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Merle Reskin
Merle Reskin

​It is with deep sadness that we share the news that long-time Theatre School benefactor, Merle Reskin, has passed away at the age of 93. Merle was born November 20, 1929, and was a native Chicagoan. Her passion for drama began at the Latin School of Girls in Chicago and she then attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. She had extensive appearances on a variety of television and radio shows in New York and Chicago and performed in the Broadway production of “South Pacific” as Ensign Janet McGregor, a role she played for 2 years. After her marriage to her late husband, Harold Reskin, a Chicago-area real estate entrepreneur, the couple became generous patrons of the arts.​​

Merle and her husband Harold have long been loyal supporters of The Theatre School. Merle served on the Theatre School Advisory Council and for many years also served on the Awards for Excellence in the Arts gala committee. In 1988, Mr. Reskin pledged his support for DePaul’s purchase of the historic Blackstone theatre when it was in danger of being torn down. In November 1992, on her birthday, the Blackstone was officially renamed to honor and celebrate Merle. Read a copy of the d​edication book from the event​.

In 2011, The Theatre School broke ground on new facilities on the Lincoln Park campus, and the Reskins’ generosity towards the school continued. The lobby space that is the heart of many Theatre School activities, is named in Merle and Harold’s honor.

Dean Emeritus, John Culbert said, “Merle Reskin lives on through her generous support of the Theatre School at DePaul University. While the school has some tangible buildings and spaces that Merle made possible, her real lasting impact is the empowerment of past, current, and future generations of students to follow her lead in believing that theatre is critical to the success of our culture. The facilities she provided made it possible for them to apply their creativity and hone their skills in professional settings. These beautiful spaces demonstrated that the art of the theatre is respected and valued, thus inspiring all who entered. Merle also generously contributed directly to student scholarships, enabling those who would otherwise not be able to add their voice to the theatre profession.”

Merle supported many institutions beyond just The Theatre School. Steppenwolf Theatre also has a named space, the Merle Reskin Garage Theatre. Additionally, she also supported Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Ravinia Festival, Writers’ Theatre, among others. Merle was an integral part of Chicago theatre community we know today.

“While we all miss Merle’s presence, her quick wit, her laugh, and her sharp curiosity there is great joy in knowing that she continues, into the future, to empower theatre artists who will help us all understand what it means to be human,” said Culbert. Dean Martine Kei Green-Rogers said, “It is clear Merle Reskin was a powerhouse of a woman. Although I never had the opportunity to meet her, it is evident from the legacy she leaves behind that she was an artist who loved other artists and wanted to care for the next generation of theatre artists.”

We mourn the loss of an artist, a philanthropist and true patron of the arts in Chicago. A shiva and memorial service was held on Sunday, November 5th. Sign the guest book. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Merle’s memory may be made to a charity of your choice.