Morgan Woodward, the critically acclaimed actor probably best known for his 1967 portrayal of the Man with No Eyes in “Cool Hand Luke,” is working to ensure his love for film endures through a new endowment benefiting The University of Texas at Arlington Film Studies program.
Woodward, 84, graduated from North Texas Agriculture College, a predecessor of The University of Texas at Arlington, in 1948. He was named a UT Arlington Distinguished Alumni in 1969.
The Arlington, Texas, native frequently portrayed villains during an acting career that included more than 250 television shows and movies. In 2009, Woodward was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City and the museum’s Hall of Great Western Stars in recognition of his contributions to the western film genre.
Woodward’s gift of $250,000 will double in value through UT Arlington’s Maverick Match program. The program uses University natural gas revenues to leverage private gifts for maximum impact. Endowed professorships, such as the one established through Woodward’s gift, are significant milestones in UT Arlington’s quest to become a nationally recognized research institution.
“Mr. Woodward indicated a strong desire to give back to his alma mater and was prompted to make this generous gift now in order to take advantage of the Maverick Match program, which will double the impact of his gift,” said Jim Lewis, UT Arlington’s vice president for development.
Woodward said he has followed the University’s growth and the quality work produced through the Film Studies program, which is part of UT Arlington’s Department of Art and Art History.
“I wanted to pass on my love for acting and film with UT Arlington students by establishing the endowment to assist in recruiting of outstanding professors in the field of film, video and screenwriting,” Woodward said.
Professor Andy Anderson, founder of UT Arlington’s film program, said the endowment could not have come at a better time. The program has three full-time faculty members but needs at least five with the recent addition of a Master’s of Fine Arts program, Anderson said.
“It’s a fantastic endorsement of our 35 years of great work on a shoestring budget,” Anderson said. “It’s all the more important because Mr. Woodward is an acclaimed actor and knows what quality film work is.”
Since the film program began, UT Arlington film students have been nominated for 11 Student Academy Awards, have won the American Film Institute National Student Competition First Award and have had screenings at some of the most prestigious festivals in the world. Keith Alcorn, an alumnus of the program, was nominated for an Academy Award for the movie “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.”
Woodward grew up on First Street in Arlington, Texas, in a home that also housed his father’s medical practice. He graduated from Arlington High School in 1944, and immediately enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps Pilot Training Program, a not-too-surprising decision, since he had been flying since age 16.
Woodward entered North Texas Agricultural College in 1946 and majored in music and drama. When professor Dan Burkholder founded the Jazz Band in 1947, Woodward and Persis Hopkins Forster, owner of Miss Persis School of Dance in Arlington, were the vocalists. Later that same year, Morgan began his professional acting career with the renowned Margo Jones Repertory Theatre in Dallas.
In 1948, Woodward transferred to The University of Texas at Austin. He earned a Bachelor’s of Business Administration degree in 1951, was then recalled to the Air Force and sent to Korea with the Military Air Transport Command.
When he returned from military service, Woodward was cast in Walt Disney’s first full-length, live-action film, “The Great Locomotive Chase.” The film launched his 42-year acting career.
Woodward co-starred with Hugh O’Brian in the Wyatt Earp television series for four years. He holds the record for more guest-starring roles on “Gunsmoke” and “Wagon Train” than any other actor.
Woodward also starred in the MGM TV series “Logan’s Run” (1977-1978) and was a regular guest star in the series “Dallas” (1980-1988), where he portrayed the character “Punk Anderson.”
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