Northwestern, Chicago memorialize James Foley

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Rebecca Savransky, Managing Editor

More than two months after the Islamic State group executed Northwestern alumnus James Foley, the NU and Chicago communities are continuing to honor and remember his legacy.

NU will hold a memorial service on Nov. 20 at the Alice Millar Chapel to give members of the University community a chance to remember him, said Belinda Clarke, Medill’s director of alumni relations and engagement.

“We knew that we’ve wanted to do something for a while,” Clarke said.

Foley (Medill ‘08) earned his master’s degree at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. He worked as a freelance journalist in Syria and Libya, where he reported for GlobalPost and Agence France-Presse. Foley was captured in Syria in November 2012, and had been missing for 636 days before he was killed, according to FreeJamesFoley.org. He was executed by the Islamic State group in a video posted on YouTube on Aug. 19.

Clarke said organizers decided to wait to hold a memorial at NU until after Foley’s family held their service, which took place in New Hampshire last month.

Members of the NU community attended the mass memorial and remembrance, including Medill professors Jack Doppelt and Ellen Shearer, former director of the Medill Washington Program, which Foley participated in during his time at NU.

NU’s memorial, which is being planned by Clarke in collaboration with University Chaplain Tim Stevens and Sheil Catholic Center director Kevin Feeney, will be open to the public and will include a reception in Parkes Hall after the service, Clarke said.

She said they are hopeful Diane Foley, James Foley’s mother, will be in attendance.

The details of event are still being planned, Feeney said.

“From the first notice of Jim’s death, we wanted to have a memorial in his honor,” Feeney wrote in an email. “We wanted to wait until the students had returned so that they could attend.”

In addition to the service, Medill also created a tribute page for Foley in the fall issue of Medill Magazine, which is sent to alumni, Clarke said. She said they are also planning to create a feature spread in the winter issue of the magazine highlighting Foley, including coverage of the memorial service.

In Chicago, Foley’s friends organized the creation of a mural in the Pilsen neighborhood where he once lived.

April Goble, who helped organize the creation of the mural, said about 10 people contributed to the piece. She said the group began working on the project toward the end of September and held a dedication ceremony in October, shortly before Foley’s birthday.

The dedication ceremony included a reading of the poem painted on the mural and an open-mic session.

“A lot of people that were connected to Jim came,” Goble said. “People spoke about Jim and their relationship to Jim and connections to him, and then we had a lot of his friends were musicians so a lot of them played different songs for him.”

The mural, which depicts an image of one of James Foley’s last days in Syria, is one of several events Goble said is being planned to commemorate the journalist. She added that a more formal dedication will likely be held in the spring.

Although the mural is not yet complete, Goble said she has seen people stop by to to learn about James Foley and his contributions to the community.

“I think, for a lot of us who knew Jim well, we knew of his commitment to giving back and his commitment to others,” Goble said. “We wanted to have a place, in a place that he loved, where people could come and remember the life that he led.”

About the Author

Rebecca is a social services reporter at The Frederick News-Post. She graduated from Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and political science. She served as Managing Editor, Summer Editor-In-Chief and Campus Editor at The Daily Northwestern and previously interned at The Miami Herald.