Chowan University alumnus photographer Todd Wright returns to give back to Alma Mater
MURFREESBORO, NC –To watch Todd Wright (Chowan class of 1984) work is to see a man in his element. He moves with ease and precision, carrying himself with a quiet, self-contained confidence. As he leans over the rail of a hydraulic lift raised to ceiling height in the Bynum R. Brown Aquatic Center he is utterly focused on the relentless pursuit of the perfect shot. It’s easy to see how the same fierce determination would have been displayed on the basketball court during his time at Chowan.
A native of Chesapeake, VA, Todd graduated from Great Bridge High School and enrolled at Chowan University in 1982. Continuing the lineage passed down from his father, a multiple All-State Basketball player from Newport News, VA who went on to play for Elon University, Wright played for Coach Burke’s Men’s Basketball team during Chowan’s best athletic years. Famed among Chowan athletics fans for his buzzer shot that sent the Men’s Basketball team into the Final Four of the Junior College National Championship, the shooting guard’s most powerful memories of Chowan are centered around the sport.
Coach Burke put him in the game. Adrenalin pumps as the clock runs down in Hutchinson, Kansas. “The ball ended up in my hands and I launched it,” Wright says. The crowd went wild launching Chowan into the Final Four for the first time in its history.
It’s a huge moment in Chowan history. However, if you ask Todd Wright about the famous buzzer shot, he will smile and humbly admit that he vaguely remembers it and he has never seen it for himself. He has just recently been given a DVD from Coach Burke with a copy of the pivotal moment. He promised to sit down soon with his wife and three children and see it.
Todd has been very busy for the past 20 plus years as a Commercial Photographer in Richmond, VA. He shoots photography and video for both regional and national clients. Todd has stamped his creativity on big name companies like Walmart, The Home Depot, UPS, Mentos, and TV Land. In spite of his talent putting him in high demand, he didn’t hesitate to answer the call of his alma mater in request of a cover shoot for CU Today magazine. In fact, he generously spent the better part of a day, teetering atop a three-story lift to capture the photo displayed on the cover of the fall/winter 2016 edition.
Before directing broadcast television spots and producing tons of still photography, Wright was a business major who didn’t completely know what he wanted to do. He says his family laughed about how many different jobs he had after graduating college. Somewhere in all of his searching he ended up buying a camera.
“I loved visuals and figured I would give photography a shot. It is hard to believe that twenty years later this is what I am doing for a living. I just absolutely love it! I can’t imagine doing anything else. I get to be really creative and it gives me a lot of time to spend with my family when I am able to work from home. It is a busy business, but it’s awesome.”
Growing up, Wright always knew that he wanted to be in a creative field. Whether it was drawing, sculpting, or writing, he found ways to express himself through art while off the court and outside of the classroom. “Those two things, business and art, have melded perfectly for me because the creative end needs the business end to be successful.”
Hard work is what Wright learned as a college athlete. “Coach Burke was rarely happy with a good performance because it wasn’t a great performance and he always knew there was more inside of you that you could give,” comments Wright. “I think running my own business, I have to have that same kind of attitude to never quit and always push to do a little bit better.”
That determination is on full display the day of our cover shoot at the Aquatic Center. Wright’s patience never seemed to wane as he directed members of the Women’s Swim Team to perform various strokes through the water. He took some great shots, but wasn’t satisfied yet. When the student-athletes gamely agree to push half an hour past the initially allotted time, Wright smiled and stepped back on the lift. Returning it to full height he called down, “I just really think we can nail this!”
Since graduating, he has been back to visit the campus a couple of times and believes that Chowan University is a very important part of his past. “One thing that I remember from Chowan that jumps out at me was that it didn’t matter if you knew someone, if you were passing a person on campus, everyone always said hello to each other.”
Wright notes that the physical campus has changed drastically with new buildings and new faces, but the spirit of Chowan University is still the same as it was when he played ball 30 years prior.
“Chowan, being in a small town and a small college, was perfect for me. I had lots of attention from professors; I made great friends. I still keep in touch with my roommate from Freshman year. There are several people that I went to school with 30 years ago that I am still active friends with, so I can’t imagine not having gone to Chowan.”