Arizona State University has named its new film school after legendary actor Sidney Poitier.
According to a USA Today report, the decision to name the school after Poitier, 93, is about much more than an emphasis on diversity.
In an interview ahead of The Sidney Poitier New American Film School’s unveiling, university President Michael M. Crow said Poitier embodies everything that one would look for in an icon.
“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,” Crow said, according to USA Today.
The legendary actor filmed his Oscar-winning Lilies of the Field in Arizona in 1963. Poitier became the first Black person to win an Oscar for lead actor in a motion picture.
Crow noted the unusually scandal-free life that the superstar has lived despite being in the public limelight for decades.
“Look at his life. It’s a story of a person who found a way,” Crow said. “How do we help other young people find their way?”
As noted in his biography at , Poitier is both an esteemed actor and a respected humanitarian.
In addition to his Oscar for Best Actor, he received an Honorary Award in 2001. Born in Miami, he grew up both in the Bahamas and the United States and became a noted actor both on the stage and in such films as The Defiant Ones in 1958, for which he earned his first Oscar nomination.
Throughout his career, Poitier provided some of the most legendary performances ever on the Silver Screen.
Among the most memorable were A Patch of Blue in 1965, In the Heat of the Night in 1967, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner in 1967.
Poitier also directed and starred in a series of 1970’s hits with Bill Cosby, including Let’s Do it Again and Uptown Saturday Night.
He went on to direct nine feature films.
In 2000, Poitier published the autobiography The Measure of a Man and earned a Grammy Award for the best-spoken word album for the audio version of The Measure of a Man.
He followed up his autobiography eight years later when he published Life Beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter.
A recipient of numerous awards and honors throughout this career, Poitier was knighted in 1974 by the British government.
President Barack Obama awarded Poitier the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, and in 2011, he earned the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s prestigious Chaplin Lifetime Achievement Award.
Arizona University reportedly has invested millions of dollars in technology to create what’s intended to be one of the largest, most accessible, and most diverse film schools.
Crow said the film school would measure success not by exclusivity but by inclusivity.
“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,” Anika Poitier, the legend’s daughter, said.
“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.”