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NU/Medill Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the African American Studies Department

by Julianne Sun (BSJ24)

Northwestern’s African American Studies Department (AFAM) will be hosting and celebrating its 50th anniversary on May 20, 2022. The event will celebrate all that the department has achieved to date since its inception, as well as map out what they hope the next 50 years will look like. The anniversary celebration will be available both in-person at the Block Museum of Art and virtually over Zoom. Current students and faculty are welcome to attend, as well as alumni and anyone else who might be interested.

AFAM finds its roots in the Bursar’s Office Takeover in 1968, according to Northwestern’s commemorative web page of the historical event. Otherwise known as the May 4th Agreement, it marks the 38-hour peaceful occupation of the Bursar’s Office by 120 Black Northwestern students. The occupation protested the issues of racism Black students encountered on campus, but presented a list of demands for the university. These included increasing the percentage of Black students in the incoming student population, providing more and greater scholarships for Black students, designating separate living spaces for Black students, and creating a separate Black student union. The Black House on Sheridan is a direct result of the occupier’s efforts, and functions as the Black student union to this day.

“It is important to celebrate this 50-year milestone to give honor and respect to all of the people who did the work and made the sacrifices for us to exist today,” said Mary Pattillo, the Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and African American Studies and chair of AFAM, “and to celebrate the people who have been educated by this department over the years.” The research done by AFAM alumni – from law to medicine to journalism to education to social justice – is all encompassing, and AFAM’s overarching goal is to “address that research to the aims of Black liberation.”

Despite the progress made by the May 4th Agreement and AFAM’s 50 years of work, the goals expressed during the Bursar’s Office Takeover remain unchanged. AFAM faculty have published hundreds of scholarly books and academic articles challenging the boundaries of studying race, gender, sexuality, and culture, but they have also led and participated in countless struggles, from increasing Black enrollment and faculty to the anti-apartheid movement.

“Our impact on our students,” said Pattillo, “on Northwestern, on academic fields, and on Evanston and Chicago and beyond, will continue to be our work in the years to come.”

Raedell Boateng, a Northwestern alum who graduated from her undergrad in 2007 with a major in journalism and a minor in AFAM, said “My decision to minor in AFAM studies was 100 percent grounded in how much my Black femininity was not seen/valued and [that was] why the telling of our stories became very important to me during my undergrad. I found that the promoting of objectivity in journalism wasn’t going to work for me, but how to craft a story—the visuals, the words, the sources of information—is the most important thing I learned in Medill.”

Realizing in her senior year that she didn’t want to be a journalist, Boateng went on to become a teacher through Teaching for America, a nonprofit organization that trains teachers to expand opportunities for low-income students. She is now an educator and liberation life coach and uses Black women’s stories and experiences as a launching point across all of her work.

“I can’t imagine not being an educator,” she said, “and my experiences in Medill and AFAM studies play a huge role in how I approached teaching and in what I do now. I also entered into teaching wanting students to see the world through windows and mirrors—to value others and value who they are—and to understand how privilege creates barriers to holding such values, but literature, storytelling, and justice will help us overcome.”

Regarding this momentous anniversary, Pattillo said, “We decided to make this like a reunion and to celebrate the students who have come through the classrooms over the last half-century. Come to see old classmates. Come to see former professors. Come to see old colleagues. Come to find out what people have done since you last saw them. Come to see how strong the department is because of the people who make it up. Come to hear how African American Studies acts in the world to make it better.”

Registration for the in person anniversary can be found here, and the virtual event registration can be found here.

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Events

Medill Event with Christine Brennan (BSJ80, MSJ81) on May 13

The Medill Club of DC and the NU Club of DC invite you to:
A Conversation with Christine Brennan
Beijing 2022 and the Future of the Olympics

The Medill Club of DC and the NU Club of DC invite you to join us for a night with sports journalist, Medill alumna and NU Trustee Christine Brennan (BSJ80, MSJ81).

Brennan’s 20th Olympic Games were the wildest yet. The longest-serving U.S. journalist covering the Olympics, Brennan broke the news triggering the Russian figure skating doping scandal and led the coverage in her USA Today column and in numerous appearances as a commentator for CNN, ABC News and PBS NewsHour, World News Tonigh, Nightline and Good Morning America.

While on the ground and in the “closed-loop” in Beijing in February, Brennan called out the International Olympic Committee in press conferences and in her commentary about Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai’s sexual assault allegation and Russia’s state-sponsored doping. Brennan will discuss the news and the stories of the Games, from Nathan Chen to Eileen Gu to Mikaela Shiffrin, as well as how the IOC should deal with Russia and what it all means for the future of the Olympics.

Where: Medill DC Newsroom
1301 K Street NW, Suite 300 West, Washington, DC
When: Friday, May 13, 2022

Program: 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Reception: 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

How Much?
Young alumni: $7
Other alumni and guests: $14
Students: $0

Tickets are non-refundable.

 

RSVP

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Events

Medill Centennial Event in Atlanta on May 5

Please join Dean Charles Whitaker (BSJ80, MSJ81) and Bloomberg Bureau Chief Brett Pulley (BSJ87) for a special event celebrating Medill’s centennial.

Our featured speaker is Hannah Gebresilassie (MSJ16), co-founder and executive director of Protect The Vote GA, a nonpartisan nonprofit corporation established with the goal of protecting voting rights by advocating around legislation, voter mobilization and educating community members in Georgia and the U.S.

Date and Time: Thursday, May 5, 2022 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Location: Bloomberg LP 1180 Peachtree St NE, Suite 2600, Atlanta, GA 30309

Reception: 6 p.m.
Program: 7 p.m.

Business attire.

RSVP

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Sports journalist Mike Greenberg to address 2022 graduates at Medill’s convocation

Medill will welcome Mike Greenberg (BSJ89) to speak with 2022 graduates and families as Medill’s convocation speaker.

“We are honored to have Mike Greenberg come back to Medill to share his valuable experiences and lessons with our community,” said Dean Charles Whitaker (BSJ80, MSJ81). “Mike’s career in sports journalism equips him with a distinct perspective to inspire and influence the Class of 2022 as their careers begin.”

Greenberg is a member of the National Association of Broadcasters’ Broadcasting Hall of Fame, the National Radio Hall of Fame and Medill’s Hall of Achievement.

Sports fans listened to Greenberg as one of the hosts on “Mike & Mike” for almost two decades on ESPN Radio. He started his career with ESPN as an anchor in September 1996 with the launch of ESPNEWS. He also anchored ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”

Recently, Greenberg became host of “NBA Countdown.” He continues to host “Get Up,” ESPN’s morning show, which he began in 2018. He returned to ESPN Radio in August 2020 hosting “#Greeny,” where he shares his take on the trending topics featured from that morning’s “Get Up.” He’s also been host of “Bettor Days with Mike Greenberg” since September 2020, a show on ESPN+ where true stories of gambling adventures are told through character-driven reenactment.

In addition to his radio and broadcast milestones, Greenberg has authored multiple books. His first book, “Why My Wife Thinks I’m An Idiot: The Life and Times of a Sportscaster Dad,” was released in 2007 and spent five weeks on The New York Times’ Best Sellers List and received a nomination for a Quill Award. When celebrating 10 years on air with co-anchor Mike Golic in 2010, “Mike and Mike’s Rules for Sports and Life” was released and reached number three on the New York Times’ Best Sellers List. Greenberg wrote the novel “All You Can Ask For” in 2013 and co-wrote the children’s book “MVP: Most Valuable Puppy” with his wife Stacy Steponate Greenberg in 2018. They donated all of the author proceeds from both books to the V Foundation for Cancer Research. Greenberg released the novel “My Father’s Wives” in 2015.

Before joining ESPN in 1996, Greenberg was a sports columnist for the Copley News Service in California. He also reported for SportsChannel Chicago and was a sports anchor for the regional cable news network CLTV. He reported on events including the Word Series and the Super Bowl for Chicago’s WSCR-Radio and was a sports anchor/reporter for Chicago’s WMAQ-Radio.

Greenberg’s wife Stacy (IMC95) is a Medill alumna. Their children Nikki (WCAS23) and Stephen (COMM25) are current students at Northwestern. In 2017, the Stacy Steponate and Mike Greenberg Scholarship was created to support undergraduate Medill students with financial need.

Greenberg will address Medill undergraduate and graduate journalism students and their families during Medill’s convocation on June 12.

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Home My Medill Story

Centennial Remembrance: Medill Network Led to New Career Path

by Dr. Norma Fay Green (MSJ72)

Seven years after earning my MSJ turning an internship recommended by Ray C. Nelson (MSJ55) into full time Crain Communications editorships and becoming president of the Women in Communications Inc. Chicago Professional Chapter, Dr. Elizabeth Swayne Yamashita (MSJ59, Ph.D.69) recruited me to return to campus to teach an undergraduate Basic Writing course. She saw something in me that I hadn’t considered.

I thought I would spend my career writing for invisible readers. I didn’t appreciate the visceral and immediate challenge that attempting to share information with a live (and lively) audience would elicit in me and those Medill students in Spring 1979 at Fisk Hall. Despite encouragement from course supervisor Emily Soloff, teaching initially felt like “trial and terror.”

When I told my father, who taught night school business classes at Wayne State University and University of Detroit that I’d be teaching an evening section, he said. “Oh, you’ll be teaching people in their sleep.” Actually the class was alert, eager and sometimes knew more than I did– apparently having memorized Strunk & White’s “Elements of Style” in high school! They kept me on my toes and most recovered nicely from my evaluations of their narrative, descriptive and expository writing assignments. I surprised myself by discovering I enjoyed the face to face feedback and decided to commit to a full-time career in academia.

So I commuted to Michigan State University, for an interdisciplinary communication program, where future Medill faculty Donald E. Schultz and Martin P. Block were among the first graduates of its new doctoral program in Mass Media. In 1995. Peter Jacobi (BSJ52, MSJ53), one of my Medill professors in the magazine sequence, became my instructor (again) in a week-long Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication/Freedom Forum Teaching Workshop at Indiana University.

Eventually I was hired full time at Columbia College Chicago and soon became its second Graduate Journalism Director succeeding former Medill faculty member and alum Eric Lund (BSJ49) who retired. I became the journalism department’s first full time Ph.D., first faculty member to successfully complete a newly-established tenure process and later became its first Full Professor. Along the way I continued to publish (more scholarship, less journalism) and garnered teaching, curriculum and research awards from Lilly Endowment, Ford Foundation, Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation, Poynter Institute, National Endowment for the Humanities, and, in 2000, my first Fulbright. That latter award attracted the attention of my fellow WICI member and Medill alum Marilyn Moats Kennedy (BSJ65, MSJ66) who recruited me for NU’s alumnae mentors, The Council of One Hundred.

In 2017 I took a buyout from Columbia after 29 years of teaching 24 different courses but have continued my academic research including chapters in “Political Pioneer of the Press: Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Her Transnational Crusade for Social Justice” (2018), “Curating Culture: How Twentieth Century Magazines Influenced America” (2021), co-edited by Medill Dean Charles Whitaker (BSJ80, MSJ81) and my Columbia colleague Sharon Bloyd Peshkin and the forthcoming “Gandhi, Advocacy Journalism and The Media” (2022).

Years ago at a party someone asked me what I did for a living. I said I was a college teacher and they quipped, “Oh, so you’re an idealist.” I laughed and said “Yes, I am and proud of each student courageous enough to pursue their dream to go into journalism. After all, I learned from the best.”

Photo: Dr. Green’s 1979 Basic Writing students

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Books

Retail Gangster The Insane, Real-Life Story of Crazy Eddie

Gary Weiss (MSJ76)

Back in the fall of 2016 we heard the news about the passing of Eddie Antar, “Crazy Eddie” as he was known to millions of people, the man behind the successful chain of electronic stores and one of the most iconic ad campaigns in history. Few things evoke the New York of a particular era the way “Crazy Eddie! His prices are insaaaaane!” does. The journalist Herb Greenberg called his death the “end of an era” and that couldn’t be more true. What’s insane is that his story has never been told.

Before Enron, before Madoff, before The Wolf of Wall Street, Eddie Antar’s corruption was second to none. The difference was that it was a street franchise, a local place that was in the blood stream of everyone’s daily life in the 1970s and early ’80s. And Eddie pulled it off with a certain style, an in your face blue collar chutzpah. Despite the fact that then U.S. Attorney Michael Chertoffcalled him “the Darth Vader of capitalism” after the extent of the fraud was revealed, one of the largest SEC frauds in American history after Crazy Eddie’s stores went public in 1984, Eddie was talked about fondly by the people who worked for him. They still do–there are myriads of ex-Crazy Eddie employee web pages that still attract fans, and the Crazy Eddie fraud scheme is now taught in every business school across the United States.

Many years have passed since the franchise went down in spectacular fashion but Crazy Eddie’s moment has endured the way that iconic brands and characters do–one only need Google the media outpouring that accompanied his death. Maybe it’s because it crystallized everything about 1970s New York almost perfectly, the merchandise and rise of consumer electronics (stereos!), the ads (cheesy!), the money (cash!). In “Retail Gangster,” investigative journalist Gary Weiss takes readers behind the scenes of one of the most unbelievable business scam stories of all time, a story spanning continents and generations, reaffirming the old adage that the truth is often stranger than fiction.

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Giving Back Home

Medill to remodel broadcast studio, largest classroom thanks to transformational gift

A transformational gift from the Aida and Mike Feldman Philanthropic Trust, under the direction of Melissa Bernal-Vega (BSJ97) and Ernesto Vega (P’23, P’25), will enhance the learning environment for students Medill. The gift will create opportunities for Medill students to learn and collaborate using cutting-edge technology and facilities designed to respond to today’s curricular and industry needs.

The gift will support the renovation of the forum in the McCormick Foundation Center, Medill’s most iconic space on the Evanston campus, to upgrade the technology and expand the space to provide enough seating to accommodate Medill’s entire first-year class. The work will be completed in the year ahead, and the space will be renamed in tribute to Melissa’s father, Alfredo M. Bernal.

The gift will also allow an upgrade and expansion of Medill’s broadcast and digital media suite on the fourth floor of the McCormick Foundation Center. The Aida and Mike Feldman Broadcast and Digital Media Suite will include space for TV editing and teaching, podcasting, team meetings and voice-over work. In addition to being at the center of curricular activity, the suite will create a space for student media groups to meet and work.

“We are delighted for the opportunity to transform these spaces to give all Medill students an outstanding environment to learn and practice their skills,” said Medill Dean Charles Whitaker (BSJ80, MSJ81). “We are deeply grateful to the Vega family and the Aida and Mike Feldman Philanthropic Trust for their generosity. These enhanced facilities will support Medill’s efforts to be the best school of its kind in the world.”

Melissa and Ernesto are co-founders of CANVAS Real Estate, a Florida-based firm with more than 20 years in the residential and commercial real estate and property management businesses. CANVAS has 10 offices across Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties and more than 1,100 agents.

Melissa came to Medill as a first-generation student, and it was while she was studying at Northwestern that she met Ernesto, a fellow Cuban American who also grew up in Miami. They are parents of two current Northwestern students: Matthew, a first-year journalism student at Medill, and Michael, a junior studying at the McCormick School of Engineering. Melissa is a co-director of the Northwestern Alumni Admissions Council’s Southeast Florida Region and a member of the Northwestern Parents Leadership Council. She recently joined the Medill Board of Advisers.

“My experience at Northwestern—particularly Medill—informed and transformed my life,” said Melissa. “We are inspired by Medill’s uplifting environment that encourages free thought, mindful and meaningful communication. We are blessed to be part of its future.”

The Vegas are members of the Northwestern University Leadership Circle and NU Loyal Society, with 12 consecutive years of giving to the University. Through the Aida and Mike Feldman Philanthropic Trust, they have also generously supported Northwestern Engineering with the establishment of the Enrique Feldman Studio and Northwestern Student Affairs through their support of the University’s Multicultural Center. The Aida and Mike Feldman Philanthropic Trust supports educational bricks and mortar projects across the United States and in Israel.

The Vegas’ recent gift to Medill was one of the largest Medill received as part of We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, which helped realize the transformational vis

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1990s Featured Legacies Featured Legacies Home Home Legacies

Kurt Paul Stocker (IMC faculty)

Kurt Paul Stocker passed away on February 11th, after a 10-month fight following complications from heart valve surgery. He was 84. Kurt was our patriarch and didn’t leave much on the table. He rounded Cape Horn, he dove from an airplane at 82 years old. He left an indelible impression on all of us. He was a huge contributor in the lives of his family. Beyond the professional accomplishments, Kurt was an artist, a skilled printmaker and filled much of his retirement time in his Corrales studio, porch side with his friends or in a catboat in Florida.

A long time public relations, public affairs and corporate governance professional, Kurt served as Chairman of the NYSE Individual Investor Advisory Board, as a Director of NYSE Regulation Inc. As a member of the Advisory Committee of U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and as a member of the Board of Governors of Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc (formerly, NASD).

Kurt was a Senior Executive with Continental Bank Corporation, United Airlines, Allstate and Hill & Knowlton companies.

Other professional organizations included serving as a past President of The Arthur W. Page Society, as well as being inducted into their Hall of Fame. Kurt was a past Commodore of The Chicago Yacht Club. He was a visiting lecturer and Assistant Professor in Medill IMC in the ’90s and served on advisory boards for PR Newswire, Journal of Integrated Marketing and San Isabel Land Protection Trust.

Kurt and his wife of 62 years, Kathleen attended Marietta College where they met and wed. Kurt is survived by his son Peter and daughter Jennifer and 4 grandchildren, Cate, Graham, Emma and Ian.

Tribute provided by Peter and Jennifer Stocker. 

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1980s Featured Legacies Featured Legacies Home Legacies

Valerie Boyd (BSJ85)

Photo: Valerie Boyd, the author of a critically acclaimed biography of Zora Neale Hurston, appears at a reading in D.C. in 2009. (Susan Biddle/The Washington Post)

By Emily Langer, Washington Post

Valerie Boyd, a journalist who chronicled the life of Zora Neale Hurston in a critically acclaimed biography and edited a forthcoming compilation of the journals of Alice Walker, thus illuminating African American women of letters from the Harlem Renaissance to the present day, died Feb. 12 at a hospital in Atlanta. She was 58.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, said her friend and power of attorney, Veta Goler.

Ms. Boyd spent nearly two decades as a reporter and arts editor at her hometown newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, training the journalistic eye that she would turn on Hurston in the biography that became her first major literary achievement of her own.

“Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston,” published in 2003, was the result of nearly five years of research. Ms. Boyd charted Hurston’s life from her birth in 1891 in Notasulga, Ala., to her upbringing in the all-Black town of Eatonville, Fla., through her literary activity during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s and her anthropological exploration of African American folklore, to the circumstances that led to her death in penury in 1960 in Florida, where she was buried in an unmarked grave.

“Because I am a Black Southern woman, I felt very close to Zora, as if I could paint a picture of her life almost from the inside out,” Ms. Boyd told an interviewer for the online magazine In Motion. “I wanted to give readers a sense of what it was like to be Zora, to walk in her shoes, to live inside her skin.”

Ms. Boyd’s 2003 biography of writer Zora Neale Hurston. (Scribner)
Ms. Boyd was an undergraduate at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., when she first read Hurston’s best-known work, the 1937 novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” a coming-of-age story about a Black woman named Janie Crawford.

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“I was just amazed,” Ms. Boyd said, “that a book published in 1937 could speak to me so clearly and so resonantly through the decades.”

Years later, she became a regular attendee of the annual festival held in honor of Hurston in Eatonville. In 1994, she said, she attended a speech there by Robert E. Hemenway, the author of a 1977 biography of the writer.

By Ms. Boyd’s account, Hemenway surveyed the shortcomings that he said were inherent in his book as a work about a Black woman written by a White man. According to Ms. Boyd, he said that Hurston was owed a new biography, by an African American woman.

“When I heard those words, I felt it was my calling,” Ms. Boyd told an interviewer with Northwestern. “But even though it felt like something I would do, the thought of doing it was just frightening.”

She put off the task, judging herself not ready. Less than two years later, a literary agent called to ask if she might be interested in writing a biography of Hurston. “I felt like fate was calling me — and that Zora herself was calling me,” Ms. Boyd said.

Hurston had complicated the job of any future biographer, Ms. Boyd wrote, by disguising “many truths of her life in a confounding but crackable code.” In order to obtain schooling at a Baltimore high school, she reported her age as 16 when she was in fact 26. Her 1942 autobiography, “Dust Tracks on a Road,” however skillfully written, proved an unreliable account of the facts of her life.

With the passage of time, more dust, as it were, had clouded the story of Hurston’s life. It had been partially cleared by Hemenway’s book and by volumes including “Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters” collected and edited by Carla Kaplan (2002). But in “Wrapped in Rainbows,” reviewer Jake Lamar wrote in The Washington Post, Ms. Boyd produced a “scrupulously researched, gracefully written” work that will “most likely remain the definitive Hurston biography for many years to come.”

Ms. Boyd’s project was a journalistic odyssey, in which she located the few living acquaintances of Hurston and scoured the archival records of her life. But it was also an “intuitive, spiritual process,” she said.

“Sometimes,” she told the Northwestern interviewer, “it seemed as if Zora would look at me in a very approving way, and sometimes she seemed to be looking at me like, ‘Oh, please.’ And I would dutifully press delete.”

Ms. Boyd often reflected on the sisterhood of African American writers, observing that “Zora’s, Alice’s and my generations are holding hands.” Alice was Alice Walker, the author of the 1982 novel “The Color Purple,” which received the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for fiction and was adapted into a 1985 film starring Whoopi Goldberg. Walker had helped reawaken interest in Hurston with an article, “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston,” published in Ms. magazine in 1975.

Ms. Boyd happened to meet Walker during her research for the biography and said that Walker, upon learning of her work, touched her face and said, “Bless you, my child.” Some years after the publication of the Hurston biography, when Walker set out to publish her journals from the years 1965 to 2000, she selected Ms. Boyd as her partner in the endeavor.

“Gathering Blossoms Under Fire: The Journals of Alice Walker,” edited by Ms. Boyd, is slated to be published April 12, according to the publishing house Simon and Schuster.

“Valerie Boyd was one of the best people ever to live, which she did as a free being,” Walker said in a statement provided by the Joy Harris Literary Agency. “Even though illness was stalking her the past several years, she accompanied me in gathering, transcribing, and editing my journals. … This was a major feat, a huge act of love and solidarity, of sisterhood, of soul generosity and shared joy, for which she will be remembered.”

Valerie Jean Boyd was born in Atlanta on Dec. 11, 1963. Her father ran a gas station and tire shop, and her mother was a homemaker.

Ms. Boyd received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern in 1985 and a master of fine arts in creative nonfiction writing from Goucher College in Towson, Md., in 1999.

In addition to her work at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Ms. Boyd freelanced over the years for publications including The Washington Post. She was a senior editor at the publication the Bitter Southerner. In recent years, she was a writer in residence and professor at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia

At the time of her death, according to Simon and Schuster, Ms. Boyd was at work on an anthology titled “Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic.” Her survivors include two brothers.

Ms. Boyd noted that, in deference to her subject, she had visited Hurston’s grave in Fort Pierce, Fla., before embarking on the biography.

“I wanted to make a connection with Zora,” Ms. Boyd told the Journal-Constitution, “so I took an offering of Florida oranges, which she loved, and some money — she never had enough money in her life — and a pack of Pall Malls.”

Just as she was leaving, she saw a black crow similar to the one that had circled over the inaugural Hurston festival in 1990. Attendees had named it “Zora.” Ms. Boyd took the sign as permission to proceed.

“I believe that it was something that I was put here to do,” she told the Orlando Sentinel in 2003. “My destiny led me to Zora.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/obituaries/2022/02/15/zora-neale-hurston-biographer-valerie-boyd/?utm_campaign=wp_about_us&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_aboutus&carta-url=https%3A%2F%2Fs2.washingtonpost.com%2Fcar-ln-tr%2F361358f%2F620f8a5d9d2fda34e7992da9%2F61e19e609bbc0f2783c953a8%2F38%2F59%2F620f8a5d9d2fda34e7992da9

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Home Medill News

Virtual Memorial Scheduled for Alumnus Darran Simon (MSJ04) – RSVP Link

Darran A. Simon (MSJ04) was in awe of the human spirit’s ability to persevere and endure. He was always drawn to writing about the suffering and trauma of all people, especially those who were often marginalized, overlooked, and not compassionately covered in the news.

Simon took seriously his duty to contribute to the first draft of history, methodically preserving the emotional tenor of people’s stories. He was a phenomenal journalist, colleague, friend, son and brother. He mentored high school and college students, championed volunteerism and blazed a path of excellence for all who knew him.

In celebration of a life well lived, a virtual memorial will be held on March 19, 2022 from 1 PM to 3 PM (EST). To RSVP, visit RememberingDarranSimon.com for more information.

Medill has created a new endowed scholarship in Simon’s memory. 

Simon’s career included roles reporting on minority affairs at the Miami Herald, covering education for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, as a crime reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, as a general assignment reporter for Newsday and as a senior writer with CNN Digital in Atlanta. His most recent role was with the Washington Post, where he covered District politics and government.

“Darran was thoughtful, curious and always went out of his way for others. It’s what made him a dear friend and phenomenal person to learn alongside. He took the role of being a reporter seriously and pushed himself to be great at it,” said Jessica Rodriguez Falcon (MSJ04), a friend and classmate of Simon’s. “It’s just not something you see every day.”

Simon was unafraid to tackle difficult topics in his reporting, including covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and profiling the spiritual leader of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, after a brutal terrorist attack by white supremacists.

“The essence of his whole career is not forgetting about the people that news trucks have driven by after the big story has left,” said Allissa Richardson (MSJ04), another friend and classmate. “I think that it’s beautiful that he was able to do exactly what he set out to do.”

Once the scholarship fund reaches $100,000, it will provide a generous award to a talented and deserving student, each and every year, in perpetuity. Northwestern will continue to accept additional gifts to grow the scholarship in the years to come. In tribute to Simon’s commitment to thoughtful and sensitive trauma reporting, the scholarship will support students with a focus in social justice reporting.

The Darran Simon Memorial Scholarship will help address one of Medill’s greatest needs in offering support for graduate students. “Graduate scholarships are essential if we are to continue attracting top candidates to Medill,” said Medill Dean Charles Whitaker (BSJ80, MSJ81). “Darran was a supremely talented and compassionate journalist, and I can think of no better tribute to his life and work.”

Richardson said she thinks Simon would be honored and humbled by the scholarship dedication. “He would probably suggest it be named after someone else. For his incredible love of history and reading, he probably would have cited a historic person. But he is history. He is Medill history. He’s American history. He’s Black history. And I’m just so glad that he wrote down all that he cared about, and he wrote down to really speak up for other people. And that kind of thing will always outlive you, you know — the arts, our words, what’s written down, is immortal,” she said.

Gifts to the Darran Simon Memorial Scholarship may be made online (explore “Search School and Program Funds”).

Alternately, those wishing to support the fund may send a check to:
Northwestern University
Alumni Relations and Development
1201 Davis Street, Suite 1-400
Evanston, IL 60208-4410

Please make check out to Northwestern University and note the Darran Simon Memorial Scholarship in the memo or enclosure.