Kanye West's mother Donda will be remembered Friday in a memorial service at Chicago State University, where she was a member of the faculty for 24 years.
"She had a vibrant spirit and one that was nurturing and also supportive but nonetheless always challenging," Robyn Wheeler, director of university relations, told PEOPLE. "We felt the service should reflect who she really was."
The rap star will not attend the ceremony for his mother, a professor who died Nov. 10
of possible complications from surgery; Donda West's nephew will represent the family.
A grieving Kanye West, meanwhile, dropped out of the 2007 Victoria's Secret Fashion show, taping Thursday for broadcast on CBS Dec. 4. But Black Eyed Peas singer will.i.am agreed to fill in for his friend, Entertainment Tonight
Also, actress Holly Robinson Peete, a longtime admirer of West's, paid tribute to her. "She reminded me a lot of my mother," Peete says in an interview with momlogic.com
. "I had an instant connection with her. I'm going to miss her smile, I'm going to miss her integrity and I'm going to miss seeing Kanye and his mom together."