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Todd Happer (BSJ88)

Tribute and photo courtesy of ASTC. 

Todd Happer, Senior Manager of Member Engagement at the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC), passed away on Wednesday, September 1, 2021, from complications of cancer. The ASTC Board of Directors and staff share our condolences with the many members of our community who treasured Todd as a trusted colleague and true friend.

Todd began his career at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago directly following his graduation from Northwestern University in 1988. In subsequent years, Todd led marketing and communications for several institutions, including Science Central, the Orlando Science Center, and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. Todd continued to serve the museum and science center community as Associate Publisher of Scientific American Explorations, and he worked for more than a decade as Vice President, Science Education and Museums Editor at Natural History magazine.

Early in his career, Todd served as the Assistant Editor for Dimensions magazine and other ASTC publications. Todd returned to ASTC in 2016 where he most recently led ASTC’s member engagement efforts. In fact, there seemed nothing he enjoyed more than connecting with colleagues from the global science center community.

Throughout his career, Todd made major contributions to the association, including serving for many years on the ASTC Conference Program Planning Committee, helping to shape one of the premier professional development opportunities for our field. Todd’s support of ASTC members has been especially impactful during the COVID-19 pandemic as he has led multiple efforts to ensure that ASTC members have the connections and resources they need to navigate this crisis.

Todd built an encyclopedic knowledge of science centers, science museums, and informal learning institutions, which he used to facilitate connections between members, help share effective approaches, and increase the public’s understanding of the work and impact of these institutions. Todd’s work helped hundreds of institutions around the world to learn about innovative new strategies, develop their staff capacity, and scale their impact on the communities they serve.

Perhaps most important is Todd’s impact on the countless individuals with whom he built relationships over the years. Todd truly “knew everyone,” and he was always seeking to understand each person’s unique perspectives and find ways to support their priorities and strengthen their work. Todd’s loss will be felt by so many, but his memory and his legacy will continue.

To honor that legacy, ASTC has established the Todd Happer Memorial Scholarship Fund which will help support participation in future ASTC Annual Conferences from those at small or remote science centers who would otherwise be unable to attend. Click here for more information about the fund and how to contribute.

Remembering Todd Happer

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Raymond C. Nelson

Raymond C. Nelson, 92, retired professor and associate dean at Medill, died May 30, 2021, in Seattle. Survivors include his wife, Carol; a son, David; and a daughter, Leslie Nelson Kellogg.

He wanted to be remembered simply as a reporter, writer and teacher, which summarizes the three legs of his career. But he was far more than that—a man with a wide variety of interests, a deep knowledge of his disciplines, and abiding affection for friends and colleagues. Despite being a city boy, he developed an avid interest in the outdoors: sailing, bicycling, camping and skiing. He was also a lifelong baseball fan. His mother’s family was from the St. Louis area and he managed to become a St. Louis Cardinals bat boy. As a South Sider, he was a White Sox fan. He also played a bit of semi-pro baseball but disliked the bus travel.

“I think the singular, most important thing to know about my dad was his curiosity about anything,” said his son. “He always wanted the details about something with constant questions, always probing to try and get to the heart of understanding the topic in question.”

Retired faculty member David Nelson (no relation) praised him as “an efficient, loyal and low-key administrator” who “provided the detail work behind many of Medill’s major mid-20th century projects, serving as its associate dean. He made sure that multimillion-dollar grant proposals to the Gannett and Ford foundations were in perfect order. They were. And Medill launched its Urban Journalism Center for mid-career journalists to study race and social inequities nearly a half-century ago. He also played a major role in overseeing the school’s first journalism residency program. An unassuming man, Prof. Nelson left his mark as an able administrator. We owe him a debt of thanks and wish his family solace at this time.”

Born in Chicago in 1928, Ray attended Tilden Tech, then enlisted in the Army and did occupation duty in Korea with the 31st Infantry Regiment. At the time of his discharge in San Francisco, the Army tried to get soldiers to re-enlist by offering promotions. “We knew a war was coming in Korea,” said Ray. “The signs were everywhere and we wanted nothing to do with it.”

Raymond Nelson in old Medill studio black and white.
Photo courtesy of Nelson family.

In 1952 he earned a journalism degree from the University of Missouri Columbia, working as a reporter until he went to Medill for a master’s in 1955, winning the Harrington Award for being an outstanding student in the Radio-TV sequence.

He caught on at KBUR in Burlington, Iowa. The story goes that Ray worked the 1956 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and came to the attention of NBC’s Sam Saran (Medill ‘5?), who helped bring him to Chicago and WMAQ as a reporter. One duty was a program called “Night Desk,” an early and innovative mobile-reporting effort. Using a broadcasting/recording setup in a panel truck, reporters did mobile stories throughout the city.

After a stint in public relations at the National Education Association in Washington, D.C., he rejoined Saran in 1963 in Northwestern’s public relations department at the time of the lakefront expansion. From there he moved to the Medill faculty in 1966, eventually serving as associate dean. “My dad was extremely proud of being associated with NU generally and Medill specifically,” his son said. “The Cherubs program was something he frequently spoke about as well as the Teaching Newspaper Program. From an immediate family perspective, my dad was proud that everyone in the family had earned a degree from NU.”

George Harmon, who was on the faculty when Ray was associate dean in the 1980s, remembers: “Ray was smart, cheerful and innovative. As associate dean he effectively mentored faculty members who joined Medill in the early 1980s. In later years he liked to experiment with new courses and with old courses that needed new wrinkles. When working downtown in news, he earned a reputation as a go-get-’em newsman who loved chasing stories.”

The Nelson family lived for years in Wilmette. After retiring in the 1990s, Ray and Carol moved to Seattle. Eventually they built a house in Port Townsend, where they enjoyed an active retirement.

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Judy Lyn Holland (MSJ87)

Judy Lyn Holland, 61, of Washington, D.C. passed away on April 19, 2021.

She was born Aug. 7, 1959, in Orange Heights, VT, the daughter of Harry and Barbara Holland of Hanover, NH and Vero Beach, FL. Judy was born in the family station wagon en route to the hospital, portending a life in constant motion. From a very young age, Judy adored books and kept a flashlight under the bed covers to read at night. She also displayed an early aptitude for performance and enlisted neighborhood children to put on shows in the family garage with a blanket as stage curtains. She later became an accomplished figure skater and continued to perform in college and as an adult.

She attended Hanover High School and graduated in 1977. Her first summer job was as a cashier at Dan & Whit’s General Store on the same block in Norwich, VT where she grew up. She continued her education at Middlebury College, where she graduated with a BA in 1981. From there, Judy taught English at a boarding school in Germany and studied Italian in Florence, becoming fluent in both languages. She worked as a paralegal in a New York City law firm before earning her master’s degree in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

During her 30-year journalism career, Judy was a newspaper reporter at the Valley News Dispatch in Tarentum, Pa. and the Tampa Tribune in Florida before moving to Washington, DC to become a Capitol Hill correspondent for States News Service. She spent 13 years covering the US Senate and as national bureau editor at Hearst Newspapers, the storied newspaper chain that includes the Houston and San Francisco Chronicles and the Boston Globe. She won the Hearst Eagle Award, the chain’s highest honor. Judy was elected president of the National Press Club Foundation and was a member of the Capitol Speakers Club. She also appeared as a political commentator on cable TV news. Her stories appeared in dozens of publications.

She also was the founder and editor of, an online magazine about parenting teens and wrote the book and podcast series HappiNest: Finding Fulfillment When Your Kids Leave Home.

Judy met her husband John K. Starr, an orthopedic surgeon, in 1982, when he was a medical student. They were together for nearly 40 years, married since 1990. Her true pride and joy were her beloved children, whom she taught determination, poise and empathy.

Judy is survived by her husband John, children Lindsay, 27, Maddie, 24, and Jack, 22, her parents; sister Mary Anne Holland, brothers Michael (Heidi); Joe (Becky); and Jim (Analea); sister-in-law Patricia Starr; nieces Jeannie, Greta, Hazel, Lizzie and Juniper; nephews Michael, Timothy, Hunter, Jake and Anders; maternal uncle, Don Johnston (Mary Margaret) and paternal uncle, Clark Holland.

Published in Valley News on May 2, 2021.

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Ed Filipowski (BSJ83)

Ed Filipowski, co-chairman and chief strategist for fashion public relations firm KCD, died at home on Jan. 10, 2020. He was 58.

Filipowski was raised in a small town in southwestern Pennsylvania, where his father was a steelworker. Realizing early on that he had a talent for writing, Filipowski started working for the local newspaper as well as the high school paper and radio station. “I was attracted to anything media-related, and I was driven to be a journalist,” he said in a story for the Medill magazine in 2014. He knew Medill was the best journalism school, so he borrowed money from his sister for the application fee. “I was fortunate to get in the door,” he said in the Medill article, adding that he received nearly a full scholarship.

Fashion, too, was always in the back of his mind. In Evanston, Filipowski immersed himself in campus life, joining Theta Chi fraternity, the activities and organizations board, and The Daily Northwestern, where he edited the first fashion supplement.

After graduation, he moved to New York City and shared an apartment with a friend he met at NU, Rachel Sparer. Another NU alum, Jack Taylor, hired him as an assistant account executive in the rapidly growing ad agency Jordan, Case, Taylor & McGrath. There, Filipowski developed a solid understanding of brand strategy and product storytelling in a short period of time.

He heard about KCD through a friend, and when the company landed a big client, he sent partner Kezia Keeble a bouquet with a congratulatory note. The flowers led to a meeting, which led to a job offer. Over the next few years, he gained an understanding of the inner workings of the fashion industry from Keeble, a former Vogue editor. He also learned about fashion criticism from the firm’s other partner, and NU alumnus John Duka (BSJ71), a former style reporter for The New York Times. KCD’s goal was to get fashion covered more seriously in the media beyond tabloid headlines.

In 1990, Filipowski, along with colleague Julie Mannion, informally inherited the firm, working alongside Cavaco following the deaths of Duka and Keeble in 1989 and 1990, respectively. In 1991, Filipowski and Mannion were named partners of the agency, and renamed the firm KCD to honor the founders.

KCD’s celebrated portfolio of clients over the years included names such as Tom Ford, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano at Maison Margiela, Versace, Givenchy, Tory Burch, Helmut Lang,  Anna Sui, Victoria Beckham, Balmain, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Brandon Maxwell,and Prabal Gurung.

“When I’m standing with Sarah Burton at McQueen, and she’s taking me through her thought process, I can’t believe my life. It’s a privilege,” Filipowksi said in his Medill magazine interview.  “I’m very personal and hands-on,” he added. “I tell everybody when they’re hired, ‘We will give back to you double what you give to us, because I want this to be a personally and professionally fulfilling experience for you.’”

He attributed his success at his agency to the knowledge and values he learned at Medill. “If you have good personal and professional values, and you work really hard, and if you’re good to people you work with and meet, it just happens,” he said.

Over the last several years, Filipowski visited Medill numerous times to talk with students about his career, and KCD hosted a Medill journalism residency (JR) student in 2018. He generously supported the Ed Filipowski Student Experience Fund for students on JR and he served as the co-chair of his 35th reunion committee.

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Neil Owen Strassman (MSJ87)

Neil Owen Strassman died Feb. 10, 2020. He was 70.

Tribute published in the Oklahoma City Star-Telegram:

“Neil was born in Los Angeles, Calif., in 1949 to Pauline ‘Paula’ Kassam (nee Millman), a schoolteacher, and Harvey Strassman, a psychiatrist. He grew up smack in the middle of the bubbly ’50s and ’60s Jewish community of West LA and Beverly Hills, surrounded by his grandparents (Max and Genia Millman, Moe and Rose Strassman), adored by his mother, spoiled by his aunt Adeline, and loved by his father. Maybe those experiences, combined with Neil’s brilliant mind and inherently social nature, helped impart Neil with a sense of belonging, of having a place in the world.

He was fierce and had firm opinions, yet he remained easygoing and likable. Maybe his personal magnetism simply has no tangible explanation. The fact is that, while many people collect art or stamps or beautiful rocks, Neil collected people. He had the deepest family connections and the most sincere friendships that anyone could hope for.

In the last few weeks of his life, a near-constant flow of family and friends from all over the country came to see Neil at his Oklahoma City home, a testimony to how much he was loved. Neil graduated from the University of California San Diego with a degree in English Literature, and completed his Master’s in Journalism at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Throughout his life, no matter what he was doing, he identified himself first and foremost as a journalist, a profession to which he dedicated himself for several decades. He wrote for a school publication in college, worked for the Long Beach Press Telegram, and wrote for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He even ran a jazz and blues public radio show in Seattle under the hilarious name Nearly-Normal-Neil, with the additional humorous twist of sometimes substituting for himself (!!) under the name Backwater-Eddy.

Neil indeed had a nice sense of humor. There are not enough words to describe his powerful intellect, diverse interests, varied accomplishments, and pointed wit. He was sheer fun to be with! Neil was often found with his nose buried in philosophy texts, Chinese poetry, a horse racing form, the latest environment story, a fishing reel, a pair of skis, itinerary for annual trips to Vancouver Island and Campbell River to salmon fish with his son. A lifelong writer, a machinist or sport fishing boat deckhand in his younger years, chief of staff and office administrator for Tarrant County’s Judge Glen Whitley in his later years, Neil embodied a life focused on intellectual experiences, practical skills, and lifelong friendships. Neil loved his wife, Fatima, very much. And Fatima loved Neil deeply; still does, and always will. Together, they made a family.

Nobody meant more to Neil than his beloved son Joseph, who was the apple of Neil’s eye and the pride of his heart. Neil taught Joe to ski on the slopes, fish in the ocean, camp in the woods, and to dream and aspire to greatness. Neil adored his stepdaughter, Georgia, like a father, and he was so very proud of her. It gave Neil great joy to see Georgia and Max get married, with Joseph standing by their side. Neil was Paula’s only child. Paula was a spirited and intelligent woman who included Neil in everything she did. Neil was loved as a son by his sweet and accomplished stepfather, Abe Kassam, an accountant and businessman, who gave him a marvelous and devoted extended family. His father, Harvey, a brilliant and clear-minded man, imparted on Neil a pragmatic and no-nonsense outlook in life; he also gave Neil four siblings, Debra, David, Michael, and Judy, whom Neil loved very much.

Neil is survived by his wife, Fatima Abrantes-Pais; his son, Joseph Strassman; his stepdaughter and son-in-law, Georgia Shelton and Max Sabor; his siblings, Debra Cowan (Kevin), David Strassman, and Judy (Steve) York; aunt, Adeline Dean and her sons, Michael, Greg, and Bobby; cousins, Philip Aronoff and Salim Janmohammed among many others; his beloved cat, Ich; his love for the Pacific Ocean; and a ton of devoted relatives and friends whose names would cover an entire newspaper page. He was preceded in death by his father, Harvey Strassman; his mother, Pauline Kassam; his stepfather, Abe Kassam; his brother, Michael Strassman; and too many friends who died too soon.

1980s Legacies

Maureen Quaid (MSJ83)

Maureen Angela Quaid died Jan. 1, 2020, in Minneapolis due to complications from breast cancer.

Maureen was born in Chicago, March 12, 1956, to Francis “Duke” Quaid and Angela Quaid (Fazio). After attending high school in Illinois (River Forest, Oak Park, Evanston) and Wisconsin (Wauwatosa), Maureen received an honors B.A. in psychology from Arizona State Univ. (1978) and her masters from Medill.

Maureen worked for more than 25 years in the clean energy industry, devoted to protecting the future of our world through energy efficiency and renewable energy. She began her career as a researcher for the Minneapolis and Washington State Energy Offices, then helped build new clean energy programs in Oregon, New Jersey, Colorado and New Mexico. She returned to Minnesota in 2017 to consult and write.

She is survived by her daughter, Brett Quaid Ford; her two older brothers, Francis and Hubert; and three younger half-brothers, Shawn, Ted and O’Brien.

1980s Legacies

David Anund Eskola (BSJ84)

David Anund Eskola passed away November 23, 2019 near his home in Washington DC after a heroic fight against kidney cancer. He was 57. He was born in Oak Hill, Ohio to Leslie and Betty Anund Eskola.

He was a 1980 graduate of Duluth East High School and a 1984 graduate of Medill.

Eskola started his career writing for a newspaper in Greenville, South Carolina, and went on to be a speech writer for officials in the Congressional and Executive branches of the Federal government as well as the American Medical Association.

He is survived by his mother Betty, brothers Eric, John and George, sister Karen Eskola Tordoff (Paul), niece Grace Tordoff and nephew Eli Tordoff, several cousins and numerous friends.

1980s Legacies

Kathryn Esplin-Oleski (MSJ83)

Kathryn Esplin-Oleski, age 68 of Belmont, Massachusetts, died of pancreatic cancer on Sunday, August 16, 2020. She died at Emory Hospital in Atlanta.

Kathryn was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, to her father, Dr. Don Esplin, and her mother, Billie Leigh Esplin. She was married from 1986 to 2020 to Dr. John Oleski, clinical psychologist with a principal practice in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

In 1968, her family moved to Montreal, where her father was a professor at McGill University. Kathryn completed high school in Montreal, then earned her CEGEP from Dawson College before entering McGill, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English with honors.

Kathryn briefly lived and worked in Toronto and Chicago, Illinois, before moving to Boston in 1979. In 1983, she earned her master’s in journalism at Northwestern University. This included an internship in Washington, D.C., where she reported on politics and other subjects.

A highly talented writer, editor and journalist, the first part of Kathryn’s career was spent reporting, writing and editing on the rapidly growing field of digital technology. This included a job at Digital News and another one at MIT, consulting to W3C. During this latter job, she occasionally met with Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web.

In 1998, Kathryn was editor for one of the first books on HTML, authored by famed British computer scientist Dave Raggett.

Kathryn loved reading and writing, being in nature, painting, running and other exercise, and family vacations in the White Mountains, Montreal and Europe. She traveled extensively in the United States, Canada and Europe. She had a special fondness for cats, including her beloved Cheddar, who was with her for 17 years.

She is survived by her husband, Dr. John Oleski, her son Stephen Oleski and his wife Isabel Tran, her daughter Kristina Oleski and her partner Basil Syed, her sisters Debbie Esplin and Mari Rogers, and her step-brother Peter Zablocki. She is also survived by in-laws, nieces, nephews and their families in the U.S. and Canada.

1980s Legacies

Julie M. Layton (MSJ83)

Julie Marie Layton, 61, of Belleville, formerly of Deerfield, IL, passed away Wednesday, November 11, 2020. Julie received a Master of Science in Journalism degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and was an award-winning author with numerous published articles, poems and short stories. Beloved wife to James Weber; loving mother to Alex (Qian) Weber; cherished grandmother of Griffin Weber; dear sister of Diane (Wayne) Lindquist and Peter (Meg) Layton; and fond aunt to many nieces and nephews.

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Eric B. English (BSJ88)

By Caitlyn French for MLive

Eric B. English died of a heart attack Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021, at McLaren Bay Region Hospital. He was 54 years old.

“He loved journalism and he loved the practice of journalism, and that will be his legacy,” said John Hiner, vice president of content for MLive, who worked with English for nearly three decades.

English was born in Wyandotte, Michigan, on March 18, 1966, and graduated from Trenton High School, later attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. After he graduated from Northwestern in 1988, he was hired by The Bay City Times in Bay City, Michigan, and ran its Tawas City bureau until 2007, when he became a business reporter for the paper.

He later served as an assistant community editor for The Saginaw News and The Bay City Times from 2009 until 2012 and as a managing producer from 2012 through 2016. In 2016, he served as the news leader in MLive’s Ann Arbor News office until returning to Saginaw and Bay City in 2018.

English’s wife, Kathy English, emphasized her husband’s dedication to journalism and the variety of work he did during his career. She recalled that he once flew on a B-52 that was set to be retired and he also scored a ride with the Navy’s Blue Angels flight team.

“There’s just so much that he did and covered in news, I have notebooks and notebooks and notebooks full of his articles that he saved from day one,” Kathy English says.

Outside of work, English was an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed hunting, fishing and gardening. Kathy English refers to him as a regular Johnny Appleseed and says he really enjoyed the ‘Up North’ life.

Eric English was more than a journalist and lover of the outdoors — he was a dad through and through. His daughter, Holly, 23, says her father was quite supportive of her ideas and endeavors and that he would often ‘adopt’ her friends, who tended to call him their second dad.

“What I’ll remember most about my dad is he always gave 110% of himself to whatever he was doing, whether that be working on a story or being a dad,” Holly English says.

In 2012, the English family lost their son and brother, 10-year-old David, after a 19-month battle with a brain tumor.

Many of English’s co-workers and former colleagues recalled fond memories of his presence and dedication in the newsroom while expressing their grief over the loss.

Former Bay City Times editor Rob Clark worked side by side with English and refers to him as one of his closest friends. The two were making plans to reconnect this summer if restrictions eased from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Eric was one of the smartest, most talented people and journalists that I’ve ever known,” Clark says. “This guy was a total workhorse and he knew how to manage people. He knew how to get the best stories, he could write, he could edit. He was just a phenomenal guy to have on your team, to have as a teammate.”

Clark adds, “Just an amazing person, an amazing human being gone way, way, way too soon.”

English served as a mentor for numerous reporters throughout his career. Reporter Cole Waterman reflected on the impact that English left and what it will be like moving forward.

“Simply put, I can’t yet fathom the idea of working without him, without his guiding presence. I expect I’ll feel like a ship without its rudder,” Waterman says. “He will leave an Eric-shaped void that will be impossible to fill.”

Waterman recalled his first interaction with English back in 2009, which set the stage for a long-standing camaraderie.

“I was awkwardly sitting at my newly assigned desk, nervous as hell, feeling over my head with imposter syndrome, when he walked over, shaking his head in his uniquely world-weary way,” Waterman says. “I don’t think he even introduced himself as he started talking to me, grumbling about this and that as though I’d been a longtime colleague of his. Weirdly, his brusque manner put me right at ease.”

Colleague Bernie Eng echoed similar thoughts on English’s unique but endearing mannerisms and the impact he had.

“In the years I’ve known him, Eric didn’t sugarcoat a darn thing, and he wouldn’t want me to now,” Eng says. “But I watched that cranky and cynical façade make him one of the most compassionate and caring people I’ve ever met. His love and concern for his family, coworkers, staff and the communities and people he and his staff reported about is unsurpassed. Eric truly made a difference.”

Despite MLive’s staff working at home since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, English still managed to bring smiles to the faces of staff during digital meetings.

“Working from home the past few months has been hard for our MLive crew,” says Kelly Frick, senior news director for MLive. “But there wasn’t a day when Eric didn’t make all of the editors around the state laugh with a good one-liner in our morning chat. Personally, having worked closely with him for all of my career, I am struggling to imagine life without him.”