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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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Valerie Boyd

Valerie Boyd ’85, Atlanta, Feb. 12, 2022, at age 58. An associate professor at the Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia, Boyd wrote the well-regarded biography Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. Boyd first discovered the Harlem Renaissance writer’s work in an African American studies class at Northwestern. She spent several years as arts editor for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution before she began teaching in 2004. Boyd was named the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer in Residence at the Grady College in 2007 and was director of the Giving Voice to the Voiceless Program. In 2017 she received a Governor’s Award for the Arts and Humanities, and later this year she will be inducted into Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. Her most recent book project, Gathering Blossoms Under Fire, The Journals of Alice Walker 1965–2000, will be published this year. Her anthology Bigger Than Bravery: Black Writers on the Pandemic, Shutdown and Uprising of 2020 is also scheduled for publication. She is survived by two brothers. 

Photo Credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Phyllis Elliott Oakley

Phyllis Elliott Oakley ’56, Washington, D.C., Jan. 22, 2022, at age 87. Fascinated by history and public affairs, Oakley joined the foreign service in 1957. When she married fellow officer Robert Oakley in 1958, she left the State Department. Women officers were discouraged from marrying at that time. Years later, when she learned that the issue was being challenged by other women officers, Oakley reapplied to the department and was rein-stated in 1974. She focused on Arab-Israeli relations and the Panama Canal Treaty. In 1986 she was the first woman to be appointed deputy spokesperson at the State Department. In the 1990s she served as assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration affairs and assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research. After retiring in 1999, she taught at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and Mount Holyoke College. She  returned to Northwestern in spring 2002 as a visiting professor. Oakley is survived by her son, Thomas; her daughter, Mary; and five grandchildren. 

Norman "Norm" Howard Kragseth

Norman “Norm” Howard Kragseth ’53, St. Louis Park, Minn., Jan. 22, at age 91. Kragseth attended Northwestern on a football scholarship. He was a three-year letter winner as a punter, place kicker and offensive end, and earned an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention his senior year. After he earned his undergraduate degree in education, Kragseth was active in the Northwestern Alumni Association and served as president of the Northwestern Alumni Club of the Twin Cities. He received the University’s Alumni Service Award in 1973. While at Northwestern, Kragseth participated in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps and later accepted an appointment to Navy Reserve Officer Candidate School. He served two years active duty during the Korean War. After he returned stateside, he started a teaching and coaching career in Minnesota. He officiated for 10 years for the Big Ten and then became the first NFL official from Minnesota. He officiated the first NFL game held in the Metrodome in Minneapolis and worked Super Bowl XIV before becoming an instant replay official in 1988 and, later, an NFL scout and observer. Kragseth was inducted into the Northwestern Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000. He is survived by his wife, Phyllis; children Susan, Steve and David Kragseth ’81, ’86 MA; grandchildren Connor, Taylor, Steven, Elias, Sheridan, Hartleigh and Atticus; and sisters Janice and Eleanor.

Louis A. Simpson

Louis A. Simpson ’58, Naples, Fla., Jan. 8, 2022, at age 85. A trustee, benefactor and generous friend of Northwestern, Simpson and his wife, Kimberly Querrey, have provided support to the University in countless ways, including more than $250 million in total “We Will” Campaign giving. The Simpson Querrey Biomedical Research Center, named in recognition of their generosity, officially opened in June 2019. Also in 2019, the couple gifted funding to create the Querrey Simpson Institute for Bioelectronics, to facilitate collaborations at the intersections of engineering, science and medicine. Simpson joined Northwestern’s Board of Trustees in 2006 and became a life trustee in 2010. In 2016 he was appointed senior fellow and adjunct professor of finance at the Kellogg School of Management. He received the Northwestern Alumni Medal in 2018. An expert investor, Simpson devoted more than 30 years of his career to Geico Corp. During his 17-year stint as president and CEO of Geico Capital Operations, Simpson produced portfolio returns that consistently broke industry records. In addition to his wife, Simpson is survived by his three sons, Irving, Kenneth and Edward “Ted” ’96 MBA; his five grandchildren, Allie McGuire, and Tyler, Kennedy, Palmer and Beckett Simpson; his three great-grandchildren, Lachlan, Clementine and Hamish; his nephews Andrew and Robert Querrey; and his “naughter,” Melissa Querrey, a student in the dual-degree Medical Scientist Training Program. 

Photo Credit: Jim Prisching 

Richard S. Oldberg Jr.

Richard S. Oldberg Jr. ’61, Estes Park, Colo., Dec. 27, at age 83. A talented hornist, he studied the French horn during his college years at Northwestern until a lip injury forced him to turn to premedical studies. That break, however, was only temporary, and in 1962 he received an invitation to play as an extra horn with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO). In 1964 Oldberg was promoted to third horn and remained with the CSO for 29 years. Oldberg often performed as a soloist in pieces such as Strauss’ Second Horn Concerto and Schumann’s Konzertstück for Four Horns. Oldberg also served on Northwestern’s faculty for many years. Even during retirement, Oldberg played with the Boulder Philharmonic in Colorado and led its annual performances of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. He is survived by his son, David.

Photo Credit: Rosenthal Archives of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association

Richard Lerner

Richard Lerner ’60, ’02 H, La Jolla, Calif., Dec. 2, 2021, at age 83. A prominent biochemist with more than 400 published scholarly works, Lerner studied the human immune system and the function of antibodies and DNA in the treatment or detection of arthritis, cancer and diabetes. His fundamental research that led to the development of Humira, a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, and Benlysta, an immunosuppressive drug to treat lupus. Lerner served as director and president of the Scripps Research Institute from 1987 to 2012, tripling the size of the institute and guiding it to become one of the world’s leading centers for life sciences. He is survived by his wife, Nicky; and three children, Danica, Arik and Aaron. 

Allan Rechtschaffen

Allan Rechtschaffen ’56 PhD, Chicago, Nov. 29, 2021, at age 93. Rechtschaffen conducted ground-breaking research on the biological purpose of sleep and the effect of retinal stimulation on dreams. After earning his doctorate, he taught psychology at Northwestern and worked as a research psychologist at the Veterans Administration before moving to the University of Chicago, where he directed the University of Chicago Sleep Laboratory for more than 40 years. In 1983 he published his most notable study, which showed the negative effects of sleep deprivation in rats, identifying sleep as an essential function for life. Rechtschaffen is survived by his wife, Karen; his stepdaughters, Laura, Katherine and Amy; and four grandchildren.