Catherine Ryan Hyde, nationally-renowned author of Pay It Forward will visit Owens Community College on Thursday, April 11 to highlight Literacy Week events which are based on the book's theme 'to change the world, one person at a time'.
Her appearance, which is open to the public, is from 5-7 p.m. in the Library on the Owens Toledo-area Campus, which is on Oregon Road located four miles from downtown Toledo. Hyde will read from her new novel Walter's Purple Heart and Pay It Forward discussing and answering questions about both books, and concluding the visit with a book signing.
"Owens Community College is honored to have such a nationally-recognized author visiting our campus," said Elizabeth Schroeder, Owens Arts and Sciences Instructor and Chair of the Literacy Committee. "Catherine Ryan Hyde's Pay It Forward book mirrors the Owens Literacy Committee's mission of improving the quality of lives of students and members of the College's community through acts of kindness and generosity.
"Her literary works have touched the lives of many through the inspirational message of personal growth. Our committee wants to pass along the excitement that comes with the joy of reading a good book," said Schroeder.
Hyde's Pay It Forward novel, which was spurred from her being the recipient of a good deed, was later turned into a movie starring Academy Award winners Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt. During her visit, she will comment how a personal encounter with two Good Samaritans 20 years ago evolved into a book of fiction, and then into a social movement.
More than 20 years ago, according to Hyde, her well-traveled car died as she braked at the end of a freeway off-ramp in downtown Los Angeles. When the car started to fill with smoke, she bailed out and saw two men, one carrying a blanket, sprinting toward her. The blanket-carrier popped the hood and smothered the flames starting to engulf the engine.
"The car could have exploded, killing all of us," Hyde recounted. "The two men saved my car, saved my livelihood, and possibly saved me, all the time putting their lives at risk for a stranger. Once the emergency was over, I looked to thank them, but they were gone." Hyde decided that, because she couldn't repay her two saviors directly, she would return the favor to a person who needed help as much as she did the night her car engine almost exploded.
Hyde's opportunity came the night she spotted a woman on the roadside by a disabled car. All that was required was a well-placed cut by her utility knife stored in the glove compartment on a radiator hose to remove the split end and a reclamping. On the drive to get some water for the radiator, Hyde learned that the woman had been fleeing from a threatening situation and she was amazed a stranger had cared enough to stop.
"She kept asking how she could repay me," Hyde said, "offering money. I wanted to hold on to the idea that I could send one more person into the world owing a favor to a stranger. 'Don't pay it back to me,' I said. ŚPay it forward to someone else.' Then I spent the next 20 years wondering what kind of a world it would be if an idea like that caught fire."
Her novel, Pay It Forward, sparked a movie version, a foundation whose mission is for such a concept to catch fire and a web site full of stories about one person taking the time to help out somebody else.
The book's main adult characters, portrayed by Hunt (a mother with a drinking problem) and Spacey (a teacher in junior high), are both flawed and carry some personal baggage because of sour experiences in life. The feel-good element is provided by Hunt's 11-year-old son who is in Spacey's social-studies class.
For extra credit, the teacher challenges his students to "think of an idea for world change, and put it into action." The 11 year old, in his own version of a chain letter or pyramid scheme, opts to help three people, who in turn would help three people, and so the Pay It Forward movement grows exponentially.
Since the book's publishing in February 2000 and the subsequent release of the Warner Brothers movie version, Hyde's Pay It Forward Foundation has advanced the 11-year-old boy's plan. It was established "to educate and inspire young students to realize that they can change the world," and it "provides them with opportunities to do so" by bringing Hyde's vision and related educational materials into classrooms across the country. The quest is for the students to formulate their own ideas on how they can Pay It Forward.
"I didn't write the novel expecting a social movement," Hyde said, "but it's certainly been exciting to watch it grow."
Hyde, who also writes short stories that have been nominated for prestigious awards, produced three other novels ‹Funerals for Horses, Electric God and Walter's Purple Heart. The latter two are in the process of being adapted to the screen. In addition to being a full-time writer, Hyde teaches fiction writing from her home in central California.
Among other activities during Literacy Week, which are sponsored by the
College's Arts and Sciences Literacy Committee, are:
For more information on any Literacy Week activities, call 1-800-GO-OWENS, Ext. 7473 or (567) 661-7473.
Owens Community College is the fastest-growing community college of its size in the nation. On the Toledo-area and Findlay campuses, Owens serves more than 36,000 credit and non-credit students. Owens is committed to providing small classes, personal attention and the lowest tuition in Northwest Ohio. Owens Community College offers over 100 career-oriented programs and majors in Agriculture, Business, Health, Public Service, Skilled Trades, Industrial and Engineering Technologies. Owens students also can earn the first two years of a bachelor's degree with a smooth transfer to any area four-year college or university.
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