The Amos-Franco Scholarship
Tom Amos set off on a journey to not only educate Westfield State, but to give back to the institution that had given him so much. After giving a voice or telling the stories of the LGBT community, directing 3 of the most significant performances, to hit the stage at Westfield, Tom created a scholarship fund for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) students who were either disowned by their families and in need of financial support to continue their education or students who exemplified the same will and determination that he once did to educate students and celebrate diversity at WSU.
Along the way, Tom had the tremendous pleasure of working with one of the most dedicated and talented students to ever cross his path at Westfield State. James Franco, a freshman at the time, auditioned and was cast in Bent, one of the productions contributing to the scholarship fund. In December of that year, James was in a devastating car accident that cost him his life.
Our hope is that James’ passion will live on through this scholarship and give LGBT students currently at WSU, the opportunity to continue their education.Receiving a bachelor of arts in liberal studies at Westfield State in 2005 set a trajectory for Tom Amos that has him focused on producing social justice theater.
A Revere native, Amos’ passion was realized while directing theater productions such as The Laramie Project, Quilt and Bent while he was an undergraduate. “I am interested in giving people a voice that otherwise may not be heard,” he says. Moreover, the profits from those performances were given to Westfield State to establish a scholarship fund that would support social justice.
Named the Amos/Franco Scholarship, the fund provides dollars for an annual scholarship to a student who furthers awareness of or education about LGBT issues, whether the student is gay or straight.
The scholarship is in memory of James Franco who was a sophomore at Westfield State College before his untimely death where he studied art, music, theatre and majored in fine arts. Some of his art work was locally exhibited in the area and he co-starred in the spring theatre productions at Westfield State. He was a classmate and cast member of the campus theatre production of Bent, a 1979 play by Martin Sherman. It revolves around the persecution of gays in Nazi Germany, and takes place during and after the Night of the Long Knives
“Theater has always been a passion of mine,” Amos says. Following graduation, Amos joined the North Shore Music Theatre and was soon promoted to assistant company manager. After a stint there, Amos worked at the New England Institute of Art and Tufts, and he is now at Boston University. At BU, he is employed as well as enrolled in the Arts Administration graduate program and will earn a master’s degree in May.
As an alumnus, Amos has presented cabaret-style fundraising events for Westfield State, to continue to fund the Franco/Amos Scholarship. Amos brought stars from Broadway—like Dashaun Young, who played Simba in the Lion King—to a Boston venue, where Westfield State students could perform with the professionals.
As a BU graduate student, Amos is currently enrolled in a course about cultural entrepreneurship. His project is focused on developing a sustainable social justice theater program for Westfield State to adopt, in order to continue to fund the scholarship.
Amos says, “My time at Westfield State was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I grew academically, personally and professionally and have made some of the best friends I could have ever asked for. I also gained role models, mentors and colleagues who, to this day, continue to support me and share in my passion for higher education, social justice and theater.”
Amos says his first directing class with Jack Shea made him realize that he truly loved theater, and Vanessa Diana’s “Women’s Ghost Stories” helped him focus on giving under-represented women a voice.
Amos says these two classes reinforced his desire to concentrate on producing social justice theater.