Celebrity School Spotlight: Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks goes from geeky spaz to Hollywood icon

Everybody knows Tom Hanks. Everybody.

He’s one of the world’s favorite actors. His movies have grossed more than $4.2 billion and the Oscars picked him as Best Actor two years in a row. He’s Forrest Gump. He’s Toy Story’s Woody. He got Big. He almost made it to the Moon in Apollo 13. He has saved both Private Ryan and Mr. Banks. And now his latest collaboration with director Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies, is heading to a theater near you.

Everybody knows Tom Hanks. But not everybody knew Tom Hanks in high school.

“I was a geek, a spaz. I was horribly, painfully, terribly shy,” Hanks told Rolling Stone. “At the same time, I was the guy who’d yell out funny captions during filmstrips. But I didn’t get into trouble. I was always a real good kid and pretty responsible.”

Watch: Tom Hanks and James Corden act out Tom’s filmography.


Hanks attended Skyline High School in Oakland, California, and wore the red, white, and black colors of the Skyline Titans. A part of the Oakland Unified School District, the school was founded in 1959.

Skyline has an enrollment of more than 1,800 students in grades 9 through 12, plus adult education programs. Situated in a high income, high population area of Alemeda County, Skyline High School has “Very High” buying power according to MCH Strategic Data’s RPM buying power index. The MCH database of educators includes more than 149 personnel across all disciplines at Skyline High School.

Hanks discovered his love of acting at Skyline. In his Oscar acceptance speech for Philadelphia, the actor credited his high school drama instructor, Mr. Rawley Farnsworth, “who taught me that ‘Act well the part, there all the glory lies.’” Hanks partially funded the 2002 renovation of Skyline’s theater building, which was named for Mr. Farnsworth at Hanks’ request.

At age 18, Hanks definitely wasn’t shy about his Hollywood dreams. In 1974, he wrote a letter to George Roy Hill, the Oscar winning director of The Sting, asking to be discovered:

“Now, right away I know what you are thinking (‘who is this kid?’), and I can understand your apprehensions. I am a nobody. No one outside of Skyline High School has heard of me. … My looks are not stunning. I am not built like a Greek God, and I can’t even grow a mustache, but I figure if people will pay to see certain films … they will pay to see me.

Let’s work out the details of my discovery. We can do it the way Lana Turner was discovered, me sitting on a soda shop stool, you walk in and notice me and — BANGO — I am a star.

Or maybe we can do it this way. I stumble into your office one day and beg for a job. To get rid of me, you give me a stand-in part in your next film. While shooting the film, the star breaks his leg in the dressing room, and, because you are behind schedule already, you arbitrarily place me in his part and — BANGO — I am a star.

All of these plans are fine with me, or we could do it any way you would like, it makes no difference to me! But let’s get one thing straight. Mr. Hill, I do not want to be some bigtime, Hollywood superstar with girls crawling all over me, just a hometown American boy who has hit the big-time, owns a Porsche, and calls Robert Redford ‘Bob’.”

Whatever happened to that Hanks kid, anyway?

Other notable graduates of Skyline High School include actor Maxwell Caulfield, NFL football players Will Blackwell, Theotis Brown, Marvel Smith, Frank Summers, Gerris Wilkinson, NBA basketball players Greg Foster, Gary Payton, Peter Thibeaux, and major league baseball players Marcus Jenson, Brian Johnson, and Bip Roberts.


You can learn more about Skyline High School — and all of America’s schools — using MCH’s Infinite Access, which provides detailed school profiles and contact information for more than 5 million K-12 educators. Infinite Access provides education vendors with superior business intelligence. Find out more at www.mchinfiniteaccess.com or call 1-800-525-5811.