Nicholas Cominos Fund

Oct 13, 2009 | Excellence Funds & Program Support

The Nicholas Cominos Fund was established by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System on October 13, 2009, to benefit The University of Texas College of Communication. The endowment honors Mr. Nicholas Cominos. Gift funds were provided by Mrs. Joan Cominos, Troublemaker Studios, and various donors. Nicholas Cominos, after retiring as a filmmaker, taught for 20 years in the Radio-Television-Film Department of the UT Austin School of Communication.

Cominos was born in 1923 on the island of Kythera, Greece. His family immigrated to the United States and settled in the Central Valley of California, where they began a hotel business in the 1930s which included the famous Cominos Hotel in Salinas.

Cominos was a war hero before he became a filmmaker. As the US entered World War II, he joined the Army and became part of the newly formed Office of Strategic Services (OSS), later known as the CIA. He attained the rank of sergeant and helped lead a covert operation against the Nazis in the Dalmatian Islands in the Adriatic Sea. The operation resulted in the recapture of the Nazi-occupied island of Solta for the Allies.

During this battle, Cominos was wounded by enemy gunfire, for which he was awarded a Purple Heart. After recuperating, he returned to Greece, where he parachuted behind enemy lines and conducted undercover reconnaissance missions to disrupt the German occupation. The Nazis ultimately retreated from Greece in November 1944. For his many acts of bravery and sacrifice, Cominos was awarded the Bronze Star by US Representative George Miller in a special ceremony in December 2001.

The presentation of this award was delayed for more than 50 years because OSS records remained classified until 1988. Following the war, Cominos completed his schooling and obtained a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of California at Berkeley in 1953. He then enrolled in graduate courses at UCLA, where he met his future wife, Joan, a student there at the time. The two married in 1954. They settled in Southern California where Cominos enjoyed a long and varied career in the motion picture industry.

Cominos behind the camera.

Focusing primarily on documentary filmmaking, Cominos traveled the globe and explored many different lands and cultures. During one such campaign, he was kidnapped and held for two weeks by Eritrean rebels in the mountains of Ethiopia, but was later released after befriending his captors and actually helping nurse to health a young Eritrean child who had been burned in a fire. Cominos worked on his documentary films not only as writer and producer, but also as director. Some of his most popular films include Strange Creatures of the Night, Here Comes Tomorrow: The Fear Fighters, On the Trail of Stanley and Livingstone, the television movie The World of Peggy Lee, and the National Geographic Special, Wind Raiders of the Sahara.

Cominos on set with students.

After retiring from filmmaking in 1981, Cominos took the position with UT. During his time in the RTF Department, his students included Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriguez, and the Coen brothers, all of whom would go on to achieve great cinematic success. Cominos permanently retired and moved to Northern California in 2001 to be near his children and grandchildren. He and Joan were married for 53 years, with two children, Dion and Eve, and four grandchildren. Nicholas Cominos passed away in 2008.
Texas 4000 documentary 

Jeehyun Dong,  a documentary filmmaker studying in the College of Communication’s Radio, Television, and Film department was awarded the first scholarship out of the Nicholas Cominos Fund. His documentary film Texas 4000 follows the journey of 44 bicycle riders who were motivated by loved ones affected by cancer. The riders set out on the world’s longest charity bike ride from Texas to Alaska.

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