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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 alums@northwestern.edu.

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James W. Montgomery

James W. Montgomery ’43, Chicago, Oct. 23, at age 98. Ordained in 1949, Montgomery served as the ninth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago from 1971 to 1987. He helped the diocese — and the city — navigate change. During the Chicago Freedom movement in the 1960s he chaired the Chicago Conference on Religion and Race and mediated discussions between Mayor Richard J. Daley and Martin Luther King Jr. These meetings, focused on housing issues and civil rights, took place in St. James Cathedral, the diocesan headquarters. Montgomery opened up the same cathedral for a national gathering organized by gay members of the church. When the Episcopal Church allowed women to become priests in 1976, Montgomery objected but allowed his assistants to ordain women. He also voiced his opposition to the nuclear arms race and abortion. Montgomery served in the U.S. Navy as a lieutenant during World War II. He is survived by four nieces and a nephew.

Robert Rechnitz

Robert Rechnitz ’54, Middletown, N.J., Oct. 12, at age 89. A lifelong theater lover, Rechnitz co-founded Two River Theater with his wife, Joan, in 1994. It is now one of the most prominent companies in New Jersey. He taught literature and directed student productions at Monmouth University for 35 years. Rechnitz, Two River Theater’s executive producer, was also a director and playwright. In 2016 the theater produced the world premiere of his playwriting debut, Lives of Reason, which he co-wrote. Rechnitz studied under the legendary Alvina Krause ’28 ’33 MA/MS at Northwestern and appeared in the 1954 Waa-Mu Show, See Here, with George Furth ’54. Rechnitz and his wife had generously donated to support the arts, education, environmental stewardship and medical research. In addition to his wife, Rechnitz is survived by their children, Emily, Adam and Joshua; and three grandchildren.

Sander Vanocur

Sander Vanocur ’50, Montecito, Calif., Aug. 16, at age 91. A prominent reporter for NBC, Vanocur covered civil rights, assassinations and the Vietnam War. He was one of the panelists on the first televised presidential debate in 1960 between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. (See “TV Debates: The Heart of the Presidential Race,” fall 2012.) Vanocur went on to cover the Kennedy White House. He also conducted one of the last interviews with Sen. Robert Kennedy before his assassination and sat down with Martin Luther King Jr. less than a year before his death. In 1984 Vanocur moderated the vice presidential debate between George H.W. Bush and Geraldine Ferraro. Vanocur served in the U.S. Army after graduating from Northwestern. He had planned to attend law school until a piece that he wrote appeared in a London publication and he saw his name in print — an experience that changed his life. Vanocur is survived by his wife, Virginia Backus; his son, Christopher Vanocur ’82; his stepdaughter, Daphne Wood Hicks; and two grandchildren. Photo courtesy of University Archives

Robert LeBuhn

Robert LeBuhn ’54, Snowmass Village, Colo., and Murray Hill, N.J., Aug. 9, at age 87. An expert in investment management, LeBuhn became managing director at Rothschild Inc. and then president and chairman of Investor International Inc. He served on the board of US Airways for more than 37 years, helping to guide the airline during a period of growth, deregulation and consolidation in the industry. For a decade he chaired the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. A member of the Northwestern men’s basketball team in the early 1950s, LeBuhn played in the first game at McGaw Hall in December 1952. He returned in 2018 for the dedication of the newly remodeled Welsh-Ryan Arena. LeBuhn, a lieutenant, represented the Navy on the gold medal–winning U.S. men’s team at the 1955 Pan American Games in Mexico City. He is survived by his wife, Elaine; children Anne, Ellen, Robert, Richard and Jason; 10 grandchildren; and a brother, David.

Jerome “Jay” Singer

Jerome “Jay” Singer ’53 MS, Berkeley, Calif., July 30, at age 97. A pioneering physicist, Singer helped develop the technology for MRI scanners. During 25 years at the University of California, Berkeley, Singer created a device to measure blood flow in mice and then in human fingers and arms. He was nominated for a Nobel Prize for his work, and 2003 Nobel winner Paul C. Lauterbur credited Singer for creating “an early predecessor to MRI” in his acceptance speech. Singer, who taught and conducted research in electrical engineering and computer science and biophysics at UC Berkeley, came to higher education after working as a furrier, an electrician and machinist. He spent a few months at Boeing, where he unsuccessfully tried to make jetliners quieter. Singer, who founded or co-founded several high-tech software and MRI technology companies, is survived by his two children, Martha and Sam; and four grandchildren.

Lois Kroeber Wille

Lois Kroeber Wille ’53, ’54 MS, ’90 H, Chicago, July 23, at age 87. A fearless investigative journalist and editorial writer, Wille earned two Pulitzer Prizes during her 34-year newspaper career at Chicago’s three major dailies. She joined the Chicago Daily News in 1956 as an assistant to the fashion editor and eventually became one of two female news reporters at the paper. Her five-part series on the city’s policy of denying low-income women access to birth control earned the paper the 1963 Pulitzer Prize for public service. When the paper folded in 1978, she joined the Chicago Sun-Times and led its editorial page. Six years later she left for the Chicago Tribune and went on to win the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. She retired in 1991. Wille, a former managing editor of the Daily Northwestern, also wrote two books about Chicago. She is survived by her husband, Wayne Wille ’52, ’53 MS; and two nephews. Photo: Chicago Tribune/TCA

John Paul Stevens

John Paul Stevens ’47 JD, ’77 H, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., July 16, at age 99. Stevens, one of the U.S. Supreme Court’s longest-serving justices, was a moderate Republican when President Gerald Ford nominated him to the Supreme Court, but he came to be seen as a leader of the court’s liberal wing. Stevens spent three years as a U.S. Navy intelligence officer stationed at Pearl Harbor. After the war he graduated magna cum laude from Northwestern Law in 1947 and spent one year as a clerk for Supreme Court Associate Justice Wiley Rutledge. Stevens returned to Chicago and went to work in antitrust law. President Richard Nixon appointed Stevens to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 1970, and he joined the Supreme Court in 1975. He retired in 2010. He was honored by former classmates with the establishment of the John Paul Stevens Professorship at the Pritzker School of Law in 1992. The school’s Justice John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowship Program provides financial assistance to students who volunteer in public interest summer jobs. Stevens returned to deliver the Northwestern Law convocation address in 2011 and donated his Supreme Court chair to the school. (Read our 2009 profile on Stevens, “A Justice for All.”) He is survived by two daughters, Elizabeth and Susan; nine grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren. Photo by Joanna Wilkiewicz