Skip to main content

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

Filter alumni by decade:

Narrow to:

Joseph Ruklick

Joseph Ruklick ’59, ’90 MS, Evanston, Sept. 17, age 82. A Northwestern basketball star from 1956 to 1959, the 6-foot-10 Ruklick broke 16 school records while earning All-America honors in his senior year. He then spent three seasons with the Philadelphia Warriors and played alongside Wilt Chamberlain. Ruklick became part of NBA history when he assisted on the basket that gave Chamberlain 100 points in a single game, a record that still stands. Ruklick left the NBA in 1962 and began a 28-year stint at the National Merit Scholarship Corp. He later pursued graduate education in literature and journalism. In 1999 Ruklick joined the Chicago Defender as a reporter and became the Black paper’s only white editorial staff member. He was inducted into the Northwestern Athletic Hall of Fame in 1984 as a charter member. Ruklick is survived by his sons, Grant and Charles. (See “Baskets and Bylines.”)

Credit: Lauren Pond ’09

James R. Thompson

James R. Thompson ’59 JD, ’79 H, Chicago, Aug. 14, age 84. A tireless campaigner, Thompson served a record four terms as Illinois governor, from 1977 to 1991. After graduating with his law degree from Northwestern, he worked as a prosecutor in the Cook County state’s attorney’s office and also taught as an associate professor at the law school, where he co-wrote four textbooks on criminal law. In 1971 he was appointed U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, where he prosecuted anti- corruption cases. A moderate Republican, Thompson ran for governor in 1976, winning by the largest margin in state history. He pushed for enhanced infrastructure with the Build Illinois plan, created the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and helped keep the Chicago White Sox in Illinois by advocating for the construction of a new stadium. After serving as governor, Thompson joined the law firm Winston & Strawn as partner. He also served on the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, which investigated the 9/11 attacks. He is survived by his wife, Jayne; a daughter, Samantha; and a granddaughter.

Credit: Courtesy of Northwestern University Archives

Irene Duhart Long

Irene Duhart Long ’73, Merritt Island, Fla., Aug. 4, age 69. A trailblazing aerospace physician, Long spent 30 years overseeing health and safety at NASA. Long joined the organization in 1982 as chief of the Kennedy Space Center’s Medicine and Environmental Health Office. In 2000 she became the first woman and first person of color to become NASA’s chief medical officer, a position she held until she retired in 2010. Long also helped create KSC’s Spaceflight and Life Sciences Training Program, which encouraged more women and minority undergraduates to pursue science careers. Her many accolades include the 1998 Women in Aerospace Outstanding Achievement Award and the 2005 Women of Color STEM Conference Lifetime Achievement Award. She is survived by her aunt, Estella; cousin, Delphine; and close friends Dorothy and Novella. (See “Space Doctor.”)

Credit: NASA

Charles Snorf

Charles Snorf ’58 MD, ’63 GME, Carmel, Calif., July 30, age 90. A longtime surgeon, Snorf was also a generous benefactor to the Northwestern community. He started his 33-year career in health care in the early ’60s with a private orthopedic practice and work at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Snorf and his wife, Leslie, made significant philanthropic contributions to Northwestern, including creating the Snorf Medical Student Scholarship Fund at the Feinberg School of Medicine in 1997. They also established both the Dr. Charles and Leslie Snorf Professorship in Orthopedic Surgery and the Dr. Charles and Leslie Snorf Research and Education Fund. Snorf is survived by his wife; daughters Susan, Cynthia and Carolyn; stepsons Kevin and David; 13 grandchildren; and his first wife, Roberta.

Les Crystal

Les Crystal ’56, ’57 MS, Manhattan, N.Y., June 24, 2020, age 85. Known as a kind and reassuring leader, Crystal oversaw network news at both NBC and PBS. After college he began writing for TV and radio station KDAL in Duluth, Minn., then joined NBC’s Chicago affiliate in 1963 as a producer for its nightly news program and Dateline Chicago documentary series. He served as executive producer for NBC Nightly News from 1973 to 1976 and as president of the network’s news division from 1977 to 1979. One of his most influential roles began in 1983 when he took over as executive producer of what became known as The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, guiding its efforts to deliver in-depth reporting as the country’s first hourlong newscast. Crystal led the program for more than 20 years, before becoming president of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions in 2005. He retired in 2010. Crystal is survived by his wife, Toby Lee; three children, Bradley, Alan and Elizabeth; three grandchildren; and a sister, Elaine.

Photo: Courtesy of PBS NewsHour Productions

Michael Heuer

Michael Heuer ’56 DDS, Naperville, Ill., June 4, age 88. As dean of the Northwestern University Dental School from 1993 to 1998, Heuer restructured its curriculum and added programs in oral pathology, general dentistry and geriatric dentistry. After beginning his career in the U.S. Navy Dental Corps, Heuer returned to his dental school alma mater in 1960 as an assistant professor. Following a stint on the Loyola University Chicago faculty, he rejoined Northwestern as chair of endodontics. He went on to become associate dean of academic affairs in 1983 and senior associate dean in 1988 before serving as the dental school’s pen- ultimate dean. In that role Heuer was tasked with announcing the school’s closure, which occurred in 2001, the same year he was honored with the Northwestern Alumni Association’s Alumni Merit Award. He is survived by two daughters, Kristan and Katrina; seven grandchildren; and two sisters.

Charles Lippincott

Charles Lippincott ’61, Vermont, May 19, age 80. A pioneering publicist, Lippincott is credited with helping transform George Lucas’ original Star Wars film into a legendary worldwide brand. After switching from law school to film school, he met Lucas at the University of Southern California, and in 1975 he joined Lucasfilm as vice president of advertising, publicity, promotion and merchandising. Before the 1977 release of Star Wars (later subtitled Episode IV: A New Hope), he attracted the interest of science fiction and comic book fans with a presentation at the San Diego Comic-Con and a series with Marvel Comics. In addition to advocating for individual character trademarks, Lippincott arranged to feature the Star Wars brand on television as part of The Richard Pryor Show and in a now-infamous CBS holiday special. He left Lucas’ team after the first film, going on to promote movies such as Alien and Flash Gordon and to produce Judge Dredd. Lippincott is survived by his wife, Geraldine, and a sister, Janet.

Photo: Courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.