Marquette University to host Diane Foley, Colum McCann for discussion on ‘American Mother,’ April 5

Campus discussion and interactive workshop to follow April 15

April 1, 2024

Cover of "American Mother"MILWAUKEE — Diane Foley, president of the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, and award-winning author Colum McCann will discuss their new book, “American Mother,” during an event hosted by Marquette University’s Arrupe Center for Community Service and Social Responsibility, Friday, April 5, at 2 p.m. at Alumni Memorial Union, 1442 W. Wisconsin Ave.

Foley and McCann will join the conversation virtually. The conversation will be led by Dr. Leah Flack, professor of English and scholar-in-residence for the Arrupe Center. It was Flack’s book club during the pandemic that introduced Foley and McCann and led to their collaboration.

Registration is available online, including for a virtual attendance option. Media interested in covering either the April 5 discussion or the campus discussion and interactive workshop April 15 should contact Kevin Conway at

* The link for virtual attendance will be shared closer to the event

“American Mother” is the heart-rending story of a mother who, in the course of confronting her son’s killer, gets to the elemental heart of violence and forgiveness. Diane’s son Jim, a Marquette alumnus, was a freelance journalist captured and beheaded by ISIS in 2014, an image which became one of the most iconic of the 21st century. Seven years later, she gets the chance to spend three days with the murderer of her son in a Virginia courthouse, inspiring her to tell her life story. What unfolds is one of the most compelling narratives in recent literary history, channeled into searing reality by McCann, who takes readers on a journey of strength, resilience and radical empathy.

Foley is a national leader in hostage advocacy and founded the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation to advocate for freedom for innocent Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad and for journalist safety. She has raised awareness about international hostage taking through her government advocacy, the documentary, “Jim: the James Foley Story,” and opinion pieces in The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband, Dr. John W. Foley, and is the mother of four other children and seven grandchildren.

McCann is the award-winning author of seven novels, three collections of stories and two works of non-fiction. His most recent novel, “Apeirogon,” became a New York Times best-seller and won several major international awards. He has also won a U.S. National Book Award and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 2005 for “Everything in This Country Must,” which is based on a short story of the same name.

Campus discussion and interactive workshop

The Arrupe Center will host a follow-up discussion and interactive workshop on Monday, April 15, at 5 p.m. This deeper dive into “American Mother” will allow reflection on Foley’s extraordinary work in honor of her son Jim, a Marquette alumnus who was murdered by ISIS in 2014. Attendees will consider the meaning of this story for Marquette, how Diane’s story and Jim’s life can inspire individual to action, and the difference a single person can make.

Registration for this in-person event is available online.

McCann is also the president and co-founder of Narrative 4, a global network of educators, students and artists who use art and storytelling to build empathy between students while equipping them to improve their communities and the world. Using its core methodology, the story exchange, Narrative 4 helps students understand that their voices, stories, actions and lives matter, and that they have the power to change, rebuild and revolutionize systems.

The Arrupe Center hosts N4@MU, a campus chapter of Narrative 4. N4@MU is dedicated to giving students storytelling, leadership, and personal tools to deepen their understanding of social responsibility and to engage more fully and effectively in their work for and service to others.

About Marquette University

Marquette University is a Catholic, Jesuit university located near the heart of downtown Milwaukee that offers a comprehensive range of majors in 11 nationally and internationally recognized colleges and schools. Through the formation of hearts and minds, Marquette prepares our 11,100 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and professional students to lead, excel and serve as agents of positive change. And, we deliver results. Ranked in the top 20% of national universities, Marquette is recognized for its undergraduate teaching, innovation and career preparation as the sixth-best university in the country for job placement. Our focus on student success and immersive, personalized learning experiences encourages students to think critically and engage with the world around them. When students graduate with a Marquette degree, they are truly prepared and called to Be The Difference.

About Kevin Conway

Kevin Conway

Kevin is the associate director for university communication in the Office of University Relations. Contact Kevin at (414) 288-4745 or