ROANOKE, Va. (AP) — Roanoke College is getting animated.
Joe Boucher, a former producer for “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill,” is bringing his creative talent back to his alma mater in his new role as director of student activities andcampus center.
The alumnus, who graduated in 1987, left his Los Angeles lifestyle to return to a place that he said has always felt like home — even though he grew up in New York.
He is among Roanoke College’s 16 new professional staff members, who will join 16 new professors for the fall semester that launches Aug. 29 with students’ arrival in Salem. He’s so new he hasn’t had time to hang anything on the walls of his office yet.
“It was time for a change,” Boucher said. “For me, I was kind of burned out on entertainment.”
The former producer and writer used to spend about three to four hours a day in his car battling LA traffic. Now, he and his two children are settling in Salem, and live about eight houses away from the college.
Boucher (pronounced boo-shay) will be the director of the college’s Colket Center and will mostly help student organizations conduct events on campus.
While his job is to help facilitate what students want to do, he also has some ideas of his own. He’s thinking about having bigger events that entice more students to become involved, and as a music buff, he’s hoping to bring local artists to campus.
“When I was a student here, I was really involved,” Boucher said. “I found that I really grew up a lot here and I think it was my experience outside the classroom that was just as valuable as inside the classroom.”
In between business classes at Roanoke College decades ago, Boucher was a tour guide, lacrosse team captain, Interfraternity Council president and a resident adviser.
Post-college, he headed to Hollywood and worked his way up from delivering mail to 20th Century Fox executives to working in production and then becoming a top producer for two hit animated shows.
His departure from Hollywood was surprising to those who didn’t know him well.
“People don’t believe it,” Boucher said. “They’re like, ‘How do you go from doing that to doing that?’ How do you go from going to Roanoke College to delivering Rupert Murdoch his mail and then producing ‘The Simpsons?’ You make a choice and it keeps life interesting.”
Boucher’s hiring by Aaron Fetrow, the college’s vice president of student affairs and dean of students, turned some heads locally and in higher education. Fetrow wasn’t looking for a traditional candidate with multiple degrees and a background in education.
“This is not cancer surgery where you have to be very specifically trained,” Fetrow said. “He needed to be trained as creative and he needs to get along with people and he needs to be open to new ideas and be fun and engaging. Boy, he’s incredibly adept at all of those facets.”
There was a nationwide search and about 50 candidates applied. Boucher was one of four finalists, and Fetrow and some other Roanoke College officials were caught off guard by his interest.
In California, Boucher had been coaching lacrosse and helping with some after-school programs while working on teaching certificates when he wasn’t writing and pitching TV pilots.
But, it was after he came back to Roanoke College in the spring to teach screenwriting workshops that he expressed interest in returning permanently.
“When I talked to him, I just got this real sense that he might turn that whole department on its head and really be outside the box,” Fetrow said. “If you’re going to be outside the box, I think the one area you can do that at a college is in student activities.”
Boucher is also hoping his new capacity will give him a chance to encourage burgeoning screenwriters on campus, said Andrew Miller, president of the Screenwriters Guild of Roanoke College. A college senior, Miller helped start the screenwriting club in the spring, around the time he first met Boucher.
The college is also implementing a “screen studies” concentration this fall. The set of courses across multiple disciplines has been several years in the making and Boucher gave suggestions on the program in the spring, said concentration coordinator Wendy Larson-Harris.
Once Boucher gets settled in his role at the Colket Center, campus film professors will be looking to him more for help, Larson-Harris said.
“(Boucher) has made it clear that he’s there to help the students and he’s hoping to help students interested in screenwriting,” Miller said. “With his experience, maybe he can make Roanoke College more of a college for screenwriting.”
Information from: The Roanoke Times, http://www.roanoke.com
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