By Mark Ambrogi
George Cornelius IV was passionate about his filmmaking.
So Vickie Cornelius Phipps is convinced her late son would be pleased that a $2,500 filmmaking scholarship will be given to a Carmel High School senior. Cornelius graduated from CHS in 2001 and went on to graduate from the University of Southern California in 2006.
Cornelius has surpassed all expectations on his life expectancy. Most of those born with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disorder affecting the part of the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement, die in their first two years, but he lived until he was 32. He died in August.
Phipps said donations were collected at Cornelius’ funeral and through a Facebook page. The Carmel Educational Foundation will accept donations in his name for the scholarship. Phipps said she hopes it will be an annual scholarship.
Cornelius’ Gimped Productions made thrillers and comedies, Phipps said. Cornelius lived in Los Angeles after college until moving to Fishers in 2014 to be closer to his family.
“He wrote several long feature films but didn’t live long enough to produce them,” Phipps said. “He had one movie that Netflix wants to start into a series. It’s called ‘Under Duress.’ But it isn’t finalized yet.”
Phipps said her son encouraged many others.
“A lot of people saw his accomplishments and thought, ‘well, I have no excuse,’” she said. “He brought a lot of great people into his life.”
Phipps said many at CHS helped Cornelius use his creativity. One of them was theater teacher Jim Peterson, who has been teaching the International Baccalaureate film classes at CHS since the fall of 2007.
“The program has grown tremendously since its beginning with five full sections being taught. Having this scholarship will mean a lot to these students who are ambitious about film,” Peterson said.
Peterson said Cornelius mainly worked behind the scenes in the technical elements of the plays at CHS.
“He would make announcements to play over our in-house television system that would advertise various productions, which may have fueled his passion for film or at least gave it an outlet,” Peterson said.
Cornelius also directed a short, one-act play as part of the high school program Studio One-Acts.
“It was called ‘Take 5,’ and I remember it being technically complex for a short play,” Peterson said. “One of the walls of the set had to fall down as part of the production. It was a hilarious play, and it was because of George that it was so successful. He had a great sense of humor and timing. He also had a bit of a perfectionist streak that served him well as a director.”
The deadline to apply for the foundation scholarship is March 11. To apply for www1.ccs.k12.in.us/foundation/home.