ESPN’s Gentile honored for outstanding achievement in media

The 1994 Duke grad launched the network’s digital channel for women


By Julia Donheiser


Laura C. Gentile, the Duke alumna who founded espnW, ESPN’s first business dedicated to women, is this year’s recipient of the Futrell Award for Outstanding Achievement in Communications and Journalism.

The award is presented by the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy to honor the professional accomplishments of Duke alumni in the media business.

Gentile, a senior vice president who oversees the the company’s women’s initiatives, started espnW in 2010 as a blog for women who love sports. The blog quickly evolved into a full-fledged multimedia operation with features, in-depth analysis and commentary by female athletes and columnists.

“For women, once an athlete, always an athlete,” Gentile said in a 2012 Duke Magazine article. “And once an athlete, always a fan.”

Gentile would know. She served as a two-time team captain and received All-American and All-ACC honors in field hockey while at Duke, before graduating in 1994 with a double major in English and political science.

After earning her MBA in marketing and organizational behavior from Boston College’s Carroll Graduate School of Management in 1996, she was hired as a partner and management supervisor at Ogilvy & Mather.

Her career at ESPN started in 2003 as a senior director of brand management within ESPN’s consumer marketing department. Gentile was then promoted to vice president, serving as assistant to George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC’s sports division. She was promoted to her current position last November.

At espnW, Gentile’s team produces inter-connected online and offline experiences, such as its annual Women + Sports Summit. When espnW released its annual list of 25 women who had the biggest impact on sports and society, it partnered with Marvel to depict the 2015 lineup as superheroes.

Gentile will receive the Futrell award at an April 18 dinner at Duke. She will be the 16th recipient of the award. Alumnus Ashley B. Futrell Jr., a 1978 graduate, established the award to honor the journalism career of his father, Ashley B. Futrell Sr., class of 1933. Both Futrells had served as editor and publisher of the Washington Daily News, a Pulitzer Prize-winning local newspaper in eastern North Carolina the family operated for six decades until its sale in 2010.