Urbana to dedicate UHS theater control booth to longtime teacher
URBANA — A fixture of the Urbana High School drama department will soon have his name permanently affixed to a portion of the school's newly renovated theater.
The Urbana school board will Tuesday night dedicate the Urbana High School theater's state-of-the-art sound and light control booth to Greg Chew, the longtime high school drama teacher who is now retired.
The board will meet at 7:30 p.m. at the Burkholder Administrative Service Center, 205 N. Race St., U.
"It's quite an honor," Chew said Friday about the dedication. "But the real honor was the 35 years I got to do plays and musicals in Urbana, with all the students over the years."
Chew taught English, speech and drama, and was longtime director of the high school drama program. He retired in 2010,and was involved in planning the redesign and renovation of the school's theater.
Chew appreciates the honor, "especially since the theater is such a wonderful place."
He worked closely with the school district and architects to maintain the theater as a historic space, he said, while providing the workings of modern technology.
"Performing arts of all kinds are for the better now in our new space," Chew said.
Chew said he's also on call to give alumni tours.
"I was around enough that I'm a familiar face," he said.
He said the tours are interesting, especially when he encounters alumni who attended the high school before he worked there.
"That's a part of the fun, seeing it through their eyes," Chew said, adding that he saw the high school change incrementally while he worked there, but those on tours are often seeing many changes at once.
"It's nice to see the pride people have in their school when they come back," Chew said.
Chew said he's also interested in history. He serves on the Urbana Public Arts Task Force and on the subcommittee that focuses on the architecture of Joseph Royer, who designed Urbana High School among many structures.
"That's part of my interest also, that this is a space Royer had designed," Chew said, adding that the building is entering its second century. That the school district is still able to use it "is just tremendous," Chew said.
School board President John Dimit said Chew has a legacy of students who have gone into the entertainment industry and performing arts, both on and behind the stage.
"It's a testament to the teaching style that he had," Dimit said, adding that Chew led and mentored students.
Dimit said the control booth was designed to be "worthy of his honor."
It's a high-tech system that allows students to program computers in order to run lights and sound.
"At the time we put in the sound board and the lighting board, we were the first theater, commercial or school-related, to have that ... system in our auditorium," Dimit said.
That was purposeful, with the intention of training students to run entire shows in the auditorium.
"We wanted our students to be taught on the most current equipment," Dimit said, in an effort to teach them marketable skills for employment later.
Dimit said money from some private fundraising helped put in such a high-tech control booth, and in fact, fundraising started at Chew's retirement celebration.
The school district announced then that it wanted to name the booth for Chew.
"We will now take formal action to complete the naming," he said.
Superintendent Don Owen said Chew has influenced not only students, but families and the community as a whole.
"His passion for teaching and theater have helped thousands of students reach their personal goals," Owen said. "Mr. Chew has always extended his passion for Urbana beyond the walls of UHS. His interest in local history and the arts make him a valuable resource for the whole community."
Tim Broeker, the director of high school theater at Urbana High School, said the dedication is another way to give back to Chew after all he's done for Urbana students.
Broeker said even students who never had Chew as a teacher or director know who he is.
"He has really built and established the program we have today," Broeker said. "He really is Urbana drama, when you think of it."