National Press Club

Schoo leaves legacy of friendship, lasting impact on National Press Club

July 11, 2018 | By Mark Schoeff Jr. |

The program for a memorial service remembering Julie Schoo.

The program for a memorial service remembering Julie Schoo.

Photo/Image: Mark Schoeff Jr.

Julie Schoo knew a valuable painting when she saw it and was even more skilled at spotting something to treasure within each person she met.

“Julie Schoo was a collector and connoisseur of life’s finer things, that includes people,” Kathy Kiely said at a July 10 memorial service for Schoo, the former executive director of the National Press Club Journalism Institute. “Julie curated, cherished and took care of us.”

Schoo, 69, died suddenly and unexpectedly May 9.

More than 100 friends, colleagues and family members gathered in the Holeman Lounge to bid Schoo farewell at a memorial event that highlighted her Club legacy.

At the time of her death, she was deeply involved in all aspects of Club life, as she had been throughout her 33-year Club career.

Schoo was instrumental in planning, executing and raising the money to support the Journalism Institute’s professional development, press freedom and scholarship activities.

Prior to joining the Club, Schoo was executive director of the Washington Press Club and helped manage the merger of that organization with the National Press Club in 1985, according to her Washington Post obituary.

Kiely, an NPCJI press freedom fellow, said that Schoo gave her all to defending and elevating journalism.

“If there were a Pulitzer Prize for friendship, Julie Schoo would own it,” Kiely said. “Her life was dedicated to helping reporters.”

Schoo’s ability to lift up those around her is what stands out for Rob Stoddard, an NPCJI board member.

“She always paused to connect – to make you feel special and recognized,” Stoddard said. “That was part of the Julie magic.”

Among the annual high-profile Club events that Schoo helped pull off were the Fourth Estate Dinner and the Book Fair. She also was central to managing the Institute’s professional development classes, which ranged from digital skills to data mining.

But it was the sale of the Norman Rockwell painting, “Norman Rockwell Visits a Country Editor,” for $10.2 million at a Christie's auction in November 2015 that was Schoo’s signature achievement.

An art and antiques aficionado, Schoo was the first to realize that the painting, which had hung outside the Club’s bar and grill, the Reliable Source, for years was likely a hidden gem. She suggested that it be reappraised.

When the enormous valuation was determined, it catalyzed a complex undertaking that eventually led to the sale. Schoo spearheaded the effort, coordinating lawyers, accountants, assessors, museum curators and others, according to Stoddard.

“Amid the whirlwind of activity stood Julie…magnificently keeping all the threads moving,” he said.

The sale of the Rockwell painting has helped ensure that the Club and the Journalism Institute will thrive financially.

In the daily activity of both organizations, Schoo will be remembered.

She was such a ubiquitous figure around the Club that she influenced meetings she didn’t even attend. Club executive director William McCarren said that when staff members were wrestling with a difficult problem, they would often ask themselves: What would Julie do?

Future journalists will get to know Schoo through a scholarship that will be established in her name for students who intend to pursue a journalism career.

“She had a special love of young people,” said Ed Lewis, the NPCJI treasurer.

The feeling was returned by the 112 combined staff members of the Club and NPCJI as well as Schoo’s many friends.

“Julie was well loved,” McCarren said.