Aug. 16, 2001
Vol. 20 No. 20

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    Alumna, Life Trustee Katharine Graham dies at age 84

    University alumna and Life Trustee Katharine Meyer Graham died Tuesday, July 17, at age 84. She was the former chairman and chief executive officer of The Post Co. and one of the most influential and admired women of her generation.

    Graham received an A.B. from Chicago in 1938, two years after transferring from Vassar College. Though she arrived at Vassar as a Republican, by the end of her freshman year she had become a left wing Democrat and supporter of the New Deal. At the University, she joined the liberal wing of the American Student Union.

    During her two years as a student at Chicago, Graham lived at the University’s International House. On her summer vacations she worked at The Washington Post, which her father, Eugene Meyer, had purchased in 1933.

    Graham took over as president of the newspaper in 1963 following the death of her husband, and she led The Washington Post to national prominence in the 1970s with its investigative reporting on the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate scandal and transformed the small Post Co. into a diversified Fortune 500 media corporation. In 1998, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her autobiography, “Personal History.”

    President Randel said, “Katharine Graham’s passing is a great loss in the nation’s public life and in the life of anyone who had the good fortune to know her, however slightly. As one of the most distinguished women in America, she also was one of the most distinguished alumnae of the University, which she generously served as a trustee beginning in 1969, continuing as a life trustee until the present.

    “Her intellectual vigor, her courage and her commitment to the highest ideals embodied precisely what the University has long stood for,” continued Randel. “In consequence, she will be deeply missed by the University community, which, like everyone, had a great deal still to learn from her example. We extend our most profound sympathies to her family and mourn her loss with them and with others who were her professional colleagues and friends.”

    In 1996, the University awarded Graham its Benton Medal for Distinguished Public Service, one of only seven that has been awarded since its establishment in 1967. After the death last year of former University President Edward Levi, Graham joined former President Gerald Ford, Justice Antonin Scalia, and other speakers in a memorial service at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.

    Her granddaughter, Laura Graham, received an A.B. in Economics from the College in 2000.