James Jewell

James Jewell came to Pacific to learn about theater arts and left with a love for stage design. Today, he is considered one fo the best lighting experts in the world, having designed the exterior lights for some of the most well-known landmarks on the West Coast.

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Technical Lighting Opens Doors for a Legacy at Pacific

James Jewell gives back to his alma mater
by Lily PenfoldMar 26, 2012

The Golden Gate Bridge, Hearst Castle, and Tower Bridge in Sacramento all have one thing in common: they all possess the University of the Pacific spirit. James Jewell, a 1951 University of the Pacific graduate, designed the lighting at all three historic landmarks, making them more photogenic and scenic at night, and contributing to Jewell's national reputation in lighting.

Jewell didn't intend to become a lighting expert when he first walked the grounds of Pacific's Stockton campus. Instead, he came to the University for the summer theatrical productions that made it possible for Jewell to go directly from high school to the theater program in the College of the Pacific.

While in the summer program, he discovered the power that great lighting can have on how people perceive objects, later enrolling at Pacific to specialize in theater. After earning his bachelor's degree, Jewell completed his Master of Fine Arts degree at Yale University, where he honed his skills in lighting. 

"Most audience members focus on the actors and the stage and don't realize the impact that the lighting is having on the production," Jewell said. "One of the last additions to a production is the lighting. This final addition can change the perception and impression of a production."  


The Tower Bridge in Sacramento

Watch a video of James Jewell talk about what he learned from his time at Pacific and why he is now giving back to the Universitymore

Studying theater taught him how to take seemingly everyday objects - such as bridges - and transform them into stunning objects of beauty. Jewell's favorite thing about the structures he has worked on is the permanency of what he leaves behind. When you look at the San Francisco skyline, he knows he helped illuminate it. That is his legacy. 

When asked about his estimated $1-million estate gift to create an endowed theater professorship, along with his endowed scholarship and other gifts, Jewell said, "It is all about giving back. I matured at Pacific and my interest in technical theater matured from an avocation to a career path.  I don't know whose endowments helped support my time at Pacific, but I want to give back for today's students.  If my endowed scholarship helps a student study technical theater, and then choose it as a profession, that would give me great pleasure."

 His new gift will contain about $50,000 for the Theatre Arts Department for students to study stage lighting, or another closely related field. In addition to the scholarship fund, Jewell is donating his collection of fiction and non-fiction books to the William Knox-Holt Memorial Library.

"In many situations a student's parents can't pay for their whole education, but with endowments and scholarships, one is able to afford their education," said Jewell. "By giving these gifts, I am leaving behind something to help create the next legendary lighting technician or performer."

For more information on giving to Pacific visit http://www.pacific.edu/About-Pacific/AdministrationOffices/University-Development.html.