SAG Honors First Recipients of Howard Keel Award

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SAG Honors First Recipients of Howard Keel Award

Screen Actors Guild Announces the Howard Keel Award Selectees

Los Angeles, CA (November 10, 2008) -
The Regional Branch Division (RBD) of Screen Actors Guild (SAG) established the Howard Keel Award to honor RBD members who have made significant contributions to the welfare and benefit of professional actors in their Branch and reaffirmed the status of the SAG RBD as part of a national union.

In Los Angeles on October 17, 2008 - from a pool of candidates spanning the country - the SAG RBD selected the first recipients of the award: Fern Persons of the SAG Chicago Branch and Edith Ivey of the SAG Georgia Branch.
“Fern Persons exemplifies the qualities that the Guild’s Howard Keel award seeks to honor.  Her service on behalf of her union has provided support and leadership to Chicago members and to the entire Regional Branch Division.  She played a critical and much appreciated role in the development and advancement of SAG’s Regional Branch Division,” said Todd Hissong, SAG Chicago Branch president.

“It is a true honor to present the Howard Keel award to Edith Ivey.  She has played such an extraordinary role in bettering the lives of actors in Georgia and throughout the United States.  Her service on the board and her efforts on behalf of actors are a credit to her and to the union,” said SAG Atlanta Branch President Mike Pniewski.

About the Honorees
Fern Persons (Chicago) became a member of the Screen Actors Guild almost as soon as the Branch was established in 1953, and served on the local Council for 44 years. Prior to the 1970’s, Branches outside of Hollywood and New York rotated service as a single shared Vice Presidency. Fern Persons led the fight to establish permanent, numbered Vice-President seats for members of the former Regional Branch Conference (now the RBD). As a result of Fern’s leadership, Chicago, San Francisco, and Florida members elected representatives from their respective Branches to serve as numbered Vice-Presidents of the Guild and consequently held permanent seats on the National Executive Committee (NEC). The smaller Branches were also guaranteed numbered Vice-President seats and also sat on the NEC. This system was the precursor of the current Guild governance structure, the 3rd Vice Presidency and permanent NEC seats reserved for Branch National Board members. The RBD as we know it exists in no small part due to the efforts of Fern Persons.

Edith Ivey (Georgia) has charmed audiences and bettered the lives of countless SAG members, devoting herself to enabling professional performers to live and work in Georgia and throughout the Southeast. A member since 1953, she served on numerous committees - Seniors, Agent Relations, Nominating Committees, etc. Her compassion and tenacious dedication to local members has been an incalculable asset, yet her greatest accomplishment was her co-founding of the Georgia “Casting About” program. Through “Casting About” local members were given the chance to meet face to face with casting directors from all over the Southeast, allowing members to showcase their talent as well as build productive relationships for the future. This “members only” event exposed hundreds of local actors to significant casting people in our area and led to numerous work opportunities for SAG members. Edith has been awarded the “SAG Georgia Life Achievement Award” for her efforts and is without question one of that Branch’s most beloved members.

About Howard Keel
Howard Keel burst onto the international scene in 1947 via his London theatrical performance as “Curly” in Oklahoma! Memorable film roles followed, including Annie Get Your Gun, Showboat, Kiss Me Kate and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Mr. Keel became SAG’s 10th National President (1958–59) and during his term the SAG National Board was increased from 39 to 52 seats, allowing for Branch representation - for the first time - from New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Detroit and Boston.

About SAG
Screen Actors Guild is the nation's largest labor union representing working actors. Established in 1933, SAG has a rich history in the American labor movement, from standing up to studios to break long-term engagement contracts in the 1940s to fighting for artists' rights amid the digital revolution sweeping the entertainment industry in the 21st century. With 20 branches nationwide, SAG represents over 120,000 actors who work in film and digital television, industrials, commercials, video games, music videos and all other new media formats. The Guild exists to enhance actors' working conditions, compensation and benefits and to be a powerful, unified voice on behalf of artists' rights. SAG is a proud affiliate of the AFL-CIO. Headquartered in Los Angeles, you can visit SAG online at

Pam Greenwalt
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