She was also a tenacious fundraiser for student scholarships.
Anne Melko knew Auslander during her 25-year career as board member for the Marshall Foundation.
“She was loved and respected by every person affiliated with the Foundation and many thousands of students owe their education to her dedication and drive to obtain scholarship funding for them,” Melko said.
Jane McCollum, general manager of the Marshall Foundation, said that Auslander was very kind, but she could convince anybody to do what she wanted.
“She was small but mighty, she had a way of convincing you that this was the right thing to do,” McCollum said.
Auslander worked with the Marshall Foundation to support Arizona Assurance scholarships, which provide financial support and mentorship to Arizona students who show academic promise but don’t have the financial means to receive higher education.
Since 2015, the Foundation has donated $50,000 annually to Arizona Assurance, and in 2019, they created an Assurance scholarship in Auslander's name.
In 2022, the School of Journalism inducted Auslander into the Hall of Fame.
“I have been blessed with the opportunity to work in the areas that are important to me and that I am passionate about,” Auslander said in 2022.
As the School of Journalism continues to promote bilingual journalism and opportunities for Latinx journalists, it is evident that Auslander’s lifelong pursuit continues to be a major goal for the school. Her legacy lives on in the students she taught, the journalists she mentored, and the inclusive atmosphere she cultivated.
“Her legacy resonates beyond the confines of our school, spanning our university, the city of Tucson, the state of Arizona, and indeed, across the nation. In her absence, her profound impact endures, and her spirit continues to guide us with unwavering inspiration,” Director Retis said.
Visitation will be 4 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 11, at Carrillo’s Tucson Mortuary, 204 S. Stone Ave., with rosary at 7 p.m. Funeral mass will be Saturday, Aug. 12, time to be determined, at St. Augustine Cathedral, 192 St. Stone Ave, according to the Arizona Daily Star.
Donate to the School of Journalism's Edith S. Auslander Scholarship by clicking here. In the comment section write "in honor of Edith S. Auslander."