FAIRBORN — Tom Hanks brought excitement to campus, laughter to the crowd and inspiration to the film students.
Hanks spent Tuesday, April 19 at Wright State University to celebrate the school’s fundraising campaign and to dedicate the newly-renovated Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures.
“It’s an intimidating thing to have the words ‘center for motion pictures’ added to the end of your name,” he said. ” … There is no guarantee, other than your ability, your faith in yourself and your willingness to follow your own instincts and do the work yourself … No one has the combination of talent, ability and drive than you do.”
Before Hanks delivered a speech and cut the ribbon, he spent time privately answering film students’ questions. The evening before his public appearance, he shared a meal with five of Wright State’s veteran students. Following the dedication, he attended an invitation-only gala aimed to raise money for his scholarship campaign.
And the campus was abuzz with enthusiasm. The Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures is located adjacent to the Paul Laurence Dunbar Library and the crowd gathered around the area hours before his anticipated speech, hoping to catch a glimpse.
Wright State President David Hopkins feels that although the school is young, Hanks visit signals its arrival.
“We’re now getting the kind of national recognition that our university deserves,” Hopkins said. “We’re no longer just a local commuter school — yes, we serve commuter students — but we have much more than that today in 2016. What is says to our campus is that he believes in our mission and he believes in what we’re trying to do to transform the lives of our students and communities we serve. To have someone like him talk about it, it brings us to another level of excellence we’ve been seeking for years.”
Owen Kresse, a senior acting major at Wright State, had the opportunity to ask Hanks two questions before the dedication took place. He said he couldn’t sleep the night before.
“What was most important to me was how he talked to us like we’re fellow people, not even fellow artists, but fellow people,” Kresse said. “He really listened to us and encouraged us to keep trying, never stop and that’s how you create a career.”
Jasmine Easler shared a private lunch with Hanks and is a recipient of the Tom Hanks Scholarship. She is just a few days shy of finishing up her time at Wright State as a musical theatre major and felt that his visit gave her a sense of self-belief.
“It was a huge encouragement as far as knowing that I can accomplish the things I want to in these first couple of steps out of here, which is amazing” Easler said. “There’s a significant amount of self-doubt sometimes that comes with being in the arts and really believing and knowing you’re capable of the things you think you are, and to see such love and encouragement come from someone [so talented], was priceless.”
Hanks hopes students who utilize the Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures are able to persevere and push themselves into becoming artists.
“I hope this building spurs the students who come here, the freshman here now and the freshman that will be here in another 20 years, I hope it spurs them into working harder than they ever have in their entire lives,” he said. “If you work the hardest you ever will in your life at the beginning of your career, the rest takes care of itself.”