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A wonderful life

Grateful for Wright State’s impact on their lives, Ron ’76, ’84 and Joan Amos pay it forward for future generations

For Ron Amos, Wright State University reminds him of the 1946 Frank Capra classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Just as Jimmy Stewart’s iconic character, George Bailey, finds out what life would have been like had he never been born, Ron has often wondered what his life would be like had there never been a Wright State.

As one of seven children and a first-generation college student, Ron felt like he had few options for college. It wasn’t until a high school guidance counselor told him about Wright State that he realized there was an affordable choice close to home.

“I may have never gone to college had there not been a Wright State,” said Ron.

Like many Wright State students of yesterday and today, Ron paid for his own college education by working his way through school. He even managed to graduate without any debt.

“Wright State is perfect for someone if you’re willing to work hard,” said Ron. “But if you’re not willing to work hard, don’t go to Wright State.”

Always by Ron’s side during his Wright State days was the love of his life, Joan. The couple first met while ice skating at Hara Arena in 1970, when they were both 15 years old. They have been together ever since.

Joan would stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning, typing Ron’s papers as he worked on his finance degree.

“I wanted to go to college, but I felt at that time that I should work and save that money for us,” she said.

Joan and Ron married on June 19, 1976, just three days after Ron’s graduation from Wright State. That same week, Ron also started a new job.

For someone who always had an interest in money and economics, a career in banking ended up being the perfect fit for Ron. As a young boy, he had his own newspaper route and knew exactly how much money he had at any given moment.

“It is really about what you can do with this commodity called money — how money can be used as a tool to fulfill the dreams of families, businesses and the community,” said Ron.

Through his work as market president for U.S. Bank, Ron visits many corporations in the Dayton region.

“Twenty, 30 years ago, Wright State graduates were lower to middle management,” he recalled. “Fast forward to the 1990s, the 2000s and today — it’s the Wright State graduates who are running these companies.”

Ron returned to Wright State in the early 1980s to begin working on his master’s degree. In many ways, it was a similar experience to his days as an undergraduate as he once again juggled the responsibilities of school and work. Ron earned his MBA in 1984.

He would come back to his alma mater years later to serve on the board of the Wright State Alumni Association, including a term as president. During his tenure as Alumni Association president, Ron also joined the board of trustees for the Wright State University Foundation. He has served on the foundation board since 2002, including two years as chair.

Ron also chaired the alumni phase for the university’s first campaign, Tomorrow Takes Flight. He and Joan both currently serve on the campaign cabinet for Rise. Shine. The Campaign for Wright State University.

“It’s been like a family,” Joan said of her experience on the campaign cabinet. “They’re so embracing, and they want to know how you feel. They want your input. It just feels like a second family.”

“Joan’s been able to see what I’ve seen for decades — to see what this university does for people’s lives,” said Ron.

Along with donating their time to the Rise. Shine. campaign, Ron and Joan have established their own scholarship fund. The Ron and Joan Amos Family Scholarship was created to help students in similar circumstances to what Ron experienced as a Wright State student.

The scholarship is geared toward the Wright State student who doesn’t have a 4.0 GPA and is working their way through school.

“Between school and work, they’re probably putting in an 80-hour week,” said Ron. “They’re working a lot harder and with much more effort than the typical student.”

Ron and Joan hope their scholarship will help students stay in school who might otherwise have to drop out because of financial challenges. The scholarship also fulfills the couple’s passion for education and giving back to the community.

Before her recent retirement, Joan worked in early childhood education at a Dayton-area preschool for almost 15 years. She still returns to the school once a month to volunteer. She believes that a child’s life will be forever changed if a love for learning can be instilled at an early age.

“It’s just amazing how 4- and 5-year-olds are like little sponges,” said Joan. “They just absorb so much.”

Over the years, Ron and Joan have volunteered for and supported many organizations in the community, including Dayton Children’s, United Way and the American Heart Association.

“There are many organizations that we feel close to in the Dayton area,” said Ron. “We believe in their missions and the impact they have on people’s lives.”

Ron tells his younger colleagues that the great surprise in his life has been the joy he’s received from becoming engaged in the community and making lifelong friendships with the staff and other board members of organizations like Wright State.

“Our lives have been greatly enriched by our involvement,” said Ron. “We have received far more than what we’ve given.”

Much of that gratitude and appreciation is directed at Wright State.

“Wright State is part of our family,” said Joan. “We feel so connected with them and just feel so much at home.”

“To hear the students speak and talk about what drove them to Wright State and how it’s impacting their lives makes you want to do more,” she added. “If you can help one student, Wright State would be the place to do it.”

Thanks to Ron and Joan Amos, future generations of Wright State students will have the opportunity to create their own wonderful lives.

By Kim Patton

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Tom Hanks will have a long-lasting impact on Motion Pictures program

Acclaimed actor, producer and director Tom Hanks visited Wright State University to dedicate the Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures, saying he hopes the center inspires students to do the hard work necessary to launch film careers.

“We have a very competitive program,” said Michaela Scholl, a senior motion pictures major. “I think Tom Hanks’ name will bring more students to the program.”

Nearly 2,000 students, faculty, staff and others turned out April 19 to see Hanks and witness the ribbon-cutting for the newly renovated center.

“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.”

Author:

By Kris Sproles

kris.sproles@wright.edu

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Hanks for the memories

Academy Award-winning actor and producer Tom Hanks leaves lasting imprint on Dayton, Wright State University

It was a moment.

It came in the middle of Hollywood actor and producer Tom Hanks’ two-day visit to Dayton to see historic Wright brothers’ sites, dedicate the Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures at Wright State University and celebrate the university’s Rise. Shine. fundraising campaign.

Hanks was being given a tour of the National Museum of the United States Air Force and had just stepped into the Air Force One that carried the body of President John F. Kennedy home from the 1963 assassination in Dallas.

Here is where they removed two rows of seats to get the casket into the cabin, Hanks was told. Here is where Jackie was sitting. Here is where Lyndon Johnson was sworn in.

The plane was thick with world-changing history, a history that had a spectral, ghost-like presence. And Hanks was visibly moved.

“Man oh man,” he exhaled after emerging from the aircraft. “THAT is an important time capsule.”

There were other moments during Hanks’ visit.

He was able to put his hands on the original 1905 Wright Flyer, the world’s first practical airplane. He stood on the historic prairie where the Wright brothers perfected the aircraft. He dazzled hundreds of Wright State performing arts students with a personal sharing of his life and experience. And he charmed a campus with his warmth and humor.

Hanks is the genuine article. His motor never stops running. His creative furnace never stops roaring. He has an infectious enthusiasm. And he doesn’t mail it in. He touches people.

And from the very beginning, there were the jokes — Tom Hanks-size jokes.

Monday, April 18

2:15 p.m.

A sleek white charter plane lands and taxis up to a hangar at Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport in Miami Township. Hanks starts to walk out of the plane and then jokingly turns around as if changing his mind.

When he does emerge, the two-time Academy Award-winning actor, producer and director looks larger than life. Dressed in jeans, a dark sport coat and black square-toed boots, he sports sunglasses and has a travel bag slung over his shoulder. The greeting party includes Wright brothers descendants Amanda Wright Lane and Stephen Wright, Wright State President David R. Hopkins and Stuart McDowell, chair and artistic director of the Wright State Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures and a longtime friend of Hanks.

Just down the taxiway is the Wright “B” Flyer, a replica of the Wright brothers’ first production airplane — the Model B. Hanks tells his wife, actress and singer Rita Wilson, that her baggage won’t fit on the Flyer, that it will require some bungee cords.

Wilson is actually flying on to Nashville on the charter jet and kisses her husband goodbye.

Hanks walks over to the Wright B Flyer with Hopkins.

“I think you should land it over on campus.”

Volunteers fire up the plane and do a brief takeoff and landing. Hanks takes it all in.

“Do you ever get a groundspeed of nil? You’re just hovering there?”

Hanks walks around and introduces himself to the volunteers — most of them retirees — as “Tom Hanks.”

“Thank you volunteers. Now back to your wives.”

As the entourage leaves the airport gate in a two-vehicle caravan, an autograph seeker with a movie poster stands in the parking lot. Hanks stops and obliges.

3:19 p.m.

The entourage arrives at Hawthorn Hill, the Oakwood mansion of Orville Wright, and pulls into the driveway for a slow-motion drive-by.

3:28 p.m.

The entourage arrives at Carillon Historical Park, where it is greeted at the gate by President and CEO Brady Kress ’96, who escorts the vehicles onto the site in a 1911 Model T. Hanks asks Kress to blow the horn and then later gets a lesson on the handcrank starter.

“I thought it would be kind of fun for Tom to see the car and for the production crew to see what kind of assets are in town,” Kress said.

Hanks’ film production company, Playtone, is collaborating with two-time Pulitizer Prize-winning author David McCullough to transform his 2015 New York Times No. 1 bestseller “The Wright Brothers” into an HBO miniseries. Local officials hope some of it will be filmed in the Dayton area.

The entourage enters the Wright Brothers Aviation Center, which houses the original 1905 Wright Flyer III, the world’s first practical airplane. But the first stop is a replica of the Wrights’ bicycle shop.

“I just love the leather belt drives. Boy, you could get your hair caught in a lot of things.”

In another room there is the propeller of the Wright aircraft used in the 1908 flight at LeMans, France, and the sewing machine the Wright brothers used to sew the fabric for the wings.

“And it’s just sitting here? Shouldn’t it be behind some security guards?”

Hanks is then permitted to step down into a pit and inspect the 1905 Wright Flyer. He is told that the Wrights painted the plane’s wooden spars silver to confuse competing inventors trying to copy the design into thinking the spars were metal and would thus design planes too heavy to fly.

“So once again, they were diabolical geniuses. Very smart. That’s brilliant.”

Kress was impressed with his Hanks’ grasp of aviation history.

“Not only did he have a good knowledge of the story to begin with, his follow-up questions were really great,” Kress said. “He was very genuine and very interested.”

4:22 p.m.

The entourage arrives at the Wright Cycle Shop in Wright Dunbar Village. Hanks gets a lesson in the Wrights’ bicycle-building history from a park ranger.

Hanks eyeballs the display of a Draisin highwheel, whose monster-sized front wheel and tiny back wheel would sometimes lead to riders being hurtled over the handlebars.

“This would kill you.”

The autograph seeker who stopped Hanks at the airport was waiting with his son outside the cycle shop when the entourage emerges. Hanks graciously agrees to pose with the boy for photos and jokes with him.

“Don’t drink and drive. Stay in school.”

4:35 p.m.

The entourage arrives at the Wright Company Factory Site. The factory is the birthplace of America’s aerospace industry — the first American factory built for the purpose of manufacturing airplanes. The two structures are the oldest airplane manufacturing buildings still standing in the world and the only buildings still in Dayton where the Wright brothers worked on airplanes. Work is under way to restore and open the buildings to the public. Hanks and his entourage pull up next to the buildings, but don’t go inside.

5 p.m.

Hanks checks in at the Hilton Garden Inn in Beavercreek, where he gets ready for an evening social event.

6:44 p.m.

The Hanks entourage arrives at the Air Force museum for a reception and dinner. The group is dressed up for dinner, with Hanks wearing a blue pinstriped suit.

“It’s like a Mafia funeral.”

In the lobby, Hanks jokes about making a movie in which the plot would be about stealing one of the museum’s planes.

The reception and dinner is held in a hangar right next to Bockscar, the B-29 bomber that dropped a nuclear bomb over the Japanese city of Nagasaki during World War II in the second — and last — nuclear attack in history.

Hanks is very knowledgeable about Bockscar and many of the planes in the museum. He readily shares that information with anyone within earshot.

“This is the stuff that fills my head.”

At Hanks’ table are Lt. Gen. Jack Hudson, museum director; Jack Hampshire, a 90-year-old military veteran and museum volunteer; and five Wright State students who are military veterans.

After dinner, Hanks, who has an extensive private collection of manual typewriters, is shown a display featuring several manual typewriters used by the military over the years. There is also a robins egg blue electric typewriter used by President Kennedy on Air Force One to make changes to speeches.

Arms linked behind his back, Hanks then strolls through the museum with Hudson. They walked past the B-17 Shoo Shoo Baby (“Look at that upper machine-gun turret”), the silver goblets that commemorate the 80 men who flew the Doolittle Raid against Japan in 1942, the balloon gondola from which Joseph Kittinger jumped from a then-record height of more than 102,000 feet (“I think that would have been a blast. Go up as high as you can and then jump out.”) and through Air Force One and the C-141 Hanoi Taxi, which airlifted the first American prisoners of war out of North Vietnam in 1973.

“What a great night. This is what happens when you’re a big honkin’ movie star. They shut down the whole museum for you.”

Tuesday, April 19

7:55 a.m.

Hanks finishes breakfast in the hotel lobby and prepares to depart for Huffman Prairie, the historic site where the Wright brothers created a dependable, fully controllable airplane and trained themselves to be pilots. Hanks is dressed in a dark suit and black shirt, looking every bit the Robert Langdon character in “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons.”

During the ride over, Hanks talks movies.

“Nothing is more fun for everybody at the office than to sit around in pre-production and just talk story,” he said. “It’s people who have read everything and are excited about everything, and we sit around for months and say, ‘What if we do this? What if we try this?’”

Hanks said making a movie is always a “grand adventure.” The movie “Cloud Atlas” was all of that.

“Every day on that movie was a labor of love. We worked hard,” he said. “On our last day — I worked with Halle Berry — we all burst into tears because the movie was over and we didn’t want it to end.”

“A League of Their Own” was filmed in a small Indiana town, with Hanks and his family living in a big house surrounded by lush, green fields.

“My kids swam in a wading pool and we ate Dairy Queen every night. It was a beautiful idyllic summer,” he said. “And if you ask my kids what was the best summer they ever had, they say that time we made ‘A League of Their Own.’”

Shooting movies is fun, added Hanks.

“It’s the biggest secret that we all keep.”

After arriving at Huffman Prairie, Hanks takes in the vista. White flags mark the perimeter of the field where the Wrights flew.

“Look. There’s the tree where Orville crashed. Put a plaque on that tree.”

Hanks talks with Col. John Devillier, commander of nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

“Do you ever buzz this field sometimes Colonel?”

Hanks then talks with the park rangers about their job, tells them he would have come to Huffman Prairie as a tourist and then has a suggestion.

“I’d bring some cows in, even if they are cardboard cutouts.”

9 a.m.

Hanks arrives at Wright State and enters a side stage door of the Creative Arts Center. He talks backstage with several students, asking them about their aspirations. One student asked him if he still juggles. (He does.)

Inside the Festival Playhouse are 300 performing arts students eager to see and hear Hanks in a Talk Back session. Hanks is told it will just take a few more seconds to prepare the audience.

“To deal with the hordes, the pandemonium?”

When Hanks is introduced, a roar goes up from the crowd. He takes a chair on stage and sits in a semicircle flanked by McDowell and five students representing all areas of the performing arts program. He is then shown a “This is your life, Tom Hanks” slideshow specially created for the event.

Hanks acknowledges goofing around with standup comedy in the lunchroom at college.

“I didn’t have any real material, but I was a wiseass.”

For the next 90 minutes, Hanks answers questions and throws his heart into it, dazzling the audience with anecdotes and taking them behind the scenes of Hollywood. He’s playful, honest, giving.

“Out of all the jobs in making movies, the one I like to do most is being the star of the movie. It’s a pretty good gig. … At the end of the day, it’s more fun than anything you can possibly imagine.”

Hanks talks about the great art currently being created in film and television, the making of the movie “Cloud Atlas” (“It was mind-bending for all of us”) and how doing theater and movies is totally different, like comparing “apples and skateboards.”

On the making of “Forrest Gump”: Hanks modeled the way he talked in the film after the speech of the Mississippi boy who played the young Forrest. The first scene Hanks filmed in the movie was with actress Robin Wright, and he was so self-conscious that the director threw out the entire day’s shoot.

“Self-consciousness is the death of any sort of creative enterprise.”

Hanks tells the students the importance of challenging themselves.

“I can’t sing. I can’t dance. But the best thing I could have ever done for myself was try to be in a musical and sing and dance. And I did it once or twice, and it scared the children.”

“That was great,” Hanks later tells McDowell. “I really enjoyed that.”

10:45 a.m.

After a walk through the tunnel system, Hanks arrives at Dunbar Library and elevators up to Special Collections and Archives, which houses the largest collection of Wright brothers materials in the world.

“I was intrigued by the tunnels.” “It’s like living in Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis.’”

McCullough arrives from across campus, telling Hanks he just gave a “profound lecture.”

“I gave a profane lecture,” Hanks replied.

Along with McCullough, Wright Lane and Dawne Dewey, head of the archives, Hanks goes through a collection of Wright brother photos, sketches, writings, medals and newspaper clippings.

Then the group views rare home movies of Orville Wright. They feature footage of the Wright family vacationing on an island bought by Orville in Georgian Bay, Canada, a Thanksgiving at Hawthorn Hill and children sledding down a hill at the mansion. They also show the 1927 arrival at Wright Field in Dayton of Charles Lindbergh, who made the first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic. He is seen riding in a car with Orville.

After the movies there is a discussion of historical things, and McCullough mentions that he still writes on a manual typewriter. And he says he marvels at Hanks’ extensive collection of manual typewriters.

“No one throws away a typewritten letter,” Hanks said. “I probably send a letter out — two or three every day. I sent a letter to a kid who wrote to Forrest Gump the other day. So Forrest answered him on the typewriter: ‘My friend Tom Hanks is typing this for me.’”

Noon

Hanks lunches at Dunbar Library with several performing arts students, all of whom have received Tom Hanks scholarships.

Tom Hanks talking with film students during a tour of the Center for Motion Pictures. (Photo by Will Jones)

Tom Hanks talking with film students during a tour of the Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures. (Photo by Will Jones)

1:15 p.m.

Hanks walks through the tunnels to the New Media Incubator, a partnership between the motion pictures center and the Department of Communication to teach storytelling. He sees a television and recording studio and a “Veterans Voices” project, a series of stories on local veterans’ experiences transitioning to civilian life.

Hanks starred in what some consider the best war movie ever made in “Saving Private Ryan.”

“What a great facility. I could get some work done here myself.”

Then it’s on to the center itself, where Hanks visits four motion pictures classes and takes questions from students.

He encourages students in one class to watch a movie called “The Earrings of Madam de…,” a 1953 French film that follows a pair of earrings as they change hands during a series of betrayals and romances.

“It is the most modern film you will ever come across,” he said. “My eyes popped out of my head. I could not believe this movie. It’s the cinematic equal to ‘Citizen Kane.’”

“Go make movies guys. Save the world.”

As Hanks walks through the lobby of the center, he is riveted by a wall-mounted monitor that flashes scenes from Hanks movies at a rapid-fire clip.

“Hey, look at this. I can name that tune. ‘Bridge of Spies.’ Freezing cold. Freezing cold. The actual bridge.”

Then come clips from “A League of Their Own” and “Forrest Gump,” the scene in which Gump carries Bubba to safety from a battle in Vietnam.

“Actually did not carry him. It was a rig. … No crying in baseball. I actually thought I was fat when I made this movie. … Is this going to be running for everybody that comes in? Oh, that’s tough. That is not fair.”

2:55 p.m.

Hanks arrives for the dedication of the Center for Motion Pictures, saying he hopes it inspires students to do the hard work necessary to launch film careers. Nearly 2,000 students, faculty, staff and others turn out.

Hanks makes his entrance to a chorus of trumpet-playing students.

“I don’t think I can walk into any room ever again without that kickass fanfare.”

Although Hanks is not a graduate of Wright State, he performed in a Shakespeare production at Wright State in 1978 and has a long-running love affair with the university.

Hanks has started a scholarship fund at Wright State, produced videos in support of the university and given countless hours to help raise money for its performing arts program.

He is currently the national co-chair of Rise. Shine., the fundraising campaign that promises to further elevate Wright State’s prominence by expanding scholarships, attracting more top-flight faculty and supporting construction of state-of-the-art facilities.

At the dedication ceremony, Hanks jokingly warns students against defacing the building, whose striking blue color sets it apart from other campus structures.

“It’s nice to have the building. It’s nice to have the crisp editing rooms. It’s nice to have the brand new equipment. It’s nice to have all of the gear that goes along with it,” he said. “But that’s not the measure of a school’s greatness, and it’s not the measure of the quality of the student body that Wright State is going to produce.”

7:30 p.m.

A gala celebration at the Wright State Nutter Center to celebrate the success of the Rise. Shine. Campaign begins.

Hanks tells a story about how dozens of groupies waiting for him in the lobby of a Berlin hotel suddenly lost interest when actress Sophia Loren walked in. And he has a little fun with the blue color of the motion pictures center.

“Someone is going to say, ‘I will give you $10 million for my own building with my name on it provided you paint it to look like vanilla ice cream with rainbow sprinkles.”

Then he gets serious.

What you have at Wright State is a “life-altering force for good,” said Hanks.

“Wright State has already changed lives, and with $152 million — holy cow. Everybody who contributed to the Rise. Shine. Campaign has already changed lives for the good.”

The contributors have “done something great, not just for Wright State, not just for Dayton, Ohio, but something magnificent for the world,” said Hanks. And then he was gone.

Author:

By Jim Hannah

james.hannah@wright.edu

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Tom Hanks makes impact on performing arts students

Acclaimed actor, producer and director Tom Hanks visited Wright State University to dedicate the Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures, saying he hopes the center inspires students to do the hard work necessary to launch film careers.

Hundreds of Wright State performing arts students gathered for a question-and-answer session with two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks, who once performed on the same stage on which many of those students have.

Hanks spoke to theatre, dance and motion pictures students for almost two hours April 19 in the Festival Playhouse in the Creative Arts Center. The talk was part of Hanks’ visit to campus to dedicate the newly renovated Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures.

During the talk back session, Hanks answered questions about being turned down for roles, which movies have affected him and the challenge of playing animated characters.

“You can tell that he’s a great actor because he’s so communicative,” Owen Kresse, a senior acting major.

“I think students are going to take away a lot from this. They will cherish this for the rest of their lives,” said W. Stuart McDowell, chair of the Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures.

Only Wright State reporters, photographers and videographers were allowed to attend the April 19 talk back event.

Author:

By Kris Sproles

kris.sproles@wright.edu

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Actor Tom Hanks dedicates Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures at Wright State University

Acclaimed actor, producer and director Tom Hanks paid a visit to Wright State University to dedicate the Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures, saying he hopes the center inspires students to do the hard work necessary to launch film careers.

Nearly 2,000 students, faculty, staff and others turned out April 19 to see Hanks and witness the ribbon-cutting for the newly renovated center.

“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.”

Earlier in the day, Hanks had taken questions from about 300 Wright State performing arts students, sharing highlights from his movie career and discussing what it takes to succeed in the business.

Then before touring the new center, Hanks inspected Wright brothers photos and documents in the Wright State Special Collections and Archives.

Hanks made his entrance at the dedication to a chorus of trumpet-playing students and the roar of the crowd, which had swelled steadily in expectation of seeing the Hollywood icon.

“Is this an incredible day in the history of our university or not?” said President David R. Hopkins. “We get to be the first and the only university to name a building housing a world-class program after Tom Hanks. That’s pretty special.”

The Motion Pictures program is now entering its fifth decade and features nationally recognized faculty and alumni who have won Emmys and other high honors. Faculty have produced internationally acclaimed documentaries such as “The Last Truck: The Closing of a GM Plant,” nominated for an Academy Award in 2010, and the Emmy Award-winning “Lion in the House,” about young cancer patients and their families.

“The Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures will become a new landmark on the Wright State University campus and symbolize our ongoing commitment to producing the filmmakers of tomorrow,” said Kristin Sobolik, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “Our students and alumni will carry on Tom’s legacy of making movies that matter.”

In addition to getting hands-on experience in all aspects of filmmaking, students complete a curriculum that is deeply embedded in the liberal arts and strongly rooted in motion pictures history, theory and criticism. The program also stresses the humanist values of movies — the potential for movies to make the world a better place by sharing the human experience, illustrating courage and showing what people have overcome.

Film student Michaela Scholl thanked Hanks for allowing Wright State to name the center after him.

“We can now say we studied every day at the Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures,” said Scholl. “That’s a bragging right that only a Wright State student can claim.”

Previously, program offices and classrooms were in the basement of the nearby Creative Arts Center. And there was no production studio, forcing film students to do much of their work in the field.

At 14,500 square feet, the new center is nearly triple the size of the previous space. In addition to a production studio, there are editing suites, a multipurpose classroom, a digital animation lab and even a “green room” that will serve as a lounge as well as a think-tank for students to develop future film projects. The center’s front entrance features the “eyelash,” a sculpture of cylinders that stair-step toward the sky.

Although Hanks is not a graduate of Wright State, he performed in a Shakespeare production at Wright State in 1978 and has a long-running love affair with the university.

Hanks has started a scholarship fund at Wright State, produced videos in support of the school and given countless hours to help the school raise money for its performing arts program.

Hanks is currently the national co-chair of Rise.Shine, a fundraising campaign that 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.

During his visit to Wright State, Tom Hanks met with Hanks Scholarship recipients, from left: Rachel Lann, Scotti Stoneburner, Bailey Rose, Law Dunford, Jasmine Easler and Esha Ford. (Photo by Will Jones)

During his visit to Wright State, Tom Hanks met with Hanks Scholarship recipients, from left: Rachel Lann, Scotti Stoneburner, Bailey Rose, Law Dunford, Jasmine Easler and Esha Ford. (Photo by Will Jones)

At the dedication ceremony, Hanks jokingly warned students against defacing the building, whose striking blue color sets it apart from other campus structures.

Hanks said he hopes students have three key experiences in their film projects — failure of one they think is genius, one that is mediocre and one that is truly brilliant. He said all of those experiences require the same amount of perspiration and give the same lesson.

“There is no guarantee, other than your ability and faith in yourself and your willingness to follow your own instincts and do the work yourself,” he said.

“It’s nice to have the building. It’s nice to have the crisp editing rooms. It’s nice to have the brand new equipment. It’s nice to have all of the gear that goes along with it,” he said. “But that’s not the measure of a school’s greatness and it’s not the measure of the quality of the student body that Wright State is going to produce.”

Author:

By Jim Hannah

james.hannah@wright.edu

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Reynolds and Reynolds Foundation sponsors first student-operated café at Wright State University

Opening Dec. 2, ReyRey Café will promote student entrepreneurship in the Raj Soin College of Business

The first student-operated café at Wright State University will be celebrated with a grand opening ceremony at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 2.

Sponsored by the Reynolds and Reynolds Foundation, ReyRey Café is housed in Rike Hall, home of the Raj Soin College of Business.

“ReyRey Café is an innovative partnership created by the Raj Soin College of Business with the generous support of Reynolds and Reynolds and Wright State University to promote student entrepreneurship,” said Joanne Li, dean of the Raj Soin College of Business. “The café is run by the students for the students.”

ReyRey Café goes above and beyond merely using students as café baristas, Li said.

“It is an enterprise created with the goal of allowing students to ‘own a business’ and practice what they learn from the classroom,” she said.

Starting in spring 2016, students will take over management of the café, holding such key roles as CEO, CMO, CFO and COO.

“They will be able to do what entrepreneurs do in their businesses, such as accounting ratio analysis, financial projections, sales forecasts, market analysis, data analytics and human resources management,” Li said.

Proceeds from ReyRey Café will be directed to a student scholarship fund.

“Our student entrepreneurs learn to give back to the community, giving their operation a much bigger meaning,” Li said. “There is no bigger statement than ReyRey Café to showcase the Raj Soin College of Business’s commitment to student success and real-life learning.”

ReyRey Café is made possible thanks to a $340,000 gift from the Reynolds and Reynolds Foundation. Reynolds previously donated $50,000 to establish the Reynolds Espresso Lane Coffee Pit Stop in the Russ Engineering Center, which opened in March 2015.

“This new café symbolizes the type of vision and entrepreneurial spirit so critical to success in any business. To continually push the boundaries of how students learn and experience what they learn is one more attribute that helps distinguish the Raj Soin College of Business at Wright State and the entire university,” said Ron Lamb, president of Reynolds and Reynolds. “It’s a privilege for all of us at Reynolds to be involved in such a unique addition to the environment where students interact and learn.”

One of Wright State’s strongest corporate supporters, Reynolds and Reynolds has been partnering with the university since 1975. To date, they have contributed more than $1.6 million to the university, including $740,000 for the Reynolds and Reynolds Leadership Scholars program, a scholarship initiative that attracts top students to Wright State’s programs in engineering and computer science.

Since 2008, Reynolds and Reynolds has provided more than 100 internships to Wright State students. The company currently employs over 200 Wright State graduates. Several top leaders from Reynolds and Reynolds also serve on advisory boards at Wright State.

Reynolds and Reynolds’ support extends beyond Dayton to Wright State’s Lake Campus in Celina, where the company provides scholarships to Lake Campus students and offers student internships at its Celina location. The company has also established the Reynolds and Reynolds Computer Center at the Lake Campus. Reynolds personnel have served on the Western Ohio Educational Foundation Board for the last five decades.

“Reynolds and Reynolds is one of our most dedicated corporate partners and a leading supporter of Rise. Shine. The Campaign for Wright State University,” says David R. Hopkins, president of Wright State University. “We are incredibly grateful for their ongoing support and their continued commitment to the success of our students.”

Wright State is engaged in a $150 million fundraising campaign that 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. Led by Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks and Amanda Wright Lane, great grandniece of university namesakes Wilbur and Orville Wright, the campaign has raised more than $122 million so far.

To learn more about the Rise. Shine. Campaign, visit rise.shine.wright.edu.

For more information on Reynolds and Reynolds, see reyrey.com.

By Kim Patton

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Wright State’s new Student Success Center expected to inspire, boost achievement

It promises to be a magnet for students.

Wright State University’s new Student Success Center features high-tech, active-learning classrooms, writing and math support labs, and even an outdoor rain garden that underscores the structure’s environmental embrace.

A few students have been using the three-story, $17 million center since June 1, when the advising, math and writing support personnel moved in. But the building is expected to go full throttle when students arrive for fall semester and become a buzzing beehive of activity.

“We have taken a building and dedicated it completely to our students doing well in their classes and their programs,” said Thomas Sudkamp, provost and vice president for curriculum and instruction. “The focus of everything here is to provide support and motivate students to achieve their potential.”

The idea for the building was born a half dozen years ago because of the need for more classroom space.

Wright State’s new Student Success Center features high-tech, active-learning classrooms, writing and math support labs and an outdoor rain garden.

More than 90 percent of the classrooms were in use from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., forcing some classes to be scheduled as early as 8 a.m. and as late as 8 p.m. And 50-student classes were sometimes held in rooms that seated 100, destroying the intimate setting that fosters learning.

In addition, academic support such as advising, writing and math services were scattered all over campus, making it inconvenient for students and less likely that the services would be used.

“The idea was to build one building that would house gateway freshman classes and have all of the academic support for them at the same place,” said Sudkamp. “That became the vision for the building. It made sense to me. I don’t know of any other institutions that have done this.”

The 67,000-square-foot building features oceans of open study space, including broad-shouldered hallways and corners populated with whiteboards as well as comfortable chairs and benches.

Students who want to meet with team members following classes can slip into “huddle” spaces — small glass-enclosed rooms outfitted with tables and chairs.

“There are going to be a lot of students in here at one time,” said Brad Bubp, senior facilities planner. “So these hallways are an extended learning space. The meandering corridor gives you all kinds of nooks and crannies, and that’s on purpose.”

The front entrance is designed to be a hangout spot for students. It features limestone benches, planters and a switchback wheelchair ramp.

“This is the first impression of Wright State a lot of students are going to have,” said Bubp.

Designing the center was Annette Miller Architects, a Dayton firm that has designed numerous Wright State buildings and has also done projects at The Ohio State University, Miami University and the University of Cincinnati.

“I tip my hat to the architects. They have done an excellent job in creating that comfortable atmosphere for students to be able to congregate and study,” said Sudkamp. “Wherever you are in the building, you have lots of natural light.”

The architects used 3-D modeling to position the building at an angle that maximizes its exposure to sunlight. The structure features shading fins and about 1,200 exterior glass units. There is extra insulation in the roof, which is white to reflect heat.

Wright State will dedicate the Student Success Center with a ceremony on Oct. 9.

Inside, the building features a 220-seat auditorium and four active-learning classrooms — two seating 108 each, one seating 126 and one seating 180.

The classrooms are honeycombed with large circular desks outfitted with computer stations — more than 700 laptops in all. Fist-gripping the walls are whiteboards and video screens.

“The faculty are changing the curricula to generate more active student participation, and this will get students more engaged in their classes, which is going to help them through the challenging freshman-year courses,” said Sudkamp.

When the instructor projects a problem on the screens, the teams of students will huddle at the desks — discussing, arguing, analyzing, tearing into it with an intensity not normally seen in conventional passive-learning classrooms.

“This is the only building in the state that is totally dedicated to active-learning pedagogy,” said Sudkamp.

The classrooms have card scanners so that attendance is automatically taken when students “swipe in.” And the building, which can accommodate up to 2,000 students at a time, has 84 wireless hotspots, designed to support each student with a laptop, tablet and smartphone.

The building’s walls and floors are bristling with electrical outlets so students can recharge their electronic devices. The water fountains feature water bottle-filling stations, and extra space was built into the restrooms for wheelchair turns.

The floors are polished concrete. Walls are clad in porcelain ceramic tile. A majority of the materials came from within a 500-mile radius, and about 75 percent of the construction waste was diverted from landfills to recycling and efficient construction methods.

The building’s top floor offers a sweeping view of central campus. Down below, a tunnel connects the building to University Hall. There is a vending area next to an inviting outdoor courtyard with tables and umbrellas.

“The courtyard is one of those places that is outside but still feels like a room,” said Tim Littell, assistant dean for programming at University College. “To me, it’s another one of those informal spaces that students, faculty and staff can gather.”

The Math Learning Center helps prepare students for required math courses with tutoring and online learning resources. An estimated 1,500 students will use the center’s Math Studio this fall, many of them taking classes and tests.

At the Writing Center, staffers help students who are working on papers organize their thoughts and provide writing tips. The center features computers and tables with yellow, acrylic-type surfaces that can be written on.

More than 350 students are hired each term to tutor students or help them with writing and math.

“They are very good at what they do,” Littell said. “They get the students excited and over the hump.”

The building is open to all students. For example, the Writing Center serves everyone from freshmen working on class papers to graduate students working on Ph.D. dissertations.

Said Littell, “Some of them come into the Math Learning Center and say, ‘I don’t know if I need any help right now, but I’m comfortable with doing homework right here. So I’m just going to sit here and do my homework. If I need something, I’ll raise my hand.’”

Vinyl wraps bring the walls to life with abstract kaleidoscopic images created from photos of campus buildings such as the Joshi Center, the Student Union and Dunbar Library.

“The idea was to make an interactive type of thing that you don’t immediately recognize and have to figure out,” said Stephen Rumbaugh, Wright State graphic design strategist. “The other point of it was to bring campus indoors.”

Students seem to like being in the building, which is a stone’s throw from the Student Union, the social hub of the campus.

On one day, students Chelsea Judd and Emily Martin were sitting in chairs in a hallway study space tucked into one corner of the building. On the table they shared, soft-drink cups and sandwich wrappers snuggled up to their laptops.

“I like it,” said Judd, a social work major from Dayton. “It’s very fresh, clean and all brand new. I feel like it creates a good environment. It’s very inviting. I would choose this over other buildings to study.”

“I like the different study areas,” added Martin, a nursing major from Dayton. “They seem open. And I like being able to see outside.”

Sudkamp hopes the Student Success Center and campus-wide initiatives to assist students making the transition to college will help boost second-year retention by as much as 10 percent within a few years.

A dedication ceremony in October is expected to draw campus leaders, elected officials and others.

Littell said the center is a hub for student success that creates an exciting culture of learning.

“I like the idea that students will be in a building in which they are pursuing an education that will serve them for a lifetime, that will sustain them in the same way this building was built to sustain the environment,” he said.

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Wright State University’s dazzling new Neuroscience Engineering Collaboration Building a research powerhouse

Wright State University’s spectacular new Neuroscience Engineering Collaboration (NEC) Building promises to spawn pioneering research and medical breakthroughs by housing the collective brainpower of almost 30 top neuroscientists, engineers and clinicians and their teams.

The four-story, L-shaped structure features two wings — one for neuroscience and one for engineering — that flank a central atrium. The building is honeycombed with laboratories and includes offices, conference rooms and a 105-seat auditorium for research symposiums.

“It is one impressive building,” said Robert Fyffe, vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School. “It represents a transformational moment for the university’s research enterprise, the community and its partners.”

The building is the first of its kind to be intentionally designed to drive research interaction across disciplines, bringing 30 researchers from six disciplines under one roof to understand brain, spinal cord and nerve disorders and develop treatments and devices.

Architectural features include chilled ceiling beams that provide a natural, energy-efficient convection air current, an anti-vibration floor that preserves the clarity of sensitive lasers and microscopes, and a dust-free sensors lab that is free of the tiniest speck.

About 70 percent of the facade is glass, enabling natural light to stream into the building and create an airy work environment. The facade is clad with hundreds of colorful glass “fins” that provide shading and reduce heat buildup on sunny days. In the building’s atrium is a dazzling art installation with 3-D asterisks that mimic the firing of the brain’s neurons.

“The building is amazing,” said Elliott Brown, Ph.D., the Ohio Research Scholars Endowed Chair in Sensors Physics. “It’s going to make us nationally competitive in microelectronics and nanoelectronics.”

The building is designed to foster research projects that break new ground in treating brain, spinal cord and nerve disorders by putting neuroscientists, engineers and clinicians under the same roof and creating an environment that enables them to collaborate and feed off of each other’s ideas and skills.

It houses basic researchers working to understand biological processes, clinical researchers who use that knowledge to develop treatments and cures and engineers who create medical devices and imaging technologies.

“You make sure they’re sitting in the same room, you make sure there are whiteboards all around them, you make sure there are places for them to interact at a professional and social level,” said Timothy Cope, Ph.D., director of the Wright State University and Premier Health Neuroscience Institute and chair of neuroscience, cell biology and physiology. “It will be where we bring interdisciplinary collaboration alive.”

The NEC Building has already become the new home for pioneering research.

For example, neuroscientists from Wright State’s Boonshoft School of Medicine and the College of Science and Mathematics are collaborating with clinicians at Johns Hopkins Medicine to determine whether they can help patients who are weakened to the point of paralysis after overcoming sepsis infection. Sepsis is a full-body inflammatory state that can lead to multisystem organ failure, coma or death. It is a complication among severely ill patients in intensive-care units.

Lead researcher Mark Rich, M.D., Ph.D., professor of neuroscience, cell biology and physiology, has devoted a large part of his career studying sepsis-related paralysis and the misbehaving motor neurons that cause it. Such medical breakthroughs are the goal of the new building.

Wright State neuroengineer Sherif M. Elbasiouny, Ph.D., has a three-year, $433,000 research grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to try to make upper limb prostheses feel and function like natural limbs.

“Our lab being one of neuroscience and engineering is exactly the multidisciplinary nature of what the NEC Building is all about,” said Elbasiouny. “The space we’re receiving will allow us to do more work. The impact is going to be huge on the research.”

The building also houses sophisticated technologies such as an $800,000 PET/CT scanner, which marries positron emission tomography with computed tomography.

Wright State is only one of a few universities that have this body-scanning technology, which is at the forefront of medical diagnosing. It holds out the promise of helping find causes and treatments for cancer and neurological diseases such as epilepsy.

“It just opens up a whole world of opportunities we didn’t have before,” said assistant engineering professor Nasser Kashou, Ph.D.

Kashou said the scanner will be instrumental in training engineering students, strengthening research proposals and increasing their chances of being funded, and creating opportunities for Wright State researchers to collaborate with those at other universities.

The NEC Building also features a special bullpen for graduate and undergraduate student researchers such as Adam Deardorff and Emily Diller.

Deardorff is an M.D./Ph.D. student studying the nervous system to learn how people develop coordinated, purposeful movement and make small movement corrections. Diller is a biomedical engineering graduate student studying how tiny vibrations can improve a person’s fine-motor skills.

“The work that goes on in this building will truly be cutting edge,” said Fyffe, “maybe even science fiction in its nature.”

Read more about the NEC Building

Architectural features of new Neuroscience Engineering Collaboration Building hit the mark

Wright State neuroengineer Sherif Elbasiouny to conduct pioneering prosthesis research in new NEC Building

Collaboration in new NEC Building starts with star student researchers

Wright State’s PET/CT scanner puts university at forefront of medical-diagnostic research

Collaboration between Wright State and Johns Hopkins may lead to new treatments for sepsis patients

Neuroscience Engineering Collaboration Building ushers in new art at Wright State

By Jim Hannah

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Reynolds and Reynolds Foundation makes $1 million commitment to Rise. Shine. Campaign

Longstanding partnership with Wright State celebrated at the grand opening of a new coffee shop for students

When representatives from Reynolds and Reynolds and Wright State University cut the ribbon on the Reynolds Espresso Lane Coffee Pit Stop on March 11, it symbolized the latest collaboration in a partnership that dates back to 1975.

The new coffee shop in the Russ Engineering Center on Wright State’s campus was made possible thanks to a $50,000 gift from the Reynolds and Reynolds Company Foundation.

“The Reynolds Espresso Lane Coffee Pit Stop creates a unique opportunity for us to publicly acknowledge the outstanding support we have received from Reynolds and Reynolds over the years,” said Wright State University President David R. Hopkins. “Reynolds and Reynolds has long been one of Wright State’s strongest corporate partners. They are a leading provider of student scholarships, and now our students can enjoy this beautiful new coffee shop.”

With their sponsorship of the Reynolds Espresso Lane Coffee Pit Stop, Reynolds and Reynolds’ contributions to Rise. Shine. The Campaign for Wright State University now total over $1.1 million. This includes $740,000 for the Reynolds and Reynolds Leadership Scholars program, a scholarship initiative that attracts top students to Wright State’s programs in engineering and computer science.

The Reynolds and Reynolds Foundation has also donated another $300,000 for the construction of a cafe in the Raj Soin College of Business. Currently under construction in Rike Hall, the 1,100 square-foot cafe will open this fall. It will be the first student-operated cafe at Wright State.

“For the past six years, we’ve partnered with Wright State to fund honor scholarships, and it’s been gratifying to watch the impact the scholarships have had on students and on the university’s efforts to recruit highly talented students,” said Ron Lamb, president, Reynolds and Reynolds. “Now, through the Reynolds coffee cafes, we have a unique opportunity to broaden our support in ways that can have an impact on the setting in which students learn and interact.”

In addition to financial support, Reynolds and Reynolds has provided more than 100 internships to Wright State students since 2008. They currently employ over 200 Wright State graduates. Several top leaders from Reynolds and Reynolds also serve on advisory boards at Wright State.

Reynolds and Reynolds’ support extends beyond Dayton to Wright State’s Lake Campus in Celina. The company provides scholarships to Lake Campus students and offers student internships at their Celina location. They have also established the Reynolds and Reynolds Computer Center at the Lake Campus. Reynolds personnel have served on the Western Ohio Educational Foundation Board for the last five decades.

“Reynolds and Reynolds epitomizes the type of relationship we want with our corporate partners,” said Nathan Klingbeil, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science. “Whether it be scholarships for our incoming students, internships to propel them toward their future careers or this brand new coffee shop to help get them through the rigors of their academic experience, Reynolds and Reynolds always focuses its investments on the success of our students.”

“All of us at Reynolds believe strongly in the unique role that universities can play in the lives of individuals and in our communities, and Wright State certainly fills that role exceptionally well,” Lamb said. “Over the years, we’ve had a lot of success in recruiting talented Wright State graduates to Reynolds, and we’re pleased to see our relationship with the university continue to grow and strengthen across a number of areas. We are hopeful that the Reynolds coffee cafes will provide a new dimension to our support for the university.”

By Kim Patton

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Wright State alumnus donates $3 million to the College of Engineering and Computer Science

Gift from Ron Bullock will support initiatives for engineering design and innovation.

Making one of the largest alumni gifts in the history of the university, Wright State graduate Ron Bullock has pledged $3 million to the College of Engineering and Computer Science. Bullock’s gift will help fund the college’s initiatives in engineering design and innovation.

Bullock, a 1970 graduate of Wright State University, is chairman of Bison Gear & Engineering Corporation in St. Charles, Ill. His gift will establish the Bison Gear & Engineering Innopreneurship Laboratory. Scheduled to open in Fall 2016 in the Russ Engineering Building, the Innopreneurship Laboratory will promote creative thinking and problem solving across the various engineering disciplines.

“The Bison Gear & Engineering Innopreneurship Laboratory will play a vital role in the education of Wright State’s engineering students,” said Nathan Klingbeil, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science. “This cutting-edge facility will bridge the gap between classroom theory and true engineering practice, providing students with both the creative space and the state-of-the-art technology required to take their ideas from concept to market.”

A portion of Bullock’s gift will also be set aside to establish the Ronald D. Bullock Endowed Professorship in Engineering Design and Innovation. This new faculty position will help attract a renowned scholar in the field of engineering design and innovation to Wright State.

“The Ronald D. Bullock Endowed Professorship in Engineering Design and Innovation will foster internationally recognized research and graduate programs in engineering design and innovation, linking the output to regional and national workforce development in design and manufacturing,” Klingbeil said.

Bullock has also set aside a portion of his estate as a bequest, upon his death, for the ongoing support of the Bison Gear & Engineering Innopreneurship Laboratory.

“Ron’s gift will impact Wright State’s students for generations to come,” said Rebecca Cole, vice president for advancement and president of the Wright State University Foundation. “By giving our students first-hand experience in developing new products and technologies, we are creating the innovators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.”

Cole added that Bullock has made the largest alumni gift to date to Rise. Shine. The Campaign for Wright State University. With a fundraising goal of $150 million, the Rise. Shine. Campaign promises to further elevate the university’s prominence by expanding scholarships, attracting more top-flight faculty and supporting construction of state-of-the-art facilities. Led by Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks and Amanda Wright Lane, great grandniece of university namesakes Wilbur and Orville Wright, the campaign has raised more than $108 million so far.

Bullock joins nine other Wright State alumni who have each pledged $1 million or more to the Rise. Shine. Campaign.

“The overwhelming response by our alumni to this campaign speaks volumes to the quality of education Wright State provides,” said Cole. “Our graduates want to ensure that future generations of Wright State students receive the same opportunities they did to rise, to shine.”

By Kim Patton

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Tom Hanks’ strong connection to Wright State University springs from his early acting days

Hollywood icon Tom Hanks, who is co-chairing Wright State’s Rise.Shine. fundraising campaign, has a long-running love affair with the university that has grown deeper with each passing year.

He once took the stage at Wright State as a young Shakespearean actor. His part in a New York City play produced by the current chair of the university’s performing arts program helped lead to his discovery by a Hollywood agent. And a Wright State graduate helped Hanks produce two Emmy Award-winning television miniseries.

Hanks has also started a scholarship fund at Wright State, produced videos in support of the school and provided memorabilia and his personal time to help the school raise money for its performing arts program and now the entire university.

Most recently, Hanks has agreed to help lead the $150 million fundraising campaign that 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.

“He is everyman’s man; he’s about ordinary people,” said Wright State President David R. Hopkins, who has met with Hanks multiple times over the years. “What he loves is that we serve people from all backgrounds in life. And he is so committed nationally to military veterans. He loves our mission.” In a video prepared for the public launch of the campaign, Hanks says the nation needs universities like Wright State, where students of all ages from all walks of life can make the connections that set them on the path to making their dreams come true.

“What I understand about Wright State is they are willing to do what it takes to help every student succeed,” he said. “I can’t think of anything more important for a university to do.”

Hanks’ first contact with Wright State came in the late 1970s, when he was a young actor with the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Cleveland. As part of a tour, Hanks performed at Wright State in Shakespeare’s “The Two Gentlemen of Verona.”

Then Hanks went to New York and—after about six months of being unemployed—auditioned for the Riverside Shakespeare Company of New York, which was founded by W. Stuart McDowell, currently chair of Wright State’s Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures.

“We cast him right off the street in the lead of Machiavelli’s ‘The Mandrake,’ playing the role of Callimaco,” McDowell recalled. “He was phenomenal. He had an incredible sense of improvisation and stage presence. He would come out during the opening of the show and riff with the audience, do an improv.” As a result of his role in the play, Hanks was able to secure an agent, who took him and his blossoming career to Hollywood. Hanks would go on to star in blockbuster films such as “Forrest Gump,” “Apollo 13” and “Saving Private Ryan” and win several Academy Awards.

When McDowell joined the faculty at Wright State in 1994, he learned that Erik Bork, a motion pictures student who had graduated a few years before, had gotten a job with Hanks as a script reader. Bork went on to help produce Hanks’ TV miniseries “From the Earth to the Moon” and “Band of Brothers,” both Emmy Award winners.

“Our motion pictures students don’t just make films, they know films,” McDowell said. “They learn foreign films, history of films, silent films so that when they start making films they have this almanac of experience by watching and critiquing and talking about these films. That’s a testament to the program.” In 1998, Hanks gave Wright State money to launch a scholarship fund in his name. So far, the fund has provided scholarship money to 67 students in acting/musical theatre, dance, design technology and theatre studies.

Hanks has also donated autographed movie posters that were sold at Wright State’s ArtsGala, the annual fundraising event to support student scholarships in theatre, dance, art, music, and motion pictures.

After the huge success of Hanks’ movie “The Da Vinci Code,” he agreed to have tea in Rome on the set of “Angels and Demons” with the winning bidders of an ArtsGala auction item. “This led to major face-to-face time in Rome between Hanks, McDowell, and the winning bidders, retired Oakwood engineer Michael Di Flora and his wife.”

In 2011, Hanks in a taped video gave a glowing endorsement of Wright State’s arts programs during a news conference to announce that the university’s Collaborative Education, Leadership and Innovation in the Arts (CELIA) center had been designated an Ohio Center of Excellence for the arts.

Last year, a delegation of Wright State officials traveled to New York City to meet with Hanks, who was performing in the play “Lucky Guy.” “We cracked a lot of jokes about those early days,” said McDowell. “He remembers his roots.”

Author:

By Jim Hannah

james.hannah@wright.edu

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Wright State University announces $150 million fundraising campaign featuring Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks

Hollywood superstar Tom Hanks will help lead a $150 million fundraising campaign for Wright State University that 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.

Rise.Shine. The Campaign for Wright State University was formally announced by President David R. Hopkins on Saturday, Oct. 18, before 600 students, faculty, staff, donors, and other special guests at the Wright State University Nutter Center.

A total of $107,488,678 in gifts and pledges has already been raised, including a record number of gifts from alumni. At least 10 Wright State graduates have each pledged $1 million or more to the campaign.

“This campaign is all about student success. It will change Wright State forever and the generation of students to come,” said Hopkins. “It’s going to grow our prominence and relevance in 21st century education.”

For the public launch of the campaign, the arena floor of the Nutter Center was transformed into a dazzling landscape that included a glittering makeshift chandelier and a kaleidoscope of towering video screens.

Serving as master of ceremonies was Wright State graduate Eddie McClintock, who has starred in numerous television shows and most recently played the role of a Secret Service agent in the popular Syfy series “Warehouse 13.”

Singers, dancers and musicians also took to the stage. An artist delighted the audience by painting portraits of the Wright brothers upside down and then flipping them rightside up with a flourish. And there were poignant personal stories from Wright State students Emily Bingham, Aaron Palmer, and Ian Kallay.

In its young life of 47 years, Wright State has become a shining star among Ohio universities, boasting two campuses totaling 730 acres and populated with more than 60 buildings.

Even more impressive, Wright State’s success has been built on the brains and work of thousands of alumni who became the first members of their families to graduate from college. To date, Wright State has produced more than 110,000 graduates.

Wright State Provost S. Narayanan said the campaign will increase the value Wright State gives to its students, making them even more career ready and competitive in the job market.

“We’re excited about the campaign because of the difference it will make to the students, their success, and the future of the institution,” Narayanan said. “It’s going to be a lasting legacy.”

Spearheading the Rise.Shine. campaign are co-chairs Amanda Wright Lane, great grandniece of university namesakes Wilbur and Orville Wright, and Hanks, Academy Award-winning actor, producer, and director.

Hanks, who is currently working on the Steven Spielberg-directed film “St. James Place,” recorded a video message for guests attending the campaign launch. “Wright State is a rising leader in 21st century higher education,” Hanks said. “From groundbreaking research to world-class fine and performing arts, this university truly has a mission that matters.”

Hanks, who has starred in blockbuster films such as “Forrest Gump,” “Apollo 13,” and “Saving Private Ryan,” has given a glowing endorsement of Wright State’s theatre and the arts programs in the past.

Wright Lane said she is proud to be co-chairing the campaign.

“The most important reason to be a part of the Rise.Shine. campaign lies in the backpacking, parking space-seeking humans who roam this campus daily, aka the students, or the ‘kids’ of the WSU family,” Lane said. “This campaign’s and this university’s mission is to provide the tools for every student’s success.” The Rise.Shine. campaign will generate funds for numerous initiatives on campus, including:

  • Increased opportunities for scholarships, undergraduate research, and experiential learning
  • Endowed professorships to attract top scholars
  • Construction of facilities that will propel Wright State students and faculty to the forefront of their fields

“We are very excited about this campaign and what it means for Wright State and our students,” said Rebecca Cole, vice president for advancement and president of the Wright State University Foundation. “The impact of the generosity of our friends, alumni, and the community is an enduring legacy.”

In addition to the campaign launch in Dayton, Wright State will take the Rise.Shine. campaign on the road with nine regional events throughout the United States in 2015.

“This is our time to shine,” Hopkins said. “People are going to be talking about Wright State not only in this community, but across the state and nation. Our time is now.”

Author:
By Kim Patton

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