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Longtime Buffalo News publisher Stan Lipsey dies at 89

WBFO file photo

Stanford Lipsey, who served as publisher of the Buffalo News for nearly three decades, died Tuesday at the age of 89. Lipsey is being remembered as a community leader, a preservationist and a philanthropist.

Lipsey died Tuesday morning at his Rancho Mirage, California home.

"Stan really was a mentor to me, almost like a father figure," said Warren Colville, the current president and publisher of the Buffalo News. "He taught me a lot of different things not only about the newspaper business but also about the community and how to give back to the community. He really was an amazing person."

A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Lipsey began his lifelong love of journalism as a photographer for his Omaha Central High School Register, then as photography editor of his University of Michigan yearbook. He continued as an editor while in the Air Force at the start of the Korean War.

In the early 1950s, Lipsey began working at a couple of weeklies. He ultimately expanded the weeklies and became a majority owner before selling the papers in 1968 to Warren Buffett.

Buffalo News president and publisher Warren Colville speaks about working under Stan Lipsey, who died Tuesday at the age of 89.

The two continued to work together and, in 1980, Lipsey joined the Buffalo Evening News. He was named its publisher in 1983.

In an era of struggling newspapers, Lipsey helped transform the News, expand its digital presence and enter the printing business. Before becoming publisher, Lipsey helped the Buffalo News survive a fierce competition with longtime rival Courier-Express. Lipsey's strategies included the introduction of a Sunday edition to compete with that of the Courier-Express. He also brought from Omaha the concept of a Homefinder section.

Ultimately, the Courier-Express ceased operations in 1982.

"It might be the only place in the country where the afternoon paper actually won out over the morning paper," Colville said.

Twice in Lipsey's career, newspapers he ran won Pulitzer Prizes. One of them was with the Buffalo News, for the editorial cartoon work of Tom Toles, who later moved to the Washington Post. Lipsey also made history at the Buffalo News when he promoted Margaret Sullivan to the position of editor, making her the first woman at the News to hold that position.

Margaret Sullivan, former Buffalo News editor, recalls Stan Lipsey's concern for Buffalo youth.

"He really did do a full search, both internally and throughout the country," said Sullivan, now a media columnist for the Washington Post. "I was very honored that he had the confidence and the trust in me to do that. And then we worked very closely together for many, many years. I have known him extremely well."

Sullivan credited Lipsey for his concern about the politics of the Buffalo School Board during his year at the Buffalo News.

"He understood very well that these were many students who had no choice. So if the school system was going to fail, then they were going to be failed educationally," Sullivan said. "He was always pushing hard on getting that to be as strong a system and as well-run a system as possible. He was often frustrated by that."

Credit WBFO file photo
Stan Lipsey, right, speaks to WBFO's Eileen Buckley during a 2004 interview. Buffalo News owner Warren Buffett looks on.

Lipsey was also a man who supported arts, cultural and community initiatives including the Jazz at the Albright Knox series, the restorations of the Darwin Martin House and Richardson Olmsted Complex, and the effort to replant trees in neighborhoods affected by the 2006 "October Surprise" storm. When he was approached by Re-Tree WNY, Lipsey volunteered both the paper's resources and much of his own.

"Not only did the newspaper get involved, he put up tens of thousands of his own personal dollars to match the public's contributions," said Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, President and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and former Senior Vice President of Marketing for the Buffalo News. "He really got that whole program off the ground."

Lipsey also launched newspaper projects such as Kids Day and the News Neediest Fund.

As competitive as Lipsey was, he is also remembered by peers for his sense of humor.

"Make no doubt about it, Stan did not suffer fools. But if he trusted you and felt you were doing the right thing, he was a tremendous friend and mentor," said Gallagher-Cohen, who noted Lipsey's fondness for the television comedy Seinfeld.

He is survived by his wife of 14 years, a son and daughter, and two grandchildren.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown was just one many elected officials and government leaders who issued statements in reaction to Lipsey's death: "Today the City of Buffalo lost a true friend. Stan Lipsey’s optimistic spirit about the rebirth of Buffalo as one of America’s great cities went far beyond the offices of The Buffalo News. During his 29 years as publisher of The Buffalo News, and during the past four years as publisher emeritus, Stan played a significant role in boosting and promoting Buffalo and Western New York.

"Stan Lipsey’s vision for Buffalo’s renaissance included personal involvement on such major efforts as securing the long-term financial health of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, restoration of the Darwin Martin House and the H.H. Richardson Complex, as well efforts to get a state-of-the-art Buffalo Niagara International Airport built.

"Stan’s love of his adopted hometown is also embodied in the millions of dollars he generously donated to Roswell Park and many other Buffalo institutions. He also shared his love of Jazz with the community by founding the Jazz at the Albright-Knox Series, which provides so many with free summer entertainment.

"I send my condolences to his wife, Judy, and his children, Janet and Daniel, and the entire Buffalo News family."

Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senator Charles Schumer, New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also issued statements honoring Lipsey. 

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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