Church communicator Margaret 'Magee' Andersen dies at 93

Career spanned breadth of societal, technological change
April 3, 2011

Margaret H. "Magee" Andersen, whose media and broadcast work served the Episcopal Church for more than 30 years in Los Angeles and New York, died March 30 in Thousand Oaks, California. She was 93.

A former head of audio-visual communication for Seabury Press in New York, Andersen was named associate for audio-visual, radio and television communication at the Episcopal Church Center in 1963 -- the same year in which the midtown Manhattan building was completed at 815 Second Avenue, and the denominational headquarters relocated from 281 Park Avenue South.

Andersen retired from the Church Center staff in 1983 having assisted with numerous initiatives including the implementation of the General Convention Special Program, introduced by former Presiding Bishop John Hines in 1967 to affirm civil rights and reduce poverty nationwide, especially in U.S. urban centers.

Commenting on the breadth of societal and technological change during her career, Andersen met with the Church Center's communication staff on Nov. 10, 2005, welcomed by then Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold in a consultation marking completion of a building-wide renovation.

"The mission remains the same today," Andersen said at the time. "The priority is serving parishioners and clergy in the congregations, dioceses and provinces of our church to support them in their local ministries."

In May 1971, Andersen joined Church Center colleagues Sonia Francis and Henry McCorkle in staffing the first meeting of the "Net 11" group of diocesan editors who met on the topic of improving communication across the church, and especially between church leadership and membership. The Net 11 grew to become the Episcopal Communicators, a churchwide organization that will meet April 6-9 in Memphis for its next annual conference.

Andersen's professional and collegial approach were among her many gifts, said Ruth Nicastro, Episcopal Communicators' president from 1986 to 1989, and missioner for communication in the Diocese of Los Angeles from 1976 to 1993. "In all she did, Magee demonstrated excellence as an outstanding colleague and friend."

Barbara L. Braver, retired assistant for communication to former presiding bishops Griswold and Edmond L. Browning, said that "Magee's passion for excellence in communication derived both from her desire to see things done well, preferably with style and grace, and her conviction that we church communicators have an amazing story to tell, and we need to get on with it."

Andersen was born Margaret Mary Hanley on April 13, 1917, in Segundo, Colorado. In Amarillo, Texas, she completed junior college and a two-year stint with Phillips Petroleum Company before moving to San Francisco to work first for KYA Hearst Radio, and from 1938 to 1942, CBS Radio.

Thereafter Andersen moved to Los Angeles and began a career as a script writer. In 1954 she joined the production staff of Cathedral Films, founded by the Rev. James K. Friedrich, and was in 1962 named to that company’s board of directors. In 1959 Andersen was named chair of the Audio-Visual Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, and to the national board of the Girls Friendly Society.

Andersen is predeceased by her husband, Robert. She is survived by a daughter, Kristen A. Postil of Westlake Village, California, and son Robert P. Andersen III of Dallas, Texas , and by four grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

A memorial gathering will be planned for a later time, family members said. Memorial gifts may be made to the charity of one's choice, or to a fund established to benefit Episcopal Church communication among native Americans in the Southwest, of whom Andersen was a longtime advocate. Contributions to this initiative may be sent to the Episcopal News, P.O. Box 512164, Los Angeles, CA 90051.