"Star Wars" filmmaker George Lucas and his wife, Mellody Hobson, a Chicago investment firm executive, have gifted $25 million to the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools for the development of the schools' new arts hall.
The Gordon Parks Arts Hall, set to open in 2015 on the schools’ historic Hyde Park campus, will support programs in theater, music and the visual arts with three new performance halls, studios, rehearsal and practice rooms and a digital media lab.
"This generous grant will amplify the role of the arts within the core of the distinctive education offered by the Laboratory Schools, and create new opportunities for imagining the role of the arts within the curriculum," said University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer.
The pair requested the new building be named to honor Parks, a photographer, musician writer and film director who first came to Chicago in 1929 at age 17. He was a photographer for Life magazine and later became an influential Hollywood film director. He directed the 1971 hit Shaft.
"We believe in the power of art to transform lives and communities," Lucas said in a statement provided by the university. "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."
Hobson, the president of Ariel Investments, said it was important that the University of Chicago campus have a building named for an African American because of the neighborhood in which the school sits "and the outstanding contributions to our society by people of color."
Ariel Investments' founder, John Rogers Jr., is chairman of the laboratory schools and an alumnus. He's the one who approached Hobson about making a gift, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The gift brings to an end the school's fundraising campaign for the laboratory schools. The campaign launch with a $40 million goal. The contribution from Lucas and Hobson bring the total funds raised to $80 million.
The couple married last June in the Chicago Park District's Promontory Point. They have also pledged $25 million to After School Matters, the non-profit organization launched more than 20 years ago by the late Chicago first lady Maggie Daley. Hobson has been a chairman of After School Matters since July 2012.