Dr. Katherine Stenholm, 98, director and academic head of Bob Jones University’s Unusual Films since its founding in 1950 until her partial retirement in 1986, passed away last night in Greenville.
Once hailed as the “godmother of religious films,” Stenholm directed 72 films including six feature length films, as well as sermon films, travelogues, documentaries, sacred musical productions, promotional films and educational films during her 36 years at the helm of Unusual Films.
During an era where Hollywood produced few influential women, Unusual Films’ Stenholm ascended as possibly the most influential female filmmaker of the mid-twentieth century. For years, Stenholm was the only woman director who held a membership in the University Film Producers Association (UFPA) and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE).
At one time, the cinematic training at Bob Jones University under Stenholm’s leadership was ranked the third top academic program, surpassed only by the University of California in Los Angeles and University of Southern California.
The National Evangelical Film Foundation named Stenholm Director of the Year in 1953, 1955 and 1963; and her favorite film, “Sheffey,” received a Silver Medallion award from the International Film and Television Festival of New York.
Stenholm’s first feature film, “Wine of Morning,” based on a novel by Bob Jones, Jr., received its most prestigious honor in 1958 when the film was selected to represent the United States at the International Film Festival in Cannes, France. The University Film Producers Association, an organization that represented 76 of the top American filmmaking universities, elected to include “Wine of Morning.” This association also selected Stenholm to provide the keynote address on filmmaking in a university setting. In addition to the Cannes festival, Stenholm and “Wine of Morning” were also chosen to take part in the “Fifth International Meeting of Motion-Picture and Television Schools organized by the L’Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques ” in Paris.
Stenholm is survived by a son, Gilbert Stenholm Jr. of Burr Ridge, Illinois, as well as two grandsons and a great granddaughter.
Funeral arrangements will be announced at a later time.