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STARDUST MEMORIES

She was just seventeen when she saw him standing there.

Wearing a bright orange jumpsuit and black wrap-around glasses, Gary Winick, A84, noticed Hilary Edson Polk, J84, too. Freshman orientation had forced all the newcomers onto the academic quad on that hot August day. Winick took one look at Edson Polk in her tennis skirt, nudged his friend Niels Mueller, A83, and said, “See that girl over there? She’s my girlfriend, but we’re not on speaking terms yet.”

It took weeks for Winick to work up the nerve to ask her out. He took her to Harvard Square to see her first Woody Allen movie, and the two would continue to quote Broadway Danny Rose to one another for decades. “Woody was his idol,” Edson Polk says. “To say that Gary loved movies doesn’t do him justice.”

Jumbo Brat Pack

On the Hill, Winick was given the time and facilities to fuel his passion. He spent much of his undergraduate years producing shows and short films in which he directed his friends, the Hollywood-bound Jumbo pack of the early eighties: actors Oliver Platt, A83, and Hank Azaria, A85, as well as director and screenwriter Mueller.

After Tufts, Winick earned master’s degrees from the University of Texas at Austin and the AFI Conservatory, run by the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. In 1999, he founded InDigEnt (Independent Digital Entertainment), one of the first digital video companies in the world. He believed smaller digital video cameras created a more intimate film set and, in turn, inspired more emotional and authentic work. His first film under InDigEnt, Tadpole (2002), cost only $150,000 to make, won him the Sundance Film Festival’s best director prize, and was acquired by Miramax for $5 million.

His career on the rise, Winick directed 13 Going on 30 (2004), a sweet time-travel tale starring Jennifer Garner. “Sweetness was the word for his films,” Edson Polk says. “Being from New York, he was a little jaded, yet always wistful and nostalgic for the innocent point of view and the tender, happy endings.” Those qualities are evident in much of his work, like Charlotte’s Web (2006), Bride Wars (2009), and his final film, Letters to Juliet (2010), in which the actresses Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave search for Redgrave’s long-lost childhood love.

Irreplaceable

Though Winick and his girlfriend broke up senior year when Edson Polk left Tufts to star on General Hospital, they never lost touch. He made a film for her fortieth birthday, a spoof of Broadway Danny Rose, and cast her daughters in Juliet. “He was busy, but he always made time for friends,” she says. “Those old friendships end up being so precious because they’re something you can’t replace.”

In 2011, Winick died of pneumonia after a long battle with brain cancer. He was surrounded by a tight-knit Tufts family. His father, Alan Winick, A53, A84P, says, “He touched a lot of peoples’ lives—and whoever he touched, stuck.” Everyone who spoke at Winick’s funeral claimed to be his closest friend, says his father, “because that’s how Gary made you feel.”

Edson Polk observed his way with people, too. “He was extremely generous in every way, always the first one to grab the check,” she says. “He was funny, too, and a great dancer. But beyond that, he had a great ability to bare his soul. When you were with him, you not only understood more about him, he also helped you understand more about who you were.”

How a Legacy Endures

To honor Winick, Edson Polk gave $100,000 to Tufts through its Financial Aid Initiative to create the Gary S. Winick Endowed Scholarship Fund. Tufts matched the donation dollar for dollar, doubling the impact of the gift, which supports undergraduates with an interest in film studies. Says Edson Polk, “Gary would have been so happy to know that someone pursuing their passion for film is being helped because of him.”

Amir Mosallaie, A14, has a passion for directing and producing shorts that use live action and animation. With the aid of the Winick Scholarship, he is following his ambition while also getting a well-rounded liberal arts education. After the 2008 economic collapse, Mosallaie says, “I found my college plans unexpectedly restricted by a factor that I had, as a naïve kid, never really had to worry about— money.” Without financial aid, he might never have attended Tufts.

“This award feels very personal,” Mosallaie says. “I share Mr. Winick’s enduring love for movies, I’ve delighted in his impressive filmography, and I’m sure our experiences at Tufts share more than a few similarities. I’m honored to have been granted this scholarship under his name.”