CHICAGO (CBS) — “Star Wars” creator George Lucas and his wife, investment banker Mellody Hobson, have donated $25 million to the University of Chicago Lab Schools, to help pay for construction of a new arts hall.
The Gordon Parks Arts Hall building will be the first on the U of C campus named after an African-American.
“It was important to us that the University of Chicago campus have a building named for an African American, given the diverse community in which it sits, and the outstanding contributions to our society by people of color,” Hobson said in a statement on the university’s website.
Parks – a photographer, filmmaker, and composer who died in 2006 – taught himself to use a camera after buying one at a pawnshop in 1938. He became the first African-American staff photographer for Life magazine, and his work appeared on its pages for more than two decades as he documented the lives of working-class African-Americans, civil rights leaders, and the poor.
Some of his most recognizable photos were captured in Chicago.
“We believe in the power of art to transform lives and communities,” Lucas said in a statement on the university’s website.. “Gordon Parks’ work did just that. Keeping his example at the heart of one of the nation’s outstanding urban schools will serve to inspire future generations for many years to come.”
He also wrote an autobiographical novel, The Learning Tree, which he later made into a movie, becoming the first major black director in Hollywood. The film has been preserved in the National Film Registry, after the Library of Congress deemed it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
He also directed the iconic African-American detective film Shaft.
With their donation to the University of Chicago, Lucas and Hobson now have donated at least $50 million to various Chicago institutions since they were married at Promontory Point last year.