Tom Hanks at WSU | Courtesy of Wright State University | The Wright State Guardian
Actor, WSU friend and coronavirus survivor Tom Hanks recently delivered a graduation message to Wright State University’s Class of 2020 on Saturday, May 2 – the original date of Wright State’s commencement.
Hanks’ inspirational message ran for about five minutes. In the video, Hanks says the students have been “chosen” in many ways, including their ability to overcome the challenges of the times.
Wright State’s Class of 2020 has been through it all. From deep budget cuts and a faculty union strike to the “Great Pandemic of 2020,” as Hanks calls it.
“You are the chosen ones because of a fate unimagined when you began your Wright State adventures,” said Hanks. “You started in the olden times, in a world back before the Great Pandemic of 2020. You will talk of those earlier years in your lives in just that way.” Hanks says students are finishing their Wright State careers during “the great reset, the great reboot.”
Joe Deer, professor, chair and incoming artistic director for the Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures says Hanks’ message was something we all needed to hear. A message of hope.
Hanks’ message was originally meant for students in the Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures, but it quickly resonated with the rest of the campus community and more.
Deer asked Stuart McDowell, the department’s outgoing artistic director and professor, if he would request a graduation greeting from Hanks.
“A little over a week ago, I asked Stuart McDowell, our retiring Artistic Director, if he could request a graduation greeting from his friend, Tom Hanks, never expecting something so carefully crafted and thoughtful,” said Deer
Deer gives credit to McDowell for “[opening] the door for an incredible gesture of kindness by one of the world’s most admired people. I think of this as Stuart’s parting gift to all of us at Wright State.” McDowell is retiring at the end of the Spring 2020 semester.
“It’s fitting that Tom’s name is on the Motion Picture Center at Wright State, because he’s just about the smartest, most talented and definitely most generous person I’ve ever known – or ever worked with,” said McDowell.
“When I asked him to record something for our department’s graduating seniors who wouldn’t have an in-person commencement, and who’re facing turmoiled futures in their entertainment fields because of the virus, he didn’t hesitate. Tom simply wrote: ‘I will do this! On a video? A voice recording? Say what and when!'”
“This past Friday I received Tom’s video, clearly scripted by him and undoubtedly typed on his favorite typewriter – would you believe? – a Corona!” said McDowell.
Hanks’ speech has been heard all around as media outlets across the globe shared his message. Hanks’ speech has been featured in outlets like CNN, Deadline, People and Rolling Stone magazines, The Washington Post, USA Today, various local television stations and many more.
“I think this speech and the public response shines a much deserved positive light on Wright State. We’ve been through tough times in the past and have emerged smarter and more capable,” said Deer. The rest of higher education is confronting the challenges we’re now familiar with. So, Hanks’ message reflects incredibly well on an institution that understands flexibility and adaptability in hard times. We are what Hanks calls ‘The Chosen Ones’.”
University spokesperson Seth Bauguess says that the university appreciates when “such a talented, highly-regarded and influential celebrity and friend of the university takes the time to make sure Wright State students feel special.”
“The Tom Hanks message to Wright State students is powerful and poignant and hopefully inspirational to anyone who may need a shot in the arm this graduation season,” said Bauguess. “He is grateful for Wright State students. What they have done so far and what they will do in the future.”
The university estimates that there have been 293 stories and 158 million non-unique readers or viewers of the message so far. This excludes social media.
Hanks is the namesake of the Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures on campus. Hanks was personally in attendance to dedicate the 14,500-square-foot building in 2016.
Hanks also co-chaired Rise. Shine. The Campaign for Wright State University which raised $167,742,525 for the university.
“The future is always uncertain,” Hanks concluded. “…We are certain of one thing on this day — you will not let us down. Thank you. Congratulations.”