The South Dakotan
Newspaper columnist and Internet sensation Marilyn
Hagerty, ’48, an alumna who was Al Neuharth’s first editor 65
years ago, received the 2012 Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in
the Media on Oct. 4 in Aalfs Auditorium.
Hagerty, 86, who writes columns for the North Dakota
Grand Forks Herald,
drew widespread media attention in early
2012 when her straightforward feature story about the opening
of the first Olive Garden restaurant in Grand Forks went viral on
the Internet, and led to coverage on television, in newspapers, on
websites and in social media.
The award, recognizing lifetime achievement, is named for
USA TODAY and Freedom Forum founder Al Neuharth, a South
Dakota native and 1950 USD journalism graduate. Neuharth
was on campus to honor Hagerty as a model journalist dedicated
to serving local communities through consistently fair, truthful
and relevant coverage. Hagerty is the 26th person honored by the
Freedom Forum and the university since the Al Neuharth Award
program began in 1989.
“Marilyn, my classmate back in the ’40s and editor of the
student paper, took a chance on me as a rookie reporter, hired
me for my first newspaper job and taught me vital lessons about
the roles and responsibilities of professional journalists,” Neuharth
said. “Those same high principles that Marilyn preached as a
young college editor 65 years ago define and distinguish her
extraordinary and enduring career.”
Hagerty began her career as a journalist at the
Capital Journal
in Pierre, S.D., in the 1940s. After graduating from USD in
1948 with a journalism degree, Hagerty went to work at the
Aberdeen American News
for two years before moving on to
KFYR, a Bismarck, N.D., radio station. She continued to write
as a freelancer for Fairchild Publications and provided feature
stories for United Press International (UPI). Hagerty returned to
full-time reporting in 1961 as a feature writer for the
Grand Forks
eventually becoming the newspaper’s features editor.
Although she officially retired in 1991, Hagerty continues
to write five columns a week for the
including “Eatbeat,”
the editorial page column “That Reminds Me” and three personal
columns. Her “Eatbeat” restaurant review column on March 7,
2012, garnered national attention for her earnest commentary
on Olive Garden’s menu and decor. The article created interest
beyond loyal readers in North Dakota and northwestern
Minnesota with Olive Garden devotees and detractors nationwide,
and even renowned food personality Anthony Bourdain, weighing
in on social media with their opinions about the story. The
coverage generated more than a million hits online for her article.
Hagerty appeared on numerous television shows, including NBC’s
“Today” and Anderson Cooper’s syndicated talk show.
Hagerty was married to Jack Hagerty, who died in 1997. He
was a UPI correspondent and editor of the
Grand Forks Herald
from 1957 to 1983. The Hagertys’ daughter, Gail Hagerty
of Bismarck, is presiding judge of the South Central Judicial
District in North Dakota, and son James Robert “Bob” Hagerty
of Pittsburgh is a
Wall Street Journal
staff writer. Daughter Carol
(Hagerty) Werner, an attorney, died in 2011.
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