Ron Howard establishes University of Oklahoma drama scholarship for rural students in memory of his parents
NORMAN – A recent gift from Academy Award-winning filmmaker and Duncan native Ron Howard will help fellow aspiring actors with small-town roots pursue their dream of studying drama and fine arts at the University of Oklahoma.
The university announced today that Howard’s $90,000 gift to the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts at OU establishes a scholarship to support students in the college’s Helmerich School of Drama who come from rural areas across the United States.
The scholarship is named in memory of Howard’s parents, Rance and Jean Howard, both of whom were born in Oklahoma and studied drama at OU before embarking on successful acting careers, according to a news release.
“Our mom and dad were from small-town, rural America,” Ron Howard said in a statement. “Their ability to afford to be the first in their families to pursue a career in the arts at OU changed their lives, as well as the course of our family history. They met on campus, made lifelong friends and career connections there, and affirmed the viability of their dreams. Our family wants to help support that dream for students from similar circumstances who make the excellent choice to attend the University of Oklahoma for drama and fine arts.”
In addition to their older son Ron Howard, their younger son Clint Howard and their granddaughters Bryce Dallas Howard and Paige Howard have developed noteworthy careers in film and television.
“We are honored that beloved American filmmaker and actor Ron Howard has chosen to memorialize his parents through this generous scholarship fund in support of students in the Helmerich School of Drama. Students come to our school from across the country, from a variety of communities and circumstances, all sharing the dream of a career in acting that Rance and Jean Howard cherished and achieved. The scholarships provided by this fund will support students from rural areas and small communities who might otherwise be unable to pursue a degree in drama. We are deeply grateful to Ron and his family,” said Mary Margaret Holt, dean of the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts, in a statement.
The announcement comes just days before the 20th anniversary of Jean Speegle Howard's death. A Duncan native, she died Sept. 2, 2000, in Burbank, California, at the age of 73.
As previously reported, Rance Howard, another Duncan native, died Nov. 25, 2017, in Los Angeles, at the age of 89.
“I am immeasurably grateful to Ron Howard and his family for this generous gift,” said Seth Gordon, director of the Helmerich School of Drama, in a statement.
“I have been director of the Helmerich School of Drama for one year, and in that short time I have witnessed very quiet and unassuming acts of heroism on the part of so many of our students. They often work multiple jobs to cover their tuition, and they’re at school, working hard, all day and all night.
Gordon continued, “This important gift makes it clear that their determination is seen and heard. The arts are essential to any thriving society and with this gift, Ron Howard makes it possible for the finest theatre artists of tomorrow to make their contribution. The hearts of everyone at the Helmerich School of Drama are full.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Rance and Jean Howard met at OU while taking a scene study class. They married in Kentucky while touring as actors in a children’s theater company and ultimately landed in New York. Rance Howard's big break came when he was cast as Lindstrom in the original Broadway hit, "Mister Roberts."
Their older son, Ron, was born in Duncan in 1954, but by the time younger son, Clint, was born in 1959, the family had relocated to California.
Ron Howard first came to prominence as a child actor, guest-starring in several television series, including an episode of "The Twilight Zone." He gained national attention for playing young Opie Taylor in the sitcom "The Andy Griffith Show" from 1960 through 1968, along with prominent roles in the films "The Music Man" and "American Graffiti." In 1974, Howard began playing Richie Cunningham in the sitcom "Happy Days," a part he would play for the next six years.
The 1977 comedy "Grand Theft Auto" marked Ron Howard's directorial debut under legendary producer Roger Corman. Ron Howard also co-wrote the script with his father and began his long-running tradition of casting his family members in his films, with his brother and father both playing roles.
In 1980, Ron Howard left "Happy Days" to focus on directing. Over the past four decades, he has helmed more than 30 films, including the 1985 sci-fi hit "Cocoon," the acclaimed 1995 historical drama "Apollo 13," the 2006 thriller "The Da Vinci Code" and the 2018 "Star Wars" spin-off "Solo: A Star Wars Story."
For the 2001 biographical drama "A Beautiful Mind," Howard won two Academy Awards, for Best Director and Best Picture. In 2003, he received the National Medal of Arts, and in 2013, he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.
Howard has earned two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the television and motion picture industries.
As previously reported, Howard has recently delved into documentary filmmaking with the Grammy Award-winning "The Beatles: Eight Days a Week," "Made in America," "Pavarotti" and "Rebuilding Paradise." The latter, about the 2018 California wildfire that destroyed the town of Paradise, premiered to praise at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
"Rebuilding Paradise" opens Friday at Oklahoma City's Rodeo Cinema. For tickets and information, go to www.rodeocinema.org/coming-soon/rebuilding.