URBANA – A Roger Ebert film center here is now halfway to reality.
The University of Illinois College of Media needs about $5 million for a center to honor the Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic and local hero. Ebert and his wife Chaz gave the first million; this week the college announced an additional anonymous bequest for $1.5 million.
Walt Harrington, interim dean of the College of Media, said the donor is "excited to help create a center that unites the film industry and higher education and the public."
The Chicago critic and Urbana native is also an alumnus of the university, class of 1964. He and his wife donated $1 million toward creation of the Roger Ebert Program for Film Studies fund – a program Ebert couldn't have majored in while in school here.
The UI will continue fund-raising for the Roger Ebert Center for Film Studies, which is what the program will be called once the fund-raising goal is met.
Don Kojich, associate vice president for marketing and communications at the University of Illinois Foundation, confirmed the bequest.
Harrington said the bequest was exciting for the college.
"We hope that it creates motivation in people who want to join in contributing to this great idea," he said.
The dean noted that over the summer, the UI Board of Trustees created the first Department of Media and Cinema Studies in the College of Media. Until that creation, film units were sprinkled over various units of the UI.
"This is a validation of that decision," Harrington said.