Tom Hanks To Dedicate Wright State University’s Newly Renovated Theater Center

Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks will visit Wright State University on April 19 to help dedicate the newly renovated Center for Motion Pictures, and participate in an invitation-only gala to help raise $500,000 for the Tom Hanks Scholarship and Visiting Artist Program, according to the university’s website. The actor will also take part in several private events, including a Q&A session for hundreds of masters-level theatre, dance, and motion picture students.

“If I’m a student at Wright State University and the world’s most famous actor and most trusted man comes here, how special are we?” said Wright State President David R. Hopkins. “He chose Wright State to lend his name for motion pictures and forever brand us as his choice of places where people have a chance to be successful.”

U.S. News and World Report reports that Hanks is the national co-chair of Rise. Shine, the university’s historic $150 million fundraising campaign, which “promises to further elevate the school’s prominence by expanding scholarships, attracting more top-flight faculty and supporting construction of state-of-the-art facilities.”

Hanks’ films have grossed more than $8 billion worldwide, and earned him nominations for numerous awards. He won a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Philadelphia, as well as a Golden Globe, an Academy Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a People’s Choice Award for Best Actor for his role in Forrest Gump. Hanks is not an alumnus of Wright State, but he performed at the university with a Shakespeare company in the 1970s, and has since maintained a long-running love affair with the university.

“Wright State is training the artists of tomorrow. I know because I’ve worked with some of Wright State’s alumni, and they’re among the best in their fields,” Hanks said in a 2011 video. “Wright State not only has one of the most outstanding arts programs in Ohio, but one of the best in the entire nation.”

The Philadelphia star studied theater at Chabot College in Hayward for two years before he transferred to California State University, Sacramento. Rebecca Cole, vice president for advancement and president of the Wright State University Foundation, said Tom’s humble beginnings resonate with students who come from a similar background as his.

“Tom Hanks says he believes in this place because it has the same values that he has,” Cole said. “Tom Hanks is saying Wright State has meaning and purpose. It gives us a credential that nobody else could have given us.”

The Tom Hanks Scholarship and Visiting Artist Program scholarship was established more than a decade ago, and distributes $10,000 to $15,000 annually, according to W. Stuart McDowell, professor, chair and artistic director of Wright State Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures.

“We have a lot in common with Tom: middleclass, working class backgrounds, not a lot of money. Salt of the Earth kids here,” McDowell said. “Our students come here with modest means and need scholarship support.”

A highlights of Tom’s visit to Wright State will be the dedication of the Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures.

“Tom Hanks is the most recognized actor in the world,” said Kristin Sobolik, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “So this is a fantastic opportunity for us, and we are really thrilled that he is lending his name to such a wonderful program.”

McDowell said that Tom Hanks Motion Picture Center is “strictly first class,” and that the dedication “is really significant to have this happen in the state of Ohio.”

“He’s been a supporter of Wright State for so long, it’s really going to be meaningful to the students to have him here,” said David Hopkins, president of Wright State.

Last month, Hanks discussed his education, love of acting, commitment to authenticity, and his World War II projects with Lafayette College students, The Morning Call reports.

“Acting in films, the truth is you can’t fake any of it. If you’re in pain, you really have to be in pain. If you’re laughing, you have to really laugh,” he said.

Actor Mark Rylance took home the trophy for Best Supporting Actor at the 88th Academy Awards for his role in Bridge of Spies, and he thanked co-star Tom Hanks for helping him succeed.

Tom Hanks, who appears on the latest cover of U.K. Esquire, will soon go into production on the HBO six-hour historical drama Lewis and Clark, which he will executive produce with actors Edward Norton and Brad Pitt, Variety reports.

[Image courtesy Andy Kropa/Invision/AP]