Atlanta – More than 80 top scholars from the Atlanta Metro area attended a Florida A&M University (FAMU) reception Wednesday hosted by alumni and film producer Will Packer and director Rob Hardy and Nina Packer.
Packer and Hardy along with fellow alumni and Mayors Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta and Deana Holiday Ingraham, of East Point, Ga., shared their journey to FAMU at The Gathering Spot.
The audience included National Merit Semifinalists and parents, who were engaged as Packer and Hardy stood side by side on stage and explained they were initially accepted to Ivy League universities but decided to accept scholarships to FAMU. Although both earned engineering degrees, after graduation, they headed to Atlanta and started Rainforest Films, which produced movies such as “Stomp the Yard,” and “Takers.”
Today, they lead their own companies. Hardy is directing television series such as “Empire” and “Power” and Packer produces blockbusters that include “Girls Trip” and “Ride Along” starring Kevin Hart.
Their moviemaking started in 1994 at FAMU where they produced and directed their first film “Chocolate City” with the financial backing of the Student Government Association and University leadership.
“The school backed us,” said Packer. “We went to our Student Senate and they gave us financial support. We went to our president and Dr. Vivian Hobbs and they created a cinema club and they gave us support.”
Hardy praised Packer for hiring some of Hollywood’s leading African-American actors such as Hart, Gabrielle Union, Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson.
“What’s so amazing about that is he always comes back and employs people that look like us and go to our school, and that was instilled in us when we went to FAMU,” said Hardy.
Packer told parents the college choice is a serious decision, but the love and support of the FAMU network is special and global. Packer, Hardy and alumni refer to it as “the FAMU Mafia.”
“We feel like we went to the Florida A&M University,” said Hardy. “Now you’ve got one opportunity to do this. You can go to Florida A&M University and be whoever you want to be. You can be international, tech, you can be quirky, you can be smart. You can be hood-like. You can be everything under the stars and nobody is going to bother you for being who you are. It’s an amazing opportunity for you to do that.”
The event preceded FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D.’s, fall President’s Tour in Macon and East Point, Ga. this week. University leaders, students, and faculty and staff from the University’s schools and colleges as well as the FAMU Connection, a theatrical touring company, are greeting hundreds of students during recruitment events in Atlanta, Macon and East Point, Georgia.
“Everything about the reception was phenomenal,” said President Robinson. He said it’s fortunate to have the support of Will and Nina Packer, Hardy and Mayors Bottom and Ingraham along with the National Alumni Association leaders.
“These distinguished alumni not only took time to support these outstanding students, they have returned to campus recently to inspire current students,” Robinson added. “This is what we expect of Rattlers, and we appreciate their dedication.”
After the event, students and parents talked one-on-one with the hosts, mayors and University recruiters and administrators.
“It was amazing to be able to attract this type of star power to sponsor an event for the best and brightest students in Atlanta and the surrounding area,” said William Hudson, Jr., Ph.D., FAMU’s vice president of Student Affairs. “The fact that they all stayed afterward to talk to students and take photos, shows the love and dedication that they have for Florida A&M University.”
Ashleigh Roach is a junior and Miss Fayette County High School. She attended the event at the invitation of her principal and left convinced that FAMU is the school for her.
“I’m in love with FAMU,” said Roach. “I already had a friend who graduated (from FAMU) who loved it there. Hearing how you all love and support and uplift each other, it’s really the school for me. I love the energy here.”