Sean Kirst, the FOCUS Greater Syracuse Wisdom Keeper for 2018, is a columnist who lives in Syracuse, and wrote for The Post-Standard for more than a quarter century.
He is the author of three books, “The Ashes of Lou Gehrig and other Baseball Essays;” “Moonfixer: The Basketball Journey of Earl Lloyd,” with co-author Earl Lloyd; and most recently “The Soul of Central New York.” “The Soul of Central New York,” became the fastest selling book in the 74-year history of the Syracuse University Press. The book is a compilation of his Post-Standard stories about the people of Central New York, or as he says it, the people whose trust in him have made his career possible. It’s that tie to the community, his ability to tell the many-sided stories of its people, and his commitment to the sometimes basic grunt work of litter clean up, barbecues, baseball and community building that makes him our Wisdom Keeper for 2018.
His writings have earned him many other honors including national recognition as the 2008 winner of the Ernie Pyle Award for human interest writing. The award by the Scripps Howard Foundation is presented each year to one journalist at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. It honors newspaper writing that exemplifies the style and craftsmanship of the late Ernie Pyle, a Scripps correspondent killed by sniper fire in World War II. Past winners include Mike Royko and Charles Kuralt.
He also won a 2010 national award of excellence from the Society of Professional Journalists and a 1997 award from the U.S Justice Department for sensitivity to victims of violent crime. His work in Buffalo received the 2017 award for distinguished column writing from the statewide New York News Publishers Association. He is on the Wall of Distinction, the highest career honor offered by the Syracuse Press Club, at the Mulroy Civic Center in Syracuse.
He has called Syracuse home since soon after joining The Post-Standard to cover Oswego County in 1988. Raised in Dunkirk, and a graduate of SUNY Fredonia, he began his journalism career working for the Dunkirk Evening Observer. He also worked for the City Paper in Rochester before joining the Syracuse news staff.
In 2017 he put his lifetime of experience across Upstate New York to work as a columnist for The Buffalo News. Sean commutes to Buffalo and still resides in the Syracuse home where he and his wife, Nora, a city schoolteacher, have lived for 22 years. They have three grown children, Sarah, Seamus and Liam, all graduates of Syracuse city schools. Their family has been involved in many civic and volunteer initiatives.
Kirst has twice offered TedX talks on storytelling; they can be viewed on YouTube.
And oddly enough the England-based Tolkien Society credits him with being founder of international Tolkien Reading Day, which he and a group of fellow Tolkien loyalists celebrate every year in Syracuse, birthplace of the idea, with public readings of Tolkien’s famed books “The Hobbit,” or the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.