Move over Walter Cronkite, Garrison Keillor and Katie Couric. Make room at the table for Marilyn Hagerty.

Hagerty, the 86-year-old columnist whose Olive Garden restaurant review this year in the Grand Forks Herald made her an overnight Internet and national media sensation, will receive a major journalism award this fall from a long-ago understudy.

Hagerty's earnest and upbeat review in March of the franchise's Italian menu was swiftly embraced and mocked for its homespun charm, notably when the grandmother of eight mentioned in particular the "two long, warm breadsticks" and "yes -- several black olives" in her crisp salad.

Hagerty is now planning a trip down Interstate 29 to Vermillion, S.D., where on Oct. 4 she will receive the 2012 Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media.

The award, recognizing lifetime achievement, will be presented at the University of South Dakota and is named for USA Today and Freedom Forum founder Al Neuharth, a South Dakota native and 1950 USD journalism graduate.

Hagerty also is a USD alumnus and was on the student newspaper as Neuharth's first editor 65 years ago.

Neuharth will be there to honor Hagerty as "a model journalist dedicated to serving local communities through consistently fair, truthful and relevant coverage," the Freedom Forum said in announcing her selection.

Although she officially retired in 1991, Hagerty continues to write five columns a week for the Herald.

Hagerty is the 26th person honored by the Freedom Forum and the university since the award was first presented in 1989. Along with Cronkite, Keillor and Couric, other recipients include: Helen Thomas, Tom Brokaw, Larry King and Charles Kuralt.

The Al Neuharth Award presentation at USD's Slagle Hall is free and open to the public. For more information, call 1-605-677-6060 or e-mail

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482