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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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Grace Bumbry

Grace Bumbry ’58, Vienna, May 7, 2023, at age 86. An illustrious and trailblazing opera singer, Bumbry studied with German soprano Lotte Lehmann at Northwestern and later continued her studies with Lehmann at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, Calif. Bumbry joined the Metropolitan Opera in 1958 and made her oper­atic debut at the Paris Opera in 1960 as Amneris in Verdi’s Aida. In 1961 she became the first Black performer to sing at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany with her performance as Venus in Wagner’s Tannhäuser. She performed at the White House in 1962 during the Kennedy administration and at President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1981. During her career she received the Kennedy Center Award for the Arts, a UNESCO Award, France’s Commandeur des Arts et Lettres, Italy’s Premio Giuseppe Verdi and four honorary doctorates. She also received the Northwestern Alumni Association’s Alumni Merit Award in 1969 and the Alumnae of Northwestern University’s Alumnae Award in 1997. She taught master classes at the Bienen School of Music in 1997 and 1999.

Photo Credit: Getty/Hulton Archive/Erich Auerbach

Newton N. Minow

Newton N. Minow ’49, ’50 JD, ’65 H, Chicago, May 6, 2023, at age 97. An accomplished communications expert and attorney, Minow originated the idea for the first televised presidential debates and called TV a “vast wasteland” in a famous 1961 speech as Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman. After graduating with his law degree, Minow served as law clerk to Chief Justice of the United States Fred M. Vinson and then as assistant counsel to Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson ’26 JD. President John F. Kennedy appointed Minow chairman of the FCC in the early 1960s, during which time Minow drafted legislation that expanded the broadcast spectrum and promoted the use of satellite technology. Minow served in the Kennedy Administration until 1963, then returned to Chicago in 1965 and joined the law firm Leibman, Williams, Bennett, Baird & Minow, which merged with Sidley & Austin. He was a partner there until 1991, when he became senior counsel. He was chair of the Public Broadcasting Service, co-chaired the 1976 and 1980 presidential debates and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama ’06 H in 2016. Minow, the Walter Annenberg Professor Emeritus of communications and law at Northwestern, joined the Board of Trustees in 1975 and became a life trustee in 1987. His friends and colleagues established an endowment that funded a professorship in honor of Minow in 2014. The gift also created the Newton and Jo Minow Debate Series at the law school, first held in 2015. He received the Northwestern Alumni Association’s Alumni Medal in 1978 and an Alumni Merit Award in 1963. Minow and his wife, Josephine “Jo” Baskin Minow ʼ48, who died in February 2022, were married for more than 70 years. Minow is survived by his children, Martha Minow ʼ12 H, Nell and Mary.   

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla

Jerry Springer

Jerry Springer ’68 JD, Chicago, April 27, 2023, at age 79. Springer became famous as host of The Jerry Springer Show, which premiered in 1991. Known for its heated con­frontations and raucous arguments among guests, the show ran for 27 seasons. A former lawyer, Springer worked for Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1968 and took part in antiwar protests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that year. Springer held a position on the Cincinnati City Council and subsequently served as mayor of Cincinnati from 1977 to 1978. Before creating his namesake talk show, he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for governor of Ohio and became a news anchor at NBC affiliate WLWT-TV in Cincinnati. In recent years he hosted a political podcast. In May 2008, he delivered the Commencement address at Northwestern’s law school. He is survived by his daughter, Katie.

Photo Credit: Getty Images Entertainment/Cindy Ord

Elizabeth "Beth" Newell Murphy

Elizabeth “Beth” Newell Murphy ’76, Chicago, April 24, 2023, at age 68. Murphy was a respected figure in Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood, where she owned and ran Murphy’s Bleachers, an iconic sports bar just across the street from Wrigley Field, for the past 20 years. Her family has owned the bar since 1980, with Murphy taking over operations in 2003 following the death of her husband, Jim. She also owned Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro, located in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood. Murphy was the leader of the Wrigleyville Rooftops Owners Association and spoke on behalf of neighboring business owners when the Chicago Cubs’ 1060 Project to renovate Wrigley Field caused their rooftop views to be blocked. After the Cubs’ World Series win in 2016, Murphy donated thousands of dollars in profits to programming at neighborhood schools. Murphy is survived by her stepsons, James and Brian; grandchildren Miles, Molly, Max and Maeve; siblings Frank Newell, Susan O’Connell and David Newell; and eight nieces and nephews.

Robert "Rob" Dean

Robert “Rob” Dean ’77, Indianapolis, April 19, 2023, at age 67. Dean and his twin brother, Randolph “Randy” Dean ’77, ’90 MBA, joined the Northwestern football team as walk-ons in 1973, following in the footsteps of their older brother, Richard “Rich” Dean ’69. Rob went on to earn a scholarship and three letters in football in the following years, as well as First-Team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors in 1976. He also earned a letter as a member of the Northwestern basketball team during freshman year. Rob and Randy competed in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal as members of the U.S. Olympic handball team. Rob graduated from Northwestern with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, then received his MBA from Stanford University. He worked for Hewlett-Packard, Adept Robotics and Eli Lilly before starting his own manufacturing company, Aristo Machines. Rob served as the Indiana central regional director of the Northwestern Alumni Admission Council from 2013 to 2018. He also gave back to the Indianapolis community. In addition to his brothers Rich and Randy, Rob Dean is also survived by his wife, Marnie; children Kieran and Alexandra; stepchildren Maxwell, Mary and Matthew; and brother Ross.

Angela Mears

Angela Mears ’10, New York City, March 30, 2023, at age 35. Recognized for her work in advertising, Mears leaves behind a legacy of creativity, friendship, generosity and fearlessness. After graduating from Northwestern in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in English, Mears joined the marketing and communications firm Weber Shandwick. She worked there for 11 years, most recently serving as chief creative officer of the New York office. Mears spearheaded creative work for clients across the country including Airbnb, Ikea, McDonald’s, Unilever, Sony and more. She was named a Female Frontier honoree by Campaign in 2022 and earned several awards for her work in advertising, including Cannes Lions, Eurobest, Clios and SABRE awards. Mears, who was featured in the summer 2010 Northwestern Magazine roundup of outstanding seniors, also had a lifelong passion for cooking and ran a food blog called The Spinning Plate.

Louann Hurter Van Zelst

Louann Hurter Van Zelst ’49, ’51 MA/MS, Glenview, Ill., Feb. 15, 2023, at age 94. After training under the tutelage of a Russian prima ballerina, Van Zelst per­formed onstage in musicals as a teen. At Northwestern, she partic­ipated in University Theatre pro­ductions and The Waa-Mu Show. Van Zelst remained involved in the Northwestern community, serving as director-at-large of the Northwestern Alumni Association; a member of the School of Speech Steering Committee; editor of Dialogue, the School of Communication magazine; and co-chair for the campaign to build Northwestern’s Sheil Catholic Center and Galvin Memorial Chapel. She received an Alumni Service Award in 1978 and served on the Northwestern Board of Trustees from 1980 to 1983. She and her husband, Theodore Van Zelst ’45, ’48 MS, funded the School of Communication’s Van Zelst Research Chair in Communication in 1981. She is survived by her children, Anne, Jean Van Zelst Bierner ’89 MA/MS and David; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.