Skip to main content
Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI alumnus donates $100,000 to new film media degree program

Media Contact:

KINGSTON, R.I. -- August 9, 2005--Shortly after graduating from the University of Rhode Island in 1979, Fred Joyal moved to Los Angeles where he took screen writing courses and dabbled in advertising, eventually starting a highly successful dentist referral business based on a catchy and almost impossible to forget telephone number, 1-800-DENTIST.

But he has never forgotten his alma mater. The alumnus has a tandem interest in film and advertising. He wrote four screenplays and produced the film, Gentleman Bandit, and writes, directs, and stars in 15 to 20 national television commercials that promote1-800-DENTIST.

Joyal initiated and continues to support an annual film festival, “Visualizations.” For the past seven years URI students have competed for cash prizes in film and video.

But Joyal’s generosity doesn’t stop there. He has just established a $100,000 endowment for URI’s new film media studies program.

“I always considered URI a great school,” the donor says. “When the University established a film program, I wanted to “jumpstart” it with this gift.”

Interest from the endowment will provide annual prize(s) to undergraduate students who show promise as filmmakers or scriptwriters. Preference will be given to students majoring or minoring in film media studies and then any student in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Nowadays film plays a variety of roles. Expanding technologies involved in the production of moving images include but extend well beyond the silver screen. Indeed, cinematic practices are incorporated into television, video games, computer imagery, E-commerce and even cell phones.

The rapid development of new media as well as the expanding global role of film has resulted in an ever-growing demand for individuals fluent in film technologies and related industries.

URI is offering a new bachelor’s degree in film media this fall to prepare students for careers in film and video production, film and media criticism, the production aspects of advertising, or for careers as independent artists. It also will provide graduates with a foundation for careers in computer animation for arts, sciences, and business applications, interactive media, and virtual reality.

The new degree will be good news to URI students. Enrollment has doubled in four years, from 245 to nearly 500 students a semester.

The study of film media is not new to URI. In 1975, a film studies program was established. As the program expanded, an interdisciplinary film studies minor was initiated in 1993. Technology expanded and interest soared so that today “film studies” has morphed into “film media” and courses are offered by 10 different URI departments in the College of Arts and Sciences and by 15 individuals who teach one or more sections of these courses.

Winnie Brownell, dean of URI’s College of Arts and Sciences, said: “We are delighted to celebrate both the launch of the new major in Film Media and the endowment established by Fred Joyal. We appreciate that Fred Joyal has generously provided sustained support for our URI film festival “Visualizations” and has remained a strong advocate for our program in film media. As a CEO who uses moving images in marketing, he appreciates the need to prepare students for a variety of careers that involve film media. We are very pleased that we have already had a number of inquiries from prospective students who wish to enroll in the program this fall.”