Geneva Overholser, a member of the class of 1970, graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in history. She received her master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Overholser worked as a reporter for the Colorado Springs Sun and then did freelance writing as she traveled to Africa and Europe with her husband, a teacher of social studies.
Overholser joined the Des Moines Register in 1981 as an editorial writer. She was awarded the Neiman Fellowship in 1985 and was a member of the New York Times editorial board from 1986 to 1988, specializing in foreign affairs and security issues. In 1988, she returned to the Register as the editor, and she added coverage of so-called women’s issues – child care, sexual harassment, and the safety of contraceptives.
In 1991, the Des Moines Register won a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for “It Couldn’t Happen to Me: One Woman’s Story,” a series about the rape of an Iowa woman. This series was a result of Overholser’s 1989 New York Times editorial questioning the journalistic custom of protecting victims of rape by not revealing their names.
Overholser later joined The Washington Post as an ombudsman and has served as a regular columnist since 1998. She has been named Best in the Business by the American Journalism Review and Print Journalist of the Year by the National Press Foundation. She was a member of the Pulitzer Prize board for nine years and was an officer of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. In 2002, she received the Anvil of Freedom Award, and she has received honorary doctorates from Grinnell College and St. Andrews Presbyterian College.
Currently, Overholser holds the Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Reporting for the Missouri School of Journalism, and with Kathleen Hall Jamieson, she has co-edited the book Institutions of American Democracy: The Press. Overholser is married to David Westphal, Washington editor for the McClatchy Company, and has three children. She is also the sister of Nannerl Overholser Keohane, a winner of the 1994 Wellesley College Alumnae Achievement Award.
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