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Northwestern names blackbox theater for alumnae who created first soap opera

University also has established a finance professorship in honor of a former faculty member

On Dec. 3, 2019, Northwestern University dedicated a blackbox theater at the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts in the name of three trailblazing alumnae. The Clara, Lu ‛n’ Em Theater was named in recognition of a gift to the School of Communication, which will be used to create a dean’s discretionary fund supporting areas of greatest need. David Berolzheimer made the gift in memory of his mother, Northwestern alumna Isobel Carothers Berolzheimer, and two of her classmates — the trio co-created the first radio soap opera: “Clara, Lu ‛n’ Em.” 

David Berolzheimer also made a gift in memory of his father, Northwestern alumnus Howard Berolzheimer, to establish the Howard Berolzheimer Chair in Finance at the Kellogg School of Management. An authority on corporate taxes and insurance, Howard Berolzheimer taught in Northwestern’s School of Commerce (now Kellogg) and the School of Speech (now the School of Communication) from 1924 to 1945. The named professorship was supported in part by alumni Patrick G. ’59, ’09 H and Shirley W. Ryan ’61, ’19 H (’97, ’00 P) through the Ryan Family Chair Challenge, which matches gifts made by other Northwestern supporters to establish new endowed professorships or chairs. 

David Berolzheimer made both gifts, which count toward We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, shortly before his passing last year.

“David had a vision with a specific purpose: to recognize three very special ladies who had a passion for what they did and wanted to share that passion with others,” said Bonnie Starr, his partner of 45 years. “David wanted to inspire students to do something they truly enjoy and to never give up, even when others say something won’t work or can’t be done. David would be so very happy to see his vision come to pass, and I think he would humbly want to say thank you for the opportunity to share these gifts with Northwestern and to hopefully inspire others in their journey.”

The Clara, Lu ‛n’ Em Theater

The Clara, Lu ‛n’ Em Theater is named for the radio show that starred Zeta Phi Eta drama sorority sisters and Northwestern School of Speech graduates Isobel Carothers Berolzheimer ’26 (“Lu”), Helen King ’26 (“Em”) and Louise Starkey ’27 (“Clara”), who created, wrote and performed in “Clara, Lu ‛n’ Em” — a radio show that aired from 1930 to 1937. The blackbox is located on the second floor of the Wirtz Center in Evanston, which produces, manages, funds and administers the School of Communication’s mainstage performances. The flexible space was part of a renovation that was completed in 2016. It seats up to 100 people and features a 24-foot ceiling as well as a structural grid for dance activities and aerial work. 

“We are excited to honor David’s mother and her fellow alumnae with the naming of the Clara, Lu ‛n’ Em Theater — a space where students can strive for the same level of innovative, collaborative work as these groundbreaking women,” said Barbara O’Keefe, the Annenberg University Professor and dean of the School of Communication. “Isobel and her co-stars exemplify what can be achieved when women pursue their passion in the arts.” (Learn about other trailblazers as Northwestern celebrates 150 years of women at the University.)

Isobel Berolzheimer and her former classmates initially were told that women’s skits had no place in radio. But after their 15-minute program about three small-town housewives who engaged in humorous conversation and gossip about everything from potatoes to politics made its debut on Chicago’s WGN Radio, it was picked up by NBC and gained a national audience. As “Clara, Lu ‛n’ Em” grew in popularity, its stars appeared in costume and in character for print ads for Super Suds dishwashing detergent, the show’s first sponsor — making it the first “soap opera.” Isobel Carothers Berolzheimer died in 1937, which led to the end of the popular program.

The Howard Berolzheimer Chair

The Howard Berolzheimer Chair in Finance at Kellogg is named for Howard Berolzheimer ’23, ’23, ’25 MS, who was a salesman for Quaker Oats Company and a first-class seaman in the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Detection Service before earning bachelor’s degrees from what was then Northwestern’s School of Commerce and School of Speech in 1923, followed by a master’s degree from the latter in 1925. He served on the faculty of both schools for a total of 21 years before joining the National Tax Equality Association as an economist. In 1943, he received a Ph.D. in economics from Yale University, where he studied under famed economist Irving Fisher. He died in 1946.

“We are grateful for David’s gift toward the creation of the Howard Berolzheimer Chair in Finance, which will help us to recruit and retain the most talented scholars in the field well into the future,” said Francesca Cornelli, dean and the Donald P. Jacobs Chair and professor of finance at Kellogg.

Gregor Matvos is the inaugural Howard Berolzheimer Chair in Finance. His research spans a range of topics in finance, including ethics and gender dynamics in the financial advising industry, the impacts of financial technology innovation and the rise of shadow banks. He previously taught at the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

About the Donor

David Berolzheimer was born in Evanston, Illinois; graduated from Stanton Military Academy in Virginia; and attended St. Petersburg Junior College in Florida. As a young man, he traveled the world extensively, throughout the United States and Europe, before building a home in Largo, Florida. From there, he pursued many real estate and investment opportunities. A sports car enthusiast, he was a partner in the first import automobile dealership in Pinellas County, Florida. He also was instrumental in the planning and development of the Largo Cultural Arts Center (now the Central Park Performing Arts Center) as well as Largo Central Park in the 1990s, and owned the Plaza 100 shopping center in Belleair Bluffs for 45 years. He passed away on May 17, 2019.

About the ‘We Will’ Campaign

The funds raised through We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern are helping realize the transformational vision set forth in Northwestern’s strategic plan and solidify the University’s position among the world’s leading research universities. More information on the “We Will” Campaign is available at wewill.northwestern.edu.

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The Clara, Lu ‛n’ Em Theater

The Clara, Lu ‛n’ Em Theater is named for the radio show that starred three Zeta Phi Eta drama sorority sisters and Northwestern School of Speech graduates.
The Clara, Lu ‛n’ Em Theater is named for the radio show that starred three Zeta Phi Eta drama sorority sisters and Northwestern School of Speech graduates.
Al Heartley, Bonnie Starr, Barbara O’Keefe and Rives Collins at the official ribbon cutting.
Al Heartley, Bonnie Starr, Barbara O’Keefe and Rives Collins at the official ribbon cutting.