David Yepsen, Director, 2009-2016
David Yepsen became director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale on April 1, 2009. He retired on October 31, 2016. Previously, he had a 34 year career with the Des Moines Register serving as the paper's chief political writer, political editor and political columnist.
He is a native of Jefferson, Iowa and is a 1972 graduate of the University of Iowa. He has also done graduate work in journalism and mass communication at Iowa State University and in 1985 earned a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) degree from Drake University. In 1989, he was a fellow at the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. In 2008, he was a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard where he led a study group on the nation's presidential selection processes.
Mr. Yepsen has also appeared on a variety of national radio and television programs commenting on Iowa politics and the presidential caucus campaigns in the state. During his career, he helped cover nine presidential campaign cycles in Iowa.
Prior to joining The Register and Tribune in 1974, Mr. Yepsen worked for two years as a reporter for the Quad City Times in Davenport, Iowa. His first managing editor was Mike Lawrence, who later went on to become director of the Institute - and who Mr. Yepsen succeeded as director. For a brief period in Des Moines, he taught a course at on "The Press, the Politician and the Public Manager." At SIU, he teaches a course in public affairs reporting for the journalism school.
During his newspaper career he covered a variety of beats including police, city hall, courthouse and the Iowa Statehouse. In 1977 he became a statehouse reporter for the Register and chief political reporter in 1983. In 1994 he was named political editor and in 2000 became the Register's full-time political columnist. He was also a regular panelist on Iowa Public Television's weekly "Iowa Press" news interview program for over 30 years.
In 1999, veteran political reporter Jack Germond wrote Mr Yepsen "is one of the premier political writers in the country." In his book about the 1988 presidential race, the late Illinois Senator Paul Simon praised Yepsen's objectivity.
"Every four years the chief political reporter for the Des Moines Register becomes the most important reporter in the nation," he said. "It is a position that could cause vanity and abuse. To his credit, David Yepsen handled this position with sensitivity and balance. And he worked hard."
Through the generosity of local supporters Herb and Carolyn Donow, the David Yepsen Director's Award was created and endowed prior to Yepsen’s retirement from the Institute.