VERMILLION, S.D. | An 86-year-old newspaper columnist whose review of a North Dakota Olive Garden went viral last year is receiving a top journalism award from the University of South Dakota.

Marilyn Hagerty is to be presented with the Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media on Oct. 4. The honor, which recognizes lifetime achievement, is named after Al Neuharth, a 1950 USD journalism graduate who founded USA Today and Freedom Forum, a free press advocacy group.

Hagerty’s straightforward feature story in the Grand Forks Herald about the opening of the first Olive Garden restaurant in town -- including her earnest commentary on the menu and décor -- drew widespread interest on the Internet, on TV and in newspapers. 

Hagerty, a USD alumna, has worked for numerous publications and was Al Neuharth’s first editor 65 years ago.

“Marilyn, my classmate back in the ’40s and editor of the student paper, took a chance on me as rookie reporter, hired me for my first newspaper job and taught me vital lessons about the roles and responsibilities of professional journalists,” Neuharth said in a statement.

The awards presentation is planned at 7 p.m. Oct. 4 in the Aalfs Auditorium at Slagle Hall, 414 East Clark St., in Vermillion.