Then: The People's Princess

It’s safe to say Princess Diana swept the Windy City off its feet.

In early June 1996, Northwestern welcomed its most royal visitor during the Princess of Wales’ triumphant three-day Chicago trip to raise money for cancer research. Her visit to Northwestern included a short tour of the Evanston campus led by then–Associated Student Government president Leontine Chuang ’97, ’01 JD. Hundreds of well-wishers greeted Diana’s black Rolls-Royce when she arrived near the Weber Arch. She then visited the home of Northwestern President Henry Bienen, who hosted Diana for a private reception with breast cancer researchers, Northwestern trustees, the governor of Illinois and the mayors of Evanston and Chicago and their spouses.

The following day Diana offered opening remarks at the Northwestern University Symposium on Breast Cancer at the Pritzker School of Law’s Thorne Auditorium. “No other woman has the ability to so effectively focus the world’s attention on such critical issues,” Bienen ’09 H said in his introduction. Diana received two standing ovations after encouraging researchers to avoid the other “C-word” — complacency.

The Princess of Wales was also the guest of honor at a black-tie fundraising gala at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, where she wore a floor-length Versace gown — in Northwestern purple — and danced with TV host Phil Donahue. Singer Tony Bennett serenaded Her Royal Highness, and the A-list guests included Deloris Jordan, Michael’s mother, who stopped by to present the princess with autographed Chicago Bulls souvenirs for Prince William and Prince Harry before running off to catch Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

“I love Chicago,” Diana said as she boarded a British Airways plane for her flight home. “It’s been wonderful.”

In total, her visit raised nearly $1.5 million for cancer research beneficiaries, including the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

Diana and Bienen
Northwestern President Henry Bienen escorts Princess Diana into the Field Museum of Natural History, where 1,300 guests joined Her Royal Highness for a black-tie fundraising gala to benefit cancer research.

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