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Arizona State University Names New Film School After Legendary Actor Sidney Poitier

Arizona State University Names New Film School After Legendary Actor Sidney Poitier

Greatness will come out of this school!

Arizona State University (ASU) has named its new film school after legendary actor Sidney Poitier, Huffpost reports.

The 93-year-old actor is a trailblazer in the truest sense of the word. He started from humble beginnings in Miami and the Bahamas as the son of a tomato farmer, before pursuing a career in acting and rising through the ranks to become one of Hollywood’s most influential stars. In 1963, Poitier filmed the movie “Lilies of the Field,” in Arizona, eventually winning an Oscar for his role and making history as the first Black person to win a lead-acting Oscar. Now, Arizona State University is honoring the veteran actor, announcing “The Sidney Poitier New American Film School” as a homage to his work. 

Michael M. Crow, president of ASU, spoke about the decision to name the school after Poitier, saying, “You’re looking for an icon, a person that embodies everything you stand for. With Sidney Poitier, it’s his creative energy, his dynamism, his drive, his ambition, the kinds of projects he worked on, the ways in which he advanced his life.” 

The university has invested millions of dollars in the new school, expanding the program into its own school, offering the latest technology, and working to create the “largest, most accessible and most diverse film school [which] will measure success not by exclusivity but by inclusivity.”

The new film school will offer flexible learning options and plans to teach a more expansive filmmaking curriculum. 

Poitier’s daughter, Beverly Poitier-Henderson said her father is honored. Her sister, Anika Poitier, who is also a filmmaker, spoke about the film school as well, saying, “If it has my Dad’s name on it, it has to be inclusive, because that's the foundation of who he is and what he stands for. And it’s important to not only have inclusion but to have diversity, and to give people the opportunity to tell their stories. I think it’s imperative to cast a wide net and allow anyone who’s called to tell their story to learn how to do that.” 

The school’s location will move to a facility in downtown Mesa, Arizona fall of 2022, also expanding to the university’s new center in Los Angeles. Sydney Poitier Heartsong, the youngest daughter of Poitier said the most important things to her father are education and the arts, noting that it's the one thing he made sure to pass to his children and hoped to pass to all children of color. 

“We’ve come to recognize that from a socioeconomic standpoint, a lot of schools exclude people of color disproportionately - and people without the means to go to them That is the antithesis of what my father would want to be a part of. [One of my father’s biggest complaints when he won his Oscar was that] he was the only one up there, and he wanted others to be up there with him,” Poitier Heartsong said. 

ASU’s film program currently enrolls about 700 students annually but they hope to double those numbers over the next three to five years, looking to enroll thousands more students by expanding their physical and online resources. 

“The Sidney Poitier New American Film School” was recently unveiled at a ceremony earlier this week.

Thank you for your lifetime of service Mr. Poitier. Because of you, we can!

Photo Courtesy of Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press