NEW YORK – There must be few things more gratifying than to return home to be honored by one’s alma mater after “doing good” out in the wider world. James Pedas was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1989 by Thiel College, which is located in his home state of Pennsylvania. After he was named trustee emeritus to the Board of Trustees, however, it was time to give back in a big way.
On October 4, during Homecoming Weekend, Pedas, his family, including his brother and business partner Ted, and their friends, participated in the official dedication of the $6.5 million “green” certified” James Pedas Communication Center, , the first building erected on the campus in 40 years, for which he donated the bulk of the cost.
“You don’t do anything if you don’t do it right,” Pedas told the Sharon Herald in nearby Sharon, PA. There is little the Pedas brothers did not do right.
James, who was graduated in 1950 with a degree in economics, and his brother are powerhouses in the entertainment industry in Washington, DC where they now live.
“In the 1950s, he and Ted established Colt 45 Records, a recording company that launched the musical career of Don Covay (who wrote “Chain of Fools” and “Mercy Mercy” among others). The Pedas brothers later partnered to acquire several drive-in movie theatres. Later, with another partner, they bought a film distribution franchise and never looked back. They have been involved in numerous film ventures over the years including owning the Circuit/Showcase theatre circuit; owning a small part of Cinema 5 Ltd.; forming their own distribution company, Circle Releasing Corp., and forming their own production company, Circle Films… They also formed Circle Management Company to oversee their investments in real estate and commercial development and Circle Parking to operate parking facilities in the Washington, D.C. area,” according to Center’s website.
They were some of the “foremost backers of 1990s American independent cinema. Among their most noted productions are the Coen brothers’ debut and sophomore films, “Blood Simple” (1984) and “Raising Arizona” (1987).
Pedas received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Thiel for Professional Accomplishment in 1980. He has received many awards for his work including Washingtonian of the Year (1973) and the American University’s Award for Contribution to Film Culture (1985). He is a supporter of many philanthropic endeavors, including establishing an Intellectual Property Chair at George Washington Law School. He has served as a director of the National Capital Bank of Washington since 1973.
Thiel College is an independent liberal arts, sciences and professional studies institution committed to providing quality undergraduate education. The new Center is designed to be “a collaborative learning community where students engage in film, TV, radio, news production and other multimedia-rich experiences preparing them for today’s information society. Students from all majors will acquire communication literacy and presentation skills to prepare them for what comes next. Building features include sophisticated labs and studios, dynamic classrooms and learning spaces, a new Office of Admission and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.”
Bob Batchelor, Ph.D., the James Pedas Professor of Communication, emphasized the value of what students will gain from the Center. “The roadmap to success today begins and ends with communication skills. Employers tell us again and again that what they really desire in young workers is the ability to communicate, think critically and understand contextual links that lead to higher order skills. The [center] will be a home for students to build these skills as a part of their overall education.”
A noted cultural historian and biographer, Bob is the author or editor of over 24 books, including John Updike: A Critical Biography, and Gatsby: A Cultural History of the Great American Novel.
Professor Laurie J. Moroco, Ph.D. said “I am ecstatic to see the culmination of efforts come to fruition. We have transitioned from ideas and conversations to a beautiful, state of the art communication center where students will flourish academically and professionally,” and Associate Professor Victor D. Evans, Ph.D. added “The Pedas Center…will make them very marketable in the industry by giving them experience that many won’t have. That definitely excites me!”
Andy Manatos, the founder of The Coordinated Effort of Hellenes, is among the friends and Greek-American leaders who congratulated Pedas and are happy for him. “Jim Pedas’ pretension-less personality belies his extraordinary success as a movie mogul familiar with film celebrities, entertainment personalities as well as leading American and Greek government officials. Jim and his brother Ted have made many such philanthropic contributions.”
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