Bethany College students inspired as alumnus wins third Oscar for best actress

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While West Virginia may feel distant from the high fashion and prestigious titles, some big names are showing that country roads are a quicker drive to fame than what we might think.

BROOKE COUNTY, W.Va. (WTRF) — Frances McDormand took home a third Oscar for best leading actress, but that name holds a special place in the hills of West Virginia where one college is proud to have cultivated her dreams.  

When I first came to Bethany, I knew she was an alumni. And when I saw the Oscar nominations and I saw that she was up for it, I watched her current film Nomadland. And she completely deserved it. I was always rooting for her.

Aidan Morgan, Sophomore theater major at Bethany College

Professor Evan Oslund knows people who knew the Oscar winning actress back when she was just a student.

That’s the beauty of the artform, the beauty of the profession. You can go to any art school and still make it big.

Evan Oslund, Professor of Theater at Bethany College

The program was a little larger back in late 1970s. 

“I currently have three theater majors in the program, so a very small department and right now,” said Oslund. “Nine theater minors. We’re actively trying to grow our department.” 

It’s amazing. It definitely gives me hope for the program and for the future of myself as a young actress. She was someone I heard about before I even came to this school.

Yasmeene Henderson, Junior theater major at Bethany College

McDormand’s success inspires students from tiny towns in the Ohio Valley that their dream isn’t too out of reach. 

“I think it definitely gives hope to anybody that comes from somewhere like Pittsburgh, Ohio, or West Virginia or anywhere neighboring and wants to get into acting,” said Henderson.

McDormand has yet to visit her alma mater but wouldn’t that be cool! 

From casting calls to interviews, the character development learned at Bethany is something these students say is a common place with the actress.

Coming from her roots I can see where she got the talent… 

An alumni from Bethany actually won three Oscars, maybe four Oscars, and I’m hoping for it. That’s the dream.

Yasmeene Henderson and Evan Oslund

McDormand needs one more leading actress Oscar to tie the late Katharine Hepburn, who has the most wins with four. 

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