Whether it was through his artistry on-screen or speaking up about social injustice, throughout his entire career legendary actor Sidney Poitier has continually used his platform to break racial barriers and the Florida native will be honored for his contributions in a major way. Arizona State University will name its film school after Poitier.
The 93-year-old trailblazing actor has opened doors for generations of individuals who followed in his footsteps. He was the first Black man to win an Academy Award for best actor in 1964 for his role in Lilies of the Field which was filmed in Arizona. Six years prior to winning, Poitier became the first Black actor to be nominated for the best actor Academy Award. The new institution—which will be called the Sidney Poitier New American Film School—pays homage to his lasting impact and influence in the arts and will inspire a new wave of creatives. The school is currently located at ASU’s Tempe campus, but the institution plans on building two new facilities in Mesa and Los Angeles.
“What we’re doing here is not just recognizing Sidney Poitier for his lifetime of achievements and his legacy, but naming our New American Film School for a person that embodies that which we strive to be—the matching of excellence and drive and passion with social purpose and social outcomes, all the things his career has stood for,” ASU President Michael Crow said in a statement. “Arizona State University is deeply committed to the premise of inclusivity, and The Sidney Poitier New American Film School is an extension of that impact in an area of academic pursuit that will be advanced by representation of greater diversity and perspective.”
One of Poitier’s daughters, Beverly Poitier-Henderson, says her father is grateful for the honor. “It’s fitting that ASU is embracing his work ethic and embracing his commitment to truth and his commitment to the arts and his commitment to education,” she said. “We’re very happy. He’s very happy.”