ASU announces The Sidney Poitier New American Film School in Mesa

The new school will be named after Sidney Poitier, the first Black actor to win an Academy Award for best actor

ASU's film school is now named after the influential actor Sidney Poitier as a tribute to his contributions to the art of film. 

The Sidney Poitier New American Film School, formerly the New American Film School, announced the name change in an event Monday morning. The school, part of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, is home to two majors and one minor. 

Poitier is a prolific actor and director. Poitier won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in "Lilies of the Field" in 1963, becoming the first Black actor to receive the award. 

During the school’s name announcement, ASU President Michael Crow spoke of Poitier’s work ethic and pursuit of justice in relation to the spirit of the film school.

 “What we are doing here is not just recognizing Sidney for all of his achievements, his lifetime of achievements and his legacy, but really naming our New American Film School for a person that embodies the pursuit of excellence, and drive, and passion with social purpose and social outcomes,” Crow said.  

In fall 2022, the ASU Sidney Poitier New American Film School will "operate across three cities," said Herberger Dean Steven Tepper. The School will open facilities in downtown Mesa and Los Angeles, in addition to the Tempe campus.

READ MORE: Business, community engagement keys for ASU and Mesa partnership

Poitier quickly became one of the most prominent Black actors in the 1960s. Many of his roles challenged racial inequities and taboos of the time. 

His role in "The Defiant Ones"  received an Academy Award nomination. Poitier is further known for his performances in "A Patch of Blue," In the Heat of the Night," "Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner" and numerous other films. 

Poitier also directed "Buck and the Preacher," "Uptown Saturday Night," "Stir Crazy," among others.

Among film achievements, Poitier was knighted in 1974, his work "The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography" won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album and former President Barack Obama awarded Poitier the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

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