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Film critic inaugurates Lowell Thomas screening room

By Shawna Gillen
On November 13, 2012

  • Drink away your life's Hitchcock moments. klausthebest/FLICKR

Marist College hosted former N.Y. Daily News film critic Kathleen Carroll on Monday, Nov. 12 as the first presentation in the brand new screening room on the ground floor of the Lowell Thomas building. Carroll shared her experiences with prominent journalist and family friend Lowell Thomas. Carroll exchanged childhood memories and provided much insight into the man who has left a profound mark on Marist.

There were two presentations held Monday in the new screening room. First was a presentation including Carroll's memories of her relationship with Thomas, followed by a film screening of one of Thomas' documentaries. Later Monday evening, Carroll dedicated her second presentation to her extraordinary career as a film critic.
The presentation began with an introduction led by Professor Jeffrey Bass, who is a senior professional lecturer in media arts at Marist. Last year, Bass organized a trip to "Sleepless in Lake Placid," a student filmmaking competition, and brought along some of his students. It was then that Bass met Carroll and discovered her relationship with Thomas and her impressive career. 
Carroll is a native of Lake Placid, N.Y., and her father was the facility director of one of the ski resorts, the Lake Placid Club. It just so happened that Thomas was an avid skier, and would arrange to conduct his radio broadcasts when he would travel in the winter season to ski. Thomas contacted Carroll's father to get his permission to broadcast at their club, and the two became lifelong friends ever since.
"They both liked each other instantly," she said. "My father was a camera buff...and shot movies as well. My dad wrote a lot of articles about skiing and was an expert, and that really endeared him to Lowell." 
Carroll went on to present several letters exchanged back and forth between her father and Thomas. Throughout the years, Thomas would keep the Carroll family updated on his many accomplishments and endeavors.
"Their letters are important because they reveal what a truly warm-hearted, engaging and surprisingly unassuming man Lowell really was, considering the incredible life he led," she said. "He had genius for backing into the limelight."
Carroll also enlightened the audience on Thomas's love of travel. Carroll explained that Thomas was a man of the "jet age phenomena" and traveled the world several times. In his travels, he went on to achieve one of the greatest accomplishments of his career. Thomas documented the work of T.E. Lawrence, a British army officer in the first World War, who encouraged Palestinians to revolt against the Turks. Thomas' work went on to inspire the 1962 film "Lawrence of Arabia."

The second portion of the presentation was a showing of one of Carroll's favorite films produced by Thomas, entitled "High Adventure with Lowell Thomas." Thomas, along with his son Lowell Jr., or "Sunny," document their journey through the Himalayan Mountains in hopes of entering Tibet. Thomas was fascinated with Buddhism and its culture and was on a quest to meet the Dalai Lama. Thomas was one of the first westerners to visit Tibet. He documents the struggle for Buddhism to thrive in the face of Chinese control and communist influences. In the film, Thomas begins to understand why he was granted permission to conduct his assignment. The documentary allowed the people of Tibet to inform the western world about the overarching Chinese superpower.

This film gave a considerable amount of insight into the life and career of Lowell Thomas. His efforts in Tibet illustrate his dedication to world exploration and the importance of the media. Kathleen Carroll provided invaluable information into one of the pioneers of broadcast journalism. The presentation gave a face to the name that has become a prominent figure at Marist College.

Carroll's closing remarks encompass Lowell Thomas's influential contribution to the Marist community.

"I wanted to give you a glancing impression of what a really extraordinary man he was, and I think you are very lucky to be in this institution which has his name on it. He is a great role model."

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