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Ebert Center Proposed For University Of Illinois

By Selena Fragassi in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 2, 2015 9:45PM

Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures

Now here’s a development that gets two huge thumbs up. On Thursday, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced they are trying to raise $2.5 million to fund a new program in the College of Media named for the late film critic Roger Ebert.

The Pulitzer Prize winner and former Chicago Sun-Times columnist was both an alum of the university, the editor of its student newspaper and held a long-standing “Ebertfest” film festival on the campus, which continues to this day even after his passing in 2013.

Simply named the Ebert Center (although it’s not a building), the programming addition would aim to “combine the studies of film and ethics to encourage writers and filmmakers to think critically about film,” said the Sun-Times.

“Lots of colleges have film studies programs. Roger wanted a program that focused more on critical thinking and analysis and why you do certain things in filmmaking and the way you write about it,” his widow Chaz Ebert told the paper.

The $5 million overhead required to fully create it—and make sure it’s viable—will be provided in part by an endowment created by the Eberts, though $2.5 million is still needed as well as approval from the U of I’s board of trustees. Everyone remains hopeful though, including the College of Media Dean Jan Slater who told Crain’s, ““He's probably one of our most famous alumni and probably the one who has touched us the most.”

In addition to special classes, the Center will assume Ebertfest and become the home of Ebert’s archives, but the most interesting part might be the fellowship that allows three students to write film criticism for a year under the guidance of the Tribune’s Michael Phillips.

We won’t ever have enough Ebert but this program could continue on his great legacy.