Actor Jon Hamm, a Golden Globe winner and five-time Emmy Award nominee for his role as Don Draper in the AMC drama series Mad Men, returned to his St. Louis roots earlier this month to help his alma mater, John Burroughs School, raise funds to build its new performing arts center and athletic center.
Hamm, a 1989 Burroughs alumnus who returned to teach theatre during the 1994-95 school year, credits the school, his teachers and parents of his friends with providing direction and support at a pivotal time in his life. The young Hamm, who lost his mother when he was ten and his father when he was 20, explains that during those years the school profoundly influenced his life.
“Burroughs has a way of getting the right teachers, keeping the right teachers and providing an experience-oriented, well-rounded education that instills in the students an excitement and desire to learn. … I’ve never seen a place that does it better than Burroughs,” said Hamm.
While in St. Louis, Hamm visited with several of his former teachers, including Jim Lemen, his football coach (now retired), and Wayne Salomon, his theatre teacher and chair of the school’s Theatre Department. Hamm is leading the effort to name the black box theatre in the 53,000-square-foot performing arts center in honor of Salomon.
Though the original plan had been to complete the project in phases, the school’s Board of Trustees voted to move forward with the full project to take advantage of favorable interest rates and manageable construction costs. Since breaking ground in April, construction has remained on schedule. With the foundations laid, the infrastructures in place and the steel frameworks rising, both the athletic center and the performing arts center should be completed in 2013.
After the school’s graduation ceremony next May, the existing theatre/assembly hall will be razed and related projects — the renovation of school’s Commons and the expansion of the Quadrangle — will begin, with completion expected by late 2013.
The school has raised more than 75 percent of its $45 million goal to build and maintain the entire project. Hamm joins Broadway producer Terry Schnuck ’71 as leaders of the alumni effort. Steve Maritz ’76 chairs the overarching campaign.