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Chaz Ebert on 'Life Itself'

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Chaz Ebert on 'Life Itself'

Roger Ebert's wife, Chaz Ebert, speaking at the Illini Union on Nov. 1, 2015.

Roger Ebert's wife, Chaz Ebert, speaking at the Illini Union on Nov. 1, 2015.

Flower Yang

Roger Ebert's wife, Chaz Ebert, speaking at the Illini Union on Nov. 1, 2015.

Flower Yang

Flower Yang

Roger Ebert's wife, Chaz Ebert, speaking at the Illini Union on Nov. 1, 2015.

By Aaron Navarro

The event was part of the annual convocation for the Campus Honors Program, which provided students of the program with “Life Itself” as a summer read.

“This year we thought it would be nice to provide them with “Life Itself.” Though Roger couldn’t be here, we thought it would be nice to invite his wife, Chaz, to speak,” campus honors program director Kim Graber said.

In the book “Life Itself,” Roger talked about his time at the University, including his time spent as an editor at the Daily Illini and at the News-Gazette.

“His former colleagues at the Daily Illini, who are now successful journalists, all say that he definitely made a difference in his time there,” Chaz said.

Chaz also recalled when Roger stopped the presses and wouldn’t let a newspaper go out when John F. Kennedy was shot because someone juxtaposed a picture of a weapon pointed at Kennedy’s head. “Even now I ponder where this maturity came from as a student,” Chaz said. “I think he was just born with it.”

Chaz also discussed her relationship with Ebert, as she talked about her love for him and the musical centered around their relationship, “The Black White Love Play.” The play just finished its run in Chicago on Sunday.

“It’s strange to have a play about your life,” she said. “And the fact that it’s a musical.”

Born in the West side of Chicago with eight other siblings, Chaz said her resilience and toughness helped her become the person she is today. “You couldn’t just not fight back, you had to let bullies know,” she said. “I just hate when I see people bullying other people. It just hurts my heart. Your generation will create ideas that will be better for us in a lot of ways, in technology, in medicine, but I hope you also make things better in kindness and compassion.”

Chaz also spoke about the new Ebert Center in the College of Media, which is funded by the Roger Ebert Foundation. She said her vision for the Ebert Center is a “crossroads of film studies, production, technology and ethics.”

She said a collaboration with Engineering could open up more doors for the center. Representatives of Engineering and Chaz have discussed arranging satellite programs in Chicago, New York, Santa Barbara, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

“Maybe the Ebert center will combine engineering with the film and cinema studies, so that we can reach out, even internationally,” she said. “That would be another phase, but I am excited about that.”

Chaz said the vision of the center is not only to continue the legacy of Roger, but push others to achieve and create.

“If ignorance and indifference are society’s brake, then empathy and storytelling are the gas pedal,” she said. “So we have to push forward to inspire emerging writers, artists and technologists to make art that includes empathy, kindness and compassion.” Chaz also organizes the annual Ebertfest Film Festival, which will be held April 13-17 at the Virginia Theater. Tickets for the festival went on sale Sunday.

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