The person behind Burl Ives Studio Hall


The legendary Burl Ives, perhaps Eastern’s most famous alumnus, tells a crowd at the Art Studio, which bares his name, that he’s happy returning to his Central Illinois roots. Photo published in The Daily Eastern News April 30, 1990 issue.

Ethan Schobernd, Campus Reporter

Since 1990, Eastern’s arts department has had Burl Ives Studio Hall as a place for students who are planning on completing their Master of Arts.  

With its 18 individual studio spaces and critique gallery, the studio was built to help art students succeed in their higher education endeavors.  

The studio was named after the American singer, Burl Ives, whom most might recognize as the voice actor of Sam the Snowman in the Christmas film “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  

Ives was enrolled at Eastern Illinois State Teachers College (now Eastern Illinois University) from 1927 to 1930. At the time, his intentions were to become a high school football coach. While at Eastern, he was a member of the football team and a member of the Charleston Chapter of the Order of DeMolay.  

However, during a “Beowulf” lecture in his English class, Ives decided to stop pursuing his degree and he wanted to become a singer. He left in the middle of class.  

Allegedly, the teacher made a nasty remark about him as he left and Ives slammed the door behind him, shattering the glass. 

Ives pursued his career as a singer, traveling across the United States as a freelance musician.  

After Ives gained fame and recognition as a singer, he would occasionally do shows and benefits for the students at Eastern for years.  

On April 27, 1990, the singer performed for a sold-out crowd in Dvorak Concert Hall the night before the arts studio was dedicated to him.  

Ives had a standing ovation as he performed some of his famous hits.  

The show was around 50 minutes long and Ives talked about his time at Eastern. 

“I went here two years; the third year I ‘quituated’,” Ives said. “I talked to President Lord who thought I was too restless to be a teacher. He was right!” 

On the weekend of the building dedication, Ives gave Eastern’s President at the time, Stan Rives, a donation which allowed him to have input on naming the new studios within the hall.  

Most of the rooms were dedicated to his family, but there was one for his second-grade teacher as well.  

On top of the building, a bust of Ives was unveiled, sculpted by Dale Claude Lamphere. The bust was presented to the university months prior to revere Ives’s achievements as an actor and a singer. 

Burl Ives also stated that he was glad that there is a new arts studio at the school. 

“I’m very pleased that people who will use this building, this edifice, will go out to the creativity of all the world and that thought makes me feel very good. I thank you all,” Ives said.  

Along with the dedication of the Burl Ives Studio Hall, Eastern also dedicated the Margaret Podesta Critique Gallery after an alumna.  

The Margaret Podesta Critique Gallery was created as a place for students to display their works for others to see.  

Podesta graduated from Eastern in 1958 and helped in the construction of the art studio and supported the Tarble Arts Center. 

Information for this article was found in records of Burl Ives life, including the April 30, 1990 edition of the Daily Eastern News.

Ethan Schobernd can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].