By Lizzie Wilcox
Bill Cosford was just a few credits away from earning his bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami when he accepted a job at The Miami Herald in 1973. Having started as a copy editor, Bill grew to become a respected film critic for the newspaper, as well as a motion pictures professor at UM. At the age of 47, he passed away. Mary Cosford, Bill’s mother, sought a way for her son’s legacy to continue. She made a gift in memory of her late son to the university’s art-house cinema, which later became the Bill Cosford Cinema.
Recently, Mary left a significant portion of her estate to the School of Communication to continue her son’s legacy. The gift will be used to create two new funds for the Semester in Los Angeles Program. The Semester in LA allows top juniors, seniors, and graduate students from the school to gain professional experience and build a professional network through a six-credit internship or series of internships during the spring semester in LA. Students also take unique industry-related courses that are not offered on the Coral Gables campus. Students are immersed in both the LA culture and the film and television industry through this program.
“I’m thrilled that Bill Cosford’s legacy will live on through this bequest by enriching our students’ lives and providing them with unique opportunities for learning,” says Christina Lane, chair of the Department of Cinema and Interactive Media and associate professor in the department. “The Semester in Los Angeles is enormously popular. It’s heartening to know that the two new funds will help to support and grow the program.”
The majority of the bequest will go toward funding the Bill Cosford Director of the Semester in Los Angeles Program. The Cosford Director will run the program and ensure students connect with top industry leaders through guest speakers and trips to major studios in the LA area. Howard McCain ran the program for its two pilot testing years, and Jim Lane, an industry professional with academic experience, will take over the position starting in January 2018.
“I hope to build on the foundation [McCain] created and offer a special opportunity for SoC students to explore the complicated world of the entertainment industry,” said Jim Lane.
He noted the importance of physically being in LA for students who want to work in the film and television industry.
“The entertainment industry, still based in Los Angeles after a century of development, is a fertile field of study for students who are interested in the merging of art, communication, and capital investment – a relationship that offers an almost infinite amount of opportunity,” he said.
The remainder of the Cosford bequest will endow the Semester in Los Angeles Program Student Support Fund, which provides assistance to students with financial need for tuition, fees, housing, and travel.
“This program offers students a bridge from the classroom to the professional world, and a smooth transition from Miami to the West Coast,” said Christina Lane. “It is a stand-out feature of our curriculum. The Student Support Fund helps us ensure that this opportunity remains open to every qualified student.”
Donald Kohler, the co-executor of the estate, delivered the check to the SoC last spring.
“Both my wife and I feel that the idea of [designating] the bequest to the Semester in LA Program would have the approval of both Mary and her son Bill [Cosford],” Kohler said.
The Semester in Los Angeles Program Student Support Fund endowment will provide partial assistance for one or more students to participate in the program annually. Contact Brian Weinblatt, senior director of development for the University of Miami School of Communication, at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on supporting the Semester in Los Angeles Program.