Northwestern remembers James Foley at memorial service

Diane Foley speaks at James Foleys memorial service Thursday at Alice Millar Chapel. Diane Foley thanked the Northwestern community for its support during her sons captivity and after his death.

Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

Diane Foley speaks at James Foley’s memorial service Thursday at Alice Millar Chapel. Diane Foley thanked the Northwestern community for its support during her son’s captivity and after his death.

Tyler Pager, Breaking News Editor

James Foley never turned down an opportunity to talk to Medill students.

Whether it was his visit to Northwestern’s campus just weeks after his release from Libya or a Skype session from Syria, Foley’s dedication to giving back to NU epitomized the legacy that family and professors highlighted Thursday afternoon.

The NU community celebrated Foley’s life Thursday, remembering his passion for reporting from conflict zones and his dedication to sharing stories of how war impacted everyday life. More than 100 people gathered in Alice Millar Chapel for his memorial service, which was also attended by Foley’s mother and grandmother.

Foley (Medill ‘08), a freelance journalist, was executed by ISIS in August after spending almost two years in captivity.

At the memorial, Dick Stolley (Medill ‘52, ‘53), a member of Medill’s Board of Advisers, announced Foley will be awarded the Medill Medal for Courage on Dec. 3, along with Rolling Stone journalist Matthieu Aikins.

“It will be our obligation,” Stolley said, “to award this medal in the future to men and women who have succeeded in measuring up, not to the grim tragedy of Jim Foley’s death, but the proud achievements of his life and his high professional standards of bravery, integrity and truth.”

Foley’s mother Diane, Medill Prof. Ellen Shearer and University clergy also spoke during the service. After the event, Medill Dean Brad Hamm said the school will continue to honor Foley’s legacy.

“We’re working with the family closely,” he told The Daily. “The first thought was, in our talking with them, was to let this Legacy Fund that they have worked on be the initial focus and then Medill will come back and do its own kind of recognition.”

The James W. Foley Legacy Fund was established in honor of three areas Foley was most passionate about: advocating for American hostages and their families, supporting American journalists in conflict zones and helping those who don’t have access to education.

Hamm said a James Foley fund has been established at Medill following alumni donations after his death. Medill will work with Foley’s family to decide how to spend the money, but it will be “student focused,” Hamm said.

“The idea that you do something to make a difference I think is the powerful part of Jim Foley’s legacy,” Hamm said. “It’s not that we will go into Syria or the next big war, but we do something that matters.”

Diane Foley said she was honored to be in Evanston and thanked the Medill community for their support throughout her son’s captivity and after his death.

“Jim would’ve been probably very humbled and embarrassed, but proud to receive the medal for courage,” she told The Daily after the service. “I want him to be remembered for the type of courageous journalist he was and for a humanitarian who cared for people who didn’t have a voice. That’s what I’m hoping the foundation can continue.”

Rachel Zahorsky (Medill ‘07) said she met Foley on her first day of Medill and stayed friends with him throughout her time at graduate school. She remembered Foley as “very brave and truly compassionate.”

“If we all had one ounce of the courage, one ounce of the integrity, one ounce of the compassion for the world that he had just in our everyday lives,” she told The Daily, “I can’t even imagine what could be accomplished.”

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