It was not Katharine Graham's goal in life to become, as some have identified her, "the most powerful woman in America." An intelligent woman, a devoted wife, and mother of four children, Ms. Graham found herself challenged in her personal and professional life in the most dramatic ways. Her compelling recent best-selling book, Personal History, reveals a fascinating self-portrait, drawn indirectly by Ms. Graham, as she shares in a personal, frank, honest, and generous way, her unique life's experience.
Katharine Graham has been chairman of the executive committee of The Washington Post Company since 1993, served as chairman of the board from 1973-1993, was CEO of the company from 1973-1991, and president from 1963-1973. Katharine's love for newspaper business and The Washington Post was a family affair. Katharine was the daughter of Agnes Ernst Meyer and Eugene Meyer, who purchased The Post at a bankruptcy sale in 1933; her father dedicated most of his life to "growing" The Post.
After attending Vassar for two years and graduating from the University of Chicago in 1938, Katharine got her first taste of reporting at the San Francisco News and later joined The Washington Post, working in the editorial and circulation departments. Katharine's husband, Philip L Graham, became a trusted protégé and confidante to her father, Eugene, taking a leadership role at the paper, and eventually becoming publisher from 1946 until his death in 1963, whereupon Katherine took over as president of The Post.
While her life of privilege opened many doors to experiences and persons of influence important to her life and career, it could not protect her from devastating personal loss and challenge. The turmoil in her personal life, followed by the most dramatic moments of her stewardship of The Post - the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, the pressmen's strike - are all components of what has made Katharine Graham a woman liberated by both circumstance and her own great strengths.
Ms. Graham's interests and leadership extend to her involvement as co-chair of the International Herald Tribune, as vice chair of the Urban Institute, and as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Overseas Development Council. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the independent D.C. Committee on Public Education, and is a board member of A National Campaign to Reduce Teenage Pregnancy.
NOTE: Bio is as it appeared in the Forum playbill for "A Conversation about Leadership" on May 19, 1997.
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