ATHENS, Ohio -- Emmy Award-winning director and producer Betty Thomas has committed $100,000 to endow an award in her name for the College of Fine Arts.
Thomas, who earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Ohio University in 1969, first funded the Betty Thomas Film Award in 1996. The permanent endowment will provide ongoing support for female School of Film graduate students.
One award winner, Eunice Charlton, is putting the finishing touches on her thesis film thanks to $5,000 from the fund. "I don't know how I would have completed my film without this money," said Charlton, who will return to Mexico this week to shoot her film, about an 11-year-old girl who plays the accordion in the street to make money for her family.
Thomas also remains involved in filmmaking at Ohio University. She recently spent two days conducting workshops with university film students. "It's a great thing to do if you feel you have something to offer," Thomas said.
Charlton, Thomas' personal assistant during her visit, appreciates the creative freedom the fund allows. "I hope that this award will help students make better films," Charlton said. "It gives them the space to be more creative and to feel like someone believes in them."
Although an art major as an undergraduate, Thomas auditioned for the play "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." Upon graduation, Thomas -- who still planned to be a painter -- took a job with The Second City in Chicago, and has never looked back. Her role as Lucy Bates on "Hill Street Blues" earned Thomas seven Emmy Award nominations. She took home the Emmy for Best Supporting Actress for the 1984-85 season.
When not acting, Thomas spent hours on the "Hill Street Blues" set learning from the show's directors. She later directed the premier episode of "Doogie Howser, M.D.," and later won a Best Director Emmy for her work with HBO's "Dream On."
Her feature film directorial debut was 1992's "Only You." Thomas has also directed "The Brady Bunch Movie," "Dr. Dolittle" and "28 Days." She most recently directed Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson in the big-screen remake of "I Spy."
Thomas' gift is part of Ohio University's Bicentennial Campaign, which has raised more than $155 million toward its goal of $200 million in time for the university's bicentennial in 2004. The Campaign will provide money for scholarships, endowed professorships, technological enhancements, innovative programs and selected capital improvements.