Jada Pinkett Smith has donated $1 million to her high school alma mater, the Baltimore School for the Arts, asking that its new theater be dedicated to classmate Tupac Shakur, who was shot and killed in 1996.
“It means a lot when you’re a teacher and your most famous alumnus comes back to give a donation,” said Donald Hicken, head of the school’s theater department since its founding in 1980 and Pinkett Smith’s former theater teacher. “It really says a lot to the community that the school matters in people’s lives.”
The donation from the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation, which is based in Baltimore, will be used for renovation and expansion. The school, which announced the donation Monday, said it will name its new theater for Pinkett Smith.
Pinkett Smith, 35, is married to Will Smith, who stars in the new movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” with their 8-year-old son, Jaden.
The couple had previously given $112,500 to the school.
When a $30 million expansion program is finished in the fall of 2007, the school will increase its enrollment from 316 to 375 students.
Karen Banfield Evans, executive director of the Smith Family Foundation, and Pinkett Smith’s aunt, said the actress was moved by the school’s advances since she graduated.
Pinkett Smith wanted the theater named for Shakur because of the friendship they developed at the school. The rapper died after a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas.
The actress has appeared in movies such as “Ali,” which starred her husband, and “Collateral,” and she was the voice of the hippo Gloria in the 2005 animated film “Madagascar.”
“The Pursuit of Happyness,” a Sony Pictures release, opens in theaters Friday.