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Harold Ramis Theater Named in Honor of Entertainer at Senn High School

By Quinn Ford | May 17, 2014 10:26pm | Updated on May 19, 2014 8:53am
 Senn High School renamed its studio theater in honor of alum and renowned comedian Harold Ramis, who died in February.
Harold Ramis theater
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ROGERS PARK — When a plaque bearing the new name of Senn High School's studio theater went up earlier this week, students took notice.

Some knew the name, but others had a question for their lead theater teacher Joel Ewing: Who is Harold Ramis?

Ewing had an answer ready for them.

"I say he did not one, not two, not three but four of the top 100 greatest comedies of all time," Ewing said. "At least according to the American Film Institute which left Stripes off the list, which I still take issue with."

Saturday evening, Senn High School held a ceremony to rename the theater in honor of the renowned writer and comedian who graduated from Senn in 1962.

Ramis, who was behind comedy classics like "Caddyshack," "Ghostbusters" and "Animal House," died in February at the age of 69.

Senn principal Susan Lofton said she spent her teenage years watching SCTV, a 1970s sketch-comedy show where Ramis was a performer and writer.

So when she came to Senn three years ago, Lofton said she was thrilled to learn she was literally "walking in the same halls as Harold Ramis." After going through old year books, Lofton said she was surprised to see just how involved Ramis was at the school.

The Chicago native, who was born on the West Side but grew up mostly in Rogers Park, was a member of about 10 school clubs, including choir and senior council, school officials said.

"To this day, I can't quite wrap my mind around the fencing thing, but he was on the fencing team," Lofton said. "And I gotta tell you, he looked pretty awesome in that fencing outfit."

Lofton called Ramis, known in high school as Hershey, an inspiration and said Senn played some roll in shaping him.

"Harold Ramis really exemplified everything that is great about Senn, everything that is great about a community neighborhood high school," she said. "He was of the community, and he is a child who went to a neighborhood school and valued that neighborhood."

Indeed, he once said being a member of the choir, which allowed him to serve as an extra at the Lyric Opera, allowed him to be on the "most incredible stage I've ever been on." 

Being on the stage "made me feel that things were possible that had never seemed possible before." In 2003, he went back to Senn and served as principal for a day.

Ramis' wife, Erica Mann Ramis, were joined by Senn teachers and students at Saturday's ceremony, which concluded with a screening of one of Ramis' best-known films "Groundhog Day."

Ewing, the theater teacher, says he'll continue to "connect the dots" for students who ask who Ramis was.

"I say, 'Do you know Judd Apatow?' Well Judd Apatow wouldn't be Judd Apatow without Harold Ramis," Ewing said of the creator of such popular comedies as "40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Bridesmaids."

And Ewing said those questions prove the plaque is already serving its purpose, exposing a new generation to Ramis' work.

"I can't help but believe his comedic genius, his impact on young, like-minded individuals, his model of artistic excellence continues now with another generation of students here at Senn," Ewing said.