Steve Eich, former social studies teacher at South, dies at 69


Sloane Shabelman, co-a&e editor

Rock and roll music. Dirty Harry. Glenbrook South.

These all have one thing in common: they were three favorites of Steve Eich, a South alum and former South social studies teacher and coach, who passed away Monday, Sept. 6 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

Eich graduated from South in 1970, and after becoming a teacher, taught at Fairview Middle School in Skokie. He began teaching in South’s Social Studies Department in 1986 and continued for 24 years. He also coached football, basketball, and baseball at South, in addition to coaching Glenview Youth Baseball.

After retiring from teaching in 2009, Eich returned each year to give his iconic presentation on the history of rock and roll to U.S. History classes, Ben Hussmann, a social studies teacher, said.

“Mr. Eich began a tradition of giving a two-day presentation on the history of rock and roll to all the U.S. History students because he had this enormously deep love and knowledge of music,” Hussmann explained. “But the funny thing is that on one of the days, he would dress up as a hippie, and Steve was anything but a hippie when he was at South in the late 60s, early 70s. So to see him dress like that was really out of character, but he did it because he thought it would be effective teaching.”

David Schoenwetter, social studies teacher and head football coach, was not only colleagues with Eich, but was also coached by Eich when he was a South student. Eich taught Schoenwetter and his teammates not only how to play the game correctly, but how to respect and fairly treat each other and their opponents, a lesson Schoenwetter said he will never forget.

“Mr. Eich, a lover of baseball, made every player feel important and we all had fun playing,” Schoenwetter said. “He was a positive, energetic, and caring person who found ways to connect with everyone around him.”

One of Eich’s favorite movies, Dirty Harry, became the source of lines he would use to lighten the mood of the classroom, David Hicks, social studies teacher, shared. But he was more than just a man with an excellent love for—and memory of—movies: he was a mentor, a role model, and a friend to all who knew him, Hicks said.

“My relationship with him, in many ways, was so centered on learning from him,” Hicks explained. “He was a great role model. He loved this place and the students, and the impact that he had was remarkable.”

Eich always taught his colleagues how to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of both teaching and life in general, according to Hussmann. His optimistic and focused attitude is something that he will always be remembered for, and he will be dearly missed by the entire South community, Hussmann said.

“Over the course of his illness, when I would talk with him either on the phone or in person, [Eich always] ended up cheering me up rather than the other way around because of this innate optimism and forward-looking nature that he had,” Hussmann said. “He was consistently upbeat with people, even at moments when they weren’t perhaps at a good point. He looked to make the next day a good day in the best way that he could all the time, and I think that’s a good attitude to go through life.”

Eich is survived by his wife, Nancy Harper, children Bobby, Emily, and John Eich, and sister Judy Standefer (Mark).