Danville school board will consider naming auditorium for Dick Van Dyke

Danville school board will consider naming auditorium for Dick Van Dyke

DANVILLE – Two Danville High School officials are asking the school board to name the Danville High School auditorium in honor of one of its most famous graduates – Dick Van Dyke.

The board will consider the request at its 6:30 p.m. Wednesday meeting in the Jackson Building.

In a letter to Mark Denman, superintendent of schools, Danville High School Principal Mark Neil and choral music director Martha Lindvahl recommended the dedication to Van Dyke, a 1944 DHS graduate and Emmy, Tony and Oscar award winner.

"When Mr. Van Dyke returned to the DHS stage after many year's absence, he said how great it felt to be back in our auditorium," the duo stated in the recommendation. "To quote him: 'The sights, the sounds, and the smells of this auditorium are the same as when I was a student here at DHS. It is amazing how things have not changed. ... I feel like a kid again!' Reflecting on this DHS graduate's life work, we feel 'Wow, this place should be named after such a man!'"

Van Dyke returned to his alma mater for four days in 2004 for the performance of "Bye Bye Birdie," one of his early career successes; a reunion for Van Dyke and three buddies, known as the Burfords, during their high school years together – Harold Brown, Robert Hackman and Jerry Searight – was arranged as well; and the awarding of the first Dick Van Dyke Performing Arts Scholarships, which he generously supported, according to Neil and Lindvahl.

Van Dyke "will be 85 on Dec. 13. Over the years, he has mentioned Danville during television performances. When he came back in 2004, he interacted with the entire student body, not just the cast of the show," Lindvahl said. "Afterward, he asked if we could send any photos of himself with the students. That's what mattered to him about his visit."

Lindvahl said Van Dyke was humbled by the possible naming, saying he didn't think the recognition was necessary.

"It's rare that the district name a public room like this," Denman said. "But his support makes it appropriate. It is the scene of the beginning of his career. He attributes his success to a teacher and the music director he had here."

Lindvahl and Neil called Van Dyke the "best representative of all those who have sung, played an instrument, danced, acted, received an honor, celebrated school spirit, been inspired or dreamed big in that beautiful, one-of-a-kind auditorium. Our auditorium and Dick Van Dyke both represent treasures that Danville High School is lucky to call its own."

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