Chicago Blackhawks chairman William Rockwell “Rocky” Wirtz and his wife, Marilyn, are supporting Northwestern’s School of Communication by creating an endowment that will fund innovative student and faculty projects in the Theatre and Interpretation Center at Northwestern — and rename the center.

In recognition of the multi-million dollar gift, the center will be renamed the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts, in honor of Rocky Wirtz’s grandmother, who graduated from Northwestern in 1924.

For more than three decades, the Wirtz Center has helped fuel the success of Northwestern’s top-ranked programs in theatre, dance, music theatre, and performance studies. The center produces, manages, funds, and administers the School of Communication’s mainstage performances. It mounts as many as 40 productions each year in the four performance venues within its complex on Northwestern’s Evanston campus and in the separate 1,000-seat Cahn Auditorium.

The Wirtz gift comes at an opportune moment, since in 2015 the center will be fully renovated, improving the accessibility and function of existing spaces and creating new classroom, rehearsal and performance spaces. In addition, the University’s new Music and Communication Building, which is slated to open in 2015, will be adjacent to the Wirtz Center and will house the departments of theatre and performance studies on its fifth floor.

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