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Poet and dedicated Northwestern employee leaves legacy of poetry

Alan ShefskyAlan N. Shefsky, a longtime School of Communication staff member, has died after an extended illness. He was 55.

Shefsky was born June 22, 1959. A longtime staff member of the university, in 2010 Shefsky was recognized for 25 years of service to the Department of Performance Studies, where he was the program assistant and beloved colleague and friend. He was also an alumnus of the university, earning a bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the School of Continuing Studies in 2008. He graduated summa cum laude.

Shefsky was a poet with his works published in many literary journals and performed at a number of venues in Chicago. He is the author of Amelia Absent, Amelia Present (Clay Springs Press, 1995) and What Emily, “a playful, inquiring romp into the inner life and poetical line of Emily Dickinson” (Magnolia Press Collective, 2011). His last collection of poems, Glee (Magnolia Press, 2012), was written before, during, and after Shefsky’s diagnosis with a glioblastoma brain tumor. Pieces from this book were performed as “Glee and Other Works” by friends of Shefsky’s from Northwestern in March 2014; video of the performance can be viewed at

Alan ShefskyShefsky was a guest artist at the Illinois Summer High School for the Arts and in 1999, was the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Award for poetry.
“Among the things that we will all miss about Alan is his incredible smile,” said E. Patrick Johnson, the Carlos Montezuma Professor of Performance Studies, who relied on Shefsky while chair of the Department of Performance Studies for five years. “His smile could turn a really bad day into a bearable one. He also leaves with us his beautiful poems, many of which faculty, students, and friends have memorized. His life, however, was his most beautiful poem of all. We’ll treasure it for years to come.”

Shefsky is survived by his parents, Lawrence and Elaine (Katzman) Shefsky, his brother Jay Shefsky, and his sister Julie Froeter.

The funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, July 3 at Chicago Jewish Funerals, 8851 Skokie Blvd, Skokie, Ill. Burial will follow at Westlawn Cemetery.

In honor of Shefsky’s dedication to Northwestern and the Department of Performance Studies, his family asks that memorial contributions be directed toward the Dwight Conquergood Scholarship Fund in Performance Studies, c/o Northwestern University, Dept of Performance Studies, 1920 Campus Drive, Evanston IL 60208.