A digital special section of | Subscribe

Stephen Tobolowsky

Stephen Tobolowsky

Actor | Ned from 'Groundhog Day' | Class of 1975

Remember that scene in 'Groundhog Day' when Bill Murray's character steps off the curb and smack into the puddle while fleeing long-lost high school classmate Ned "the Head" Ryerson?

Well, the actor who played Ned is Stephen Tobolowsky, who earned his master's from the UI and has his own misstep memory from his campus days.

"I broke my toe in dance class the last day of school," he says. "I was saved by my teacher, Blake Atherton, who lifted me up, carried me to her VW bug — keep in mind: I am 6-3, Blake was about 5-5 — drove me to the hospital and brought me chicken soup that night.

"When I was on Broadway in 2002, Blake drove down from upstate New York to see the show. I got to thank her again."

Another memorable Illini moment: the first time he stumbled upon the Alma Mater statue.

“I felt like grad school in Illinois was the last thing I wanted to be doing. I was an actor — headed to Broadway, I thought. Why waste time in the middle of the country?

“Then I saw the statue, with the children of the past welcoming me. I thought in some sort of cosmic way, being where I was, in Urbana, was exactly the right thing for me.

“It changed my outlook. I only stayed a year but it was a year that changed my life.”