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Actor-Director Hanks At Wright State For Dedication Of Motion Picture Center

Jonathan McNeal

On Tuesday, students, faculty, and specials guests gathered to welcome Oscar-winning Actor and Director, Tom Hanks to Wright State University.  Hanks was on hand for the opening dedication of the university’s new Center for Motion Pictures, which bears his name. 

Wright State President, David Hopkins says Hank’s relationship with the university goes back to the late 1970s when the actor performed on the Wright State stage.

“And it just blossomed from that. He’s hired many, many of our student’s from Wright State and motion pictures, and he’s come to know us, he’s come to really appreciate our mission which is to really give people with potential and drive the chance to succeed,” Hopkins said.

Credit Wright State University

The new Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures at Wright State University is a 14,500 square foot production facility with editing suites, a multipurpose classroom, and a digital animation lab.

Hopkins says the center will allow more students to take part in the film program, which has always had tremendous staff to guide students to success. Now they have the facilities to match.

Credit WSU

“It’s really sending the signal that we’ve arrived, that we’re now getting the kind of national recognition that our university deserves. We’re no longer this local community school—yes we serve community students but we’re much more than that today.” 

Dr. Nicole Richter is a professor and coordinator with Wright State’s film program, and said a lot of people worked hard to make the day happen.

“Today’s an incredible day that shines a spotlight on our program and everything that we’ve been doing for years and actually decades,” she said. “So it’s a combination of hard work and planning and support from a lot of people who have been working towards this goal. By having Tom Hanks dedicate his name, he’s really bringing a lot of visibility to the Dayton region and also all the excellent work that our students do in the program.”

Credit Jonathan McNeal

Filmmaker and lecturer at Wright State, Steven Bognar agrees with Richter.

“We work really hard to train our kids, to make them professionals and we’re not a well known school, we like to think that we’re a really good school and so this is putting us on the map in a huge way.”

Hanks spoke before a crowd of about 2000in front of the new film center bearing his name.

“I hope that this building spurs the students that come here — the freshmen that are here now and the freshmen that will be here in the next 20 years — I hope that it spurs them to working harder than they ever have in their lives,” said Hanks. “Because if you work the hardest you ever will in your life at the beginning of your career, the rest takes care of itself.”

The Academy Award winner is currently working with author David McCullough on a mini-series based on McCullough's book, The Wright Brothers.  Both men toured the Wright Brothers' archives at Wright State on Tuesday. 

Credit Jerry Kenney

At a Tuesday morning master class for faculty and students, McCullough relayed what lessons he’d learned about the Wright Brothers in his research.

“What admiral human beings they were," he said, "And while they did have their certain strange qualities in how much they denied themselves of life, and how superbly educated they were, and they never finished high school.”

McCullough also said there were contemporary lessons to be learned from the Wright Brothers.

“We are all creatures of those who went before us, and we’re all immigrants. So, welcome to the new Americans and welcome to the new ideas, and welcome to people who are optimistic about what can be done to make life better.”

McCullough is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian. The mini-series is being produced for HBO through Hanks’ production company.

Jerry began volunteering at WYSO in 1991 and hosting Sunday night's Alpha Rhythms in 1992. He joined the YSO staff in 2007 as Morning Edition Host, then All Things Considered. He's hosted Sunday morning's WYSO Weekend since 2008 and produced several radio dramas and specials . In 2009 Jerry received the Best Feature award from Public Radio News Directors Inc., and was named the 2023 winner of the Ohio Associated Press Media Editors Best Anchor/News Host award. His current, heart-felt projects include the occasional series Bulletin Board Diaries, which focuses on local, old-school advertisers and small business owners. He has also returned as the co-host Alpha Rhythms.