A longtime area newspaper columnist with the Albany Times Union has left its workers’ union a $50,000 gift to help its mission of representing, assisting and advocating on behalf of the hard-working families who bring the newspaper to the Capital Region every day.
While Marv Cermak died Dec. 6 at age 84 after a seven-decade career in journalism, his legacy will live on through his generosity to the Albany Newspaper Guild, said President Tim O’Brien. The guild represents about 170 people who write, illustrate, deliver and line up advertising for the Times Union.
Cermak’s gift is the largest individual donation in the eight-decade history of the union. “I was so stunned, I swore in the union office: Holy —-,” O’Brien said. “As a colleague noted, that response, while unusual for me, was completely in keeping with Marv’s colorful way of expressing himself.”
A committee will be established by the union’s Executive Board to consider how best to use the money, O’Brien said. Potential preliminary ideas include a scholarship fund for the children of union members, an assistance fund for distressed employees, and a modest bonus for workers at the newspaper, where wages remain frozen by Hearst Corp. since 2008.
“We are profoundly grateful that Marv chose to honor his longstanding appreciation of the Guild in this way,” O’Brien said. “We want to make sure we honor him in the way we choose to use these funds.”
Cermak began his career as a sports writer for the Schenectady Gazette in the 1950s, later moving to the now-defunct Knickerbocker News, and later the Times Union, where he covered city politics and had a long-time column about the Schenectady area.
A recent obituary by Times Union writer Paul Grondahl recalled Cermak as a cantankerous, dogged and determined reporter with a deep network of sources. Even after retiring from the Times Union in 2002 and an injury five years ago that often confined him to his Mont Pleasant home, he continued writing his column “Covering Schenectady.” His last column ran on the day that he died