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Robert Michael Lipsyte

LIPSYTE, ROBERT MICHAEL (1938– ), U.S. sports journalist, columnist, novelist, and scriptwriter. Born in the Bronx to Sidney and Fanny, both teachers, Lipsyte grew up in Rego Park, Queens, and attended Forest Hills High School, but a Ford Foundation program allowed him to skip his senior year and enroll at Columbia University. He graduated in 1957 at the age of 19, and landed a job as a copy boy in the sports department of the New York Times. Lipsyte worked at the Times for 14 years – with a timeout to receive a master's degree from the Columbia School of Journalism in 1959 – becoming a sports reporter at 21 and then a sports columnist for the paper in 1966. During that time he also co-authored Nigger (1964) with the controversial comic and activist Dick Gregory; The Masculine Mystique (1966); and published an edited collection of his columns, Assignment: Sports (1970). Lipsyte's first and best-known novel for young people, The Contender (1967), won a children's book award, and Lipsyte abandoned his journalism career in 1971 after 544 columns to concentrate on writing novels. Lipsyte also worked as a freelance writer, television scriptwriter, journalism professor (Fairleigh Dickenson and New York University), radio commentator (National Public Radio, 1976–82), and columnist for the New York Post (1977), was a television sports essayist for CBS Sunday Morning (1982) and stayed with that network until moving to NBC in 1986. After leaving NBC in 1988, he hosted The Eleventh Hour on PBS (1989), winning an Emmy Award in 1990 for On-Camera Achievement, and was author of a television documentary series about sports. Lipsyte returned to the New York Times to write a sports column in 1991. Among his 16 books are Sports World: An American Dreamland (1975), Free to Be Muhammad Ali (1978), Jim Thorpe: Twentieth-Century Jock (1993), Arnold Schwarzenegger: Hercules in America (1993), Michael Jordan: A Life above the Rim (1994), Joe Louis: A Champ for All America (1994), Idols of the Game: A Sporting History of the American Century, with Peter Levine (1995), and In the Country of Illness: Comfort and Advice for the Journey (1995). In addition to the Emmy, Lipsyte's honors and awards include the E.P. Dutton Best Sports Stories Award, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1971, and 1976; Columbia's Meyer Berger Award for distinguished reporting, 1966 and 1996; Wel-Met Children's Book Award, 1967; New York Times outstanding children's book of the year citation, 1977; American Library Association best young adult book citation, 1977; and in 1992, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. In 2001, the American Library Association honored him with the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement. He is the subject of Presenting Robert Lipsyte (1995), by Michael Cart.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.