The Cecil B. DeMille Foundation in Los Angeles has donated $500,000 to Chapman University's School of Film and Television, a sign that the growing program is capturing the attention of Hollywood elite with Orange County connections.
The gift, which was announced Tuesday, was made at the behest of Cecilia Presley and Joseph Harper, grandchildren of the master filmmaker, whose work includes "The Ten Commandments," "Samson and Delilah" and other biblical epics. DeMille, who died in 1959, is considered one of the greatest directors.
Presley, a Newport Beach resident, issued a statement saying: "When I visited Chapman's film school recently, I was surprised and delighted by what I saw. It's wonderful that we have a top university with a terrific film school like this right in our own backyard."
In recognition of the gift, Chapman will rename the facility that houses its film and TV program Cecil B. DeMille Hall.
Film department staff still are discussing how to spend interest from the endowment. At least part of the money will likely go for digital editing equipment and scholarships.
Bob Bassett, dean of the School of Film and Television, said the gift is encouraging for a growing department flush with talented students known for their academic work and professional work in Hollywood after graduating.
"I think we have been slowly putting together an exciting film program here," he said. "It's beginning to capture people's attention."
More than 300 students are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs in production, film history, broadcast journalism and other specialties under the film school umbrella. Enrollment in the programs has doubled since 1992.
The gift is the largest single endowment the film school has received. Plans already are underway for a fall 1997 course focusing on DeMille's life and work.