On the night of the theater dedication, after a screening of the classic film Orphaanso of the Storm, Lillian Gish accepted the honor of dedication for herself and on behalf of her sister Dorothy, who died in 1968. On the following day at Bowling Green State University's spring commencement, Lillian Gish was awarded the honorary degree Doctor of Prforming Arts. The naming of the theater coincided with the establishment of a Film Studies Program in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Later, in 1979, Lillian Gish endowed the "Dorothy and Lillian Gish Scholarship" to be awarded annually to an outstanding student in Film Studies. Thus the theater plays an integral role in the Film Studies Program and in the promotion of film as an art.
On October 9, 1982, the University dedicated a collection of photographs in homor of Lillian Gish and in Memory of Dorothy Gish and their mother, Mary McConnell Gish. The photographs originally had been exhibited in t1980 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York Cita as part of a retrospective on the career of Lillian Gish. More than 25 films are represented in this collection.
The dedication of these photographs completed the first phase in the renovation and refurbishing of the Gish Film Theater and Gallery. Included in this first phase were a new marquee and foyer for the theater, a new projection booth and a gallery where the photographs are displayed.
On Lillian Gish's birthday on October 14, 1990, the theater was rededicated following further extensive renovations which included remodeling of the stage, enhancements to the projection area, a new gallery and lighting on the marquee. The floor and wall coverings were replaces and 168 new seats were installed. These plush red chairs each bear a name plate recognizing Lillian Gish's friends and admirers who made major contributions to the theater. The contributions created an endowment which brings films and speakers to the theater on a regular basis.
Through the endowment, Dr. Ralph Wolfe, who conceived the idea of the Gish Film Theater and has directed its improvements in his role as curator, was also named Gish Professor of Film Studies.
Bowling Green State University is comitted to making this theater an historical landmark since it is the only one named for the famous pioneer film ctresses Dorothy and Lillian Gish.
Lillian Gish has said that "Film is the most important thing that has been invented in this century." The Gish Film Theater is an appropriate monument to that achievement and to the lives and artistry of Dorothy and Lillian Gish who began their film careers under the great director D.W. Griffith. The film careers of these three persons span almost the entire 20th century.