The University’s newly constructed Charles Walgreen Jr. Drama Center houses the only theatre in the world to bear the name of University and Michigan Daily alum Arthur Miller.
Located on North Campus, the center houses the School of Music as well as the Department of Theatre and Drama.
Miller was a passionate critic of the anti-Communist hysteria that gripped American life throughout much of the first half of the 20th century. His most famous play, “The Crucible,” pilloried the witch hunts led by Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy. In 1956, Miller refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee that sought to expose “subversives” around the country.
But now Miller will be forever linked to Charles Walgreen Sr., a man who was very much a part of the movement that Miller decried.
According to The New York Times, the elder Walgreen, the founder of the Walgreen Drug Company, withdrew his niece from the University of Chicago in April 1935, citing “communistic” influences at the school.
After the Illinois state legislature investigated the University and the firing of a professor, though, Walgreen donated $550,000 to the University of Chicago in June 1955 for the establishment of what the Times called an “institute to study American principles.”
The well-publicized proceedings may have inspired “Honors at Dawn,” a play Miller wrote in 1937 while at the University of Michigan. He won a his second Hopwood Award for the play. Its plot mirrors the University of Chicago incident.
In the play, a businessman promises to give money to a university for a construction project. But he becomes reluctant when he hears about a radical professor stirring up labor trouble. The businessman decides that until the professor is dismissed, he won’t give any more money to the university. The university administration gives in and fire the professor.
Walgreen’s son, also named Charles and a University alum, donated $10 million for the construction of the new facility.
This item was inspired by a post on urbanoasis.org/blog, a blog published by Taubmann student Dale Winling.