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In Memoriam

In memoriam is a page to read featured obituaries of Northwestern alumni, faculty and staff. Visit Remembrances to read memorials of Northwestern community members submitted by their family or peers. Please send obituaries to

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Dan L. Burk

Dan L. Burk ’87 MS, Irvine, Calif., Feb. 4, 2024, at age 61. An expert in technology law, including intellectual property, gene patenting, digital copyright and more, Burk was a founding faculty member of the University of California, Irvine, School of Law (UCI Law), where he was Distinguished and Chancellor’s Professor of Law and faculty director of the AI Global Public Policy Institute. Burk studied molecular biology and biochemistry at Northwestern and became interested in the intersection of law and science after learning of the first criminal conviction in the U.S. based on DNA profiling evidence, in 1987. He received two Fulbright Scholarships, in 2011 and 2017, and he was selected for a Leverhulme visitorship to the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2015. Burk taught intellectual property law at Bocconi University in Milan, the University of Toronto, Sciences Po in Paris, the University of Haifa and Humboldt University of Berlin. Before joining UCI Law, Burk taught at the University of Minnesota Law School and Seton Hall University School of Law. Burk is survived by his wife, Laurie, and his daughter, Rayne.  

Photo Credit: UCI Law 

William “Bill” F. Hayes III

William “Bill” F. Hayes III ’49 MMus, Studio City, Calif., Jan. 12, 2024, at age 98. A daytime TV actor, singer and Broadway performer, Hayes is best remembered for his role as Doug Williams on the soap opera Days of Our Lives. Beginning in 1949, he made appearances on Fireball Fun-For-All and Your Show of Shows before joining the cast of Days of Our Lives in 1970. His character would become one of the longest-running characters on the show, appearing in more than 2,000 episodes over the next 53 years. He also earned two Daytime Emmy nominations during that time. He and his wife, Susan Seaworth Hayes, who played Hayes’ on-air wife, Julie, on Days of Our Lives, received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Daytime Emmys in 2018. In 1955 Hayes also sang a rendition of the “The Ballad of Davy Crockett,” the theme song for the show Davy Crockett. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his children, Carolyn, Margaret, Thomas and William; 13 grandchildren; and 30 great-grandchildren. 

Photo Credit: Michael Ochs 

Roger Thomas Ward

Roger Thomas Ward ’68, ’70 MS, Evanston, Dec. 15, 2023, at age 76. A skilled biomedical engineer and researcher at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles, Ward investigated biochemical factors for individuals with sickle cell anemia. Earlier in his career, Ward was recruited by IBM and also worked as an aerospace engineer intern at the Rand Corp., Jet Propulsion Lab and Hughes Aircraft. He received a football scholarship to Northwestern, where he studied math and physics and participated in the 1968 Bursar’s Office Takeover. He earned his doctoral degree in engineering from UCLA in 1978. Ward is survived by his brother, Guy; his former wife, Devyanne Ward; four children, Jocelynn Harrod Ridley ’03 MS, Jeffrey, Sarah and Amber; his former wife, Vivian; 11 grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and additional relatives and friends. 

Melvin Sembler

Melvin Sembler ’52, St. Petersburg, Fla., Oct. 31, 2023, at age 93. Known for his business acumen, Sembler founded The Sembler Company, a shopping center development firm in St. Petersburg. In 1976 Sembler and his wife, Betty Schlesinger Sembler ’53, whom he met at Northwestern, founded a drug treatment program that operates today as the Drug Free America Foundation. Sembler also became involved in Republican politics. He served on President George H.W. Bush’s first presidential campaign and was appointed U.S. ambassador to Australia and Nauru following Bush’s election in 1989. Upon his return to the U.S. in 1993, Sembler served as finance chairman for both the Republican Party of Florida and the Republican National Committee. He was then appointed U.S. ambassador to Italy by President George W. Bush in 2001, a position he held until 2005. Sembler is survived by his sister, Delores; his sons, Martin, Brent and Greg; 12 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. His wife died in 2022. 

Photo Credit: Fairfax Media 

Marilyn Faye Katz

Marilyn Faye Katz ’68, Chicago, Oct. 26, 2023, at age 78. Katz dedicated her life to social and political activism. As a Northwestern student in the mid-1960s, she joined Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), then left her studies to organize against the Vietnam War. In 1966 she marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. in Chicago’s Marquette Park to protest housing segregation. At age 23 Katz served as SDS’s security director to protect antiwar protesters during the turbulent 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. She was a member of numerous women’s rights organizations and an advocate for reproductive rights. After serving as a media consultant for Harold Washington ’52 JD during his successful 1983 mayoral campaign, Katz founded MK Communications, a progressive public relations firm, in 1984. She helped organize a rally in 2002 with Chicagoans Against War in Iraq, at which Barack Obama ’06 H was a featured speaker. She later worked for Obama as a consultant and strategist during his presidential campaigns. Katz co-wrote three books, produced multiple films and served on several boards, including Human Rights Watch Chicago. She is survived by her husband, Scott Chambers, and children, Halley and Grady. 

Njoki Hampton McElroy

Njoki Hampton McElroy ’70 MA/MS, ’73 PhD, Dallas, Oct. 16, 2023. A masterful storyteller, playwright and performer, McElroy graduated from Xavier University in 1945, then taught in public schools in Illinois and Indiana. She earned her graduate degrees from Northwestern’s School of Communication. As an assistant professor of performance studies at the University, she established and taught several iterations of Performance of African American Literature from 1970 to 2002. She taught at Southern Methodist University as well. McElroy gathered traditional African and Caribbean folktales as a Ford Foundation Fellow. She also taught storytelling workshops and wrote several plays exploring Black history and experiences. She founded and directed the Cultural Workshop of North Chicago, which provided performing arts training for Black youth, as well as the annual Back Home With the Folks Festival. Her memoir, 1012 Natchez: A Memoir of Grace, Hardship and Love, was published in 2010. The Queen Professor Holds Court, a documentary about McElroy, premiered in 2022. She co-founded Black Fox Enterprises, a cosmetics and hair care company, with her husband, Clenan McElroy, who died in 1978. She is survived by her children, Ronald, David, Harry, Larry and Marian McElroy ’79 JD. 

J. Landis "Lanny" Martin

J. Landis “Lanny” Martin ’68, ’73 JD, ’22 H, Denver, Sept. 1, 2023, at age 77. Martin was one of Northwestern’s most generous benefactors. He joined the Board of Trustees in 1999 and served as chair of the academic affairs committee and vice chair of the Board. As chair of the Board from September 2017 to August 2022, he oversaw a period of tremendous growth and a return to balanced financial operations, in partnership with former Northwestern President Morton Schapiro ’23 H. Martin attended the University thanks in large part to a generous financial aid package. As a result, Martin became passionate about providing scholarships to Northwestern applicants. After earning both his undergraduate and law degrees from Northwestern, Martin joined the law firm Kirkland & Ellis. He became chairman and CEO of Titanium Metals Corp. and later founded Platte River Equity in 2006. He was the firm’s chairman and managing director. Martin and his wife, Sharon, gave nearly $45 million to the University, supporting the Pritzker School of Law, the Department of Athletics and Recreation, the Bienen School of Music, the Block Museum of Art and undergraduate scholarship funds. They also created the J. Landis Martin Professorship of Law and Business and helped establish Lanny and Sharon Martin Stadium, the University’s lakeside soccer and lacrosse field. Martin’s most recent gift established the Law Community Professorship Fund at the Law School. He received the Northwestern Alumni Association’s Alumni Merit Award in 1996. Martin is survived by his wife; children Mary, Sarah and Emily; and nine grandchildren.