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Provost Holloway, alumnus Eig deliver keynotes at 2018 A Day With Northwestern

A person speaking on a stage with an image of Muhammad Ali projected in the background

EVANSTON - Northwestern University Provost Jonathan Holloway delivered the opening keynote for this year’s “A Day With Northwestern” Saturday, focusing on the formation of modern black identity by drawing on his research in African-American history.

Watch the keynote sessions

For more than 45 years, “A Day With Northwestern” has drawn hundreds of alumni, students, parents and friends for presentations and lectures on timely topics from prominent Northwestern faculty and alumni.

In his keynote address, Holloway discussed his study of the modern black identity and what he learned about his own past while writing “Jim Crow Wisdom: Memory and Identity in Black America Since 1940,” which won the 2014 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.

“As a historian, I’m trained to go to an archive. But what if the archive is the memory, the imagination?” - Provost Jonathan Holloway

The Provost, who is also professor of history, recounted his trips to Ghana’s slave castles, emphasizing the role of memories and oral tradition in the construction of identity.

“As a historian, I’m trained to go to an archive. But what if the archive is the memory, the imagination?” Holloway asked the crowd of about 350.

Before joining Northwestern in July 2017, Holloway served as dean of Yale College and Edmund S. Morgan Professor of African American studies, History and American Studies.

The day was capped by a lecture by Muhammad Ali’s biographer and University alumnus Jonathan Eig ’86, who discussed the life of the boxing legend.

Eig explained how he dug beneath the surface of Ali’s mythology to gain a deep understanding of America’s strange relationship with the man known as “The Greatest.” Eig’s latest book, “Ali: A Life,” is based on interviews with more than 500 people, including many key figures in Ali’s life. Eig is currently working as a consulting producer with Ken Burns on a documentary about Ali for PBS.

Other presenters included Ravi Allada, who spoke about research on fruit flies that led to insights about our sleeping patterns. Allada, the Edward C. Stuntz Distinguished Professor of Neuroscience, chair of the Department of Neurobiology and associate director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Biology within the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, showed how the functioning of the 24-hour clock in our brain can impact performance and memory.

Juliet Sorensen, the Harry R. Horrow Professor in International Law and the founder of the Northwestern Access to Health Project, talked about whether the courtroom is a viable response to America’s opioids crisis.

Billy Banks ’98, associate director of The Garage at Northwestern, explained why focusing on the student — not the venture — is the key to success. Kevin Lynch, chair and professor of mechanical engineering, illustrated how the study of robotics inspires research in animal behavior and vice versa.

Topics: Alumni, Events, Provost

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