Tom Hanks posts surprise message to Wright State graduates

Actor Tom Hanks holds up a piece of cut ribbon after participating in a ribbon cutting for the new Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures at Wright State University Tuesday. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

Less than an hour before the Wright State’s Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures virtual graduation on Saturday, students in the class received a special surprise.

Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks paid a personal tribute to Wright State University’s class of 2020, calling the graduates “the chosen ones” as they make their way through the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

>> BACKGROUND: Tom Hanks’ connection to Wright State long-standing

"A message for Wright State graduates from Tom Hanks:”

“You are the chosen ones because of a fate unimagined when you began your Wright State adventures,” Hanks said. “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.

You’ve gone from student to graduate with more that is expected of you than to just be an American,” he said. “You’ve had to be responsible Americans. You’ve had to be good Americans — good Americans that have made sacrifices that have saved lives.

You will have made it through the time of great sacrifice and great need,” he said. “And no one will be more fresh to the task of restarting our measure of normalcy than you — you chosen ones.”

>> BACKGROUND: Tom Hanks dedicates Wright State's motion pictures center

From Wright State Student, Eli Chizever.

Joe Deer, artistic director and chair of the Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures, had asked W. Stuart McDowell, who is retiring after working in the department for 22 years, if Hanks would be open to sending a short message. McDowell, who has a longstanding friendship with Hanks, came through and the video message was sent to Deer the evening of May 1.

“This speech means a great deal to all of us,” said Deer. “We’re so grateful for his inspiring words and the care he took to give what was clearly a very carefully written speech. He is one of a kind.”