College of Communication and Fine Arts
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CCFA History

The College of Communication and Fine Arts (CCFA) was established in 1977. Dr. Richard R. Ranta became the founding Dean of the College, which then consisted of the departments of Art, Journalism, Music, and Speech and Drama.

In 1979, CCFA brought a radio station to the U of M, when WSMS-FM 92, became part of the College. The station is now known as The Jazz Lover WUMR-FM 92, a 25,000 watt powerhouse broadcasting beyond the Memphis city limits and streaming online.

Also in 1979, CCFA celebrated the memory of Elvis Presley during its first annual Distinguished Achievement Award for the Creative and Performing Arts. The award has honored outstanding Mid-South artists such as Sam Phillips, B.B. King, Cybill Shepherd Bobby Blue Bland, Booker T, Carroll Cloar, The MG’s, and most recently Willy Bearden.

In 1979, The Newspaper Research Journal (NRJ), brainchild of professor Gerald Stone was established at the University of Memphis, with Stone as its editor until 1988. In 2000 faculty of the Department of Journalism took over the Journal's editorship and brought it back to Memphis.

The Daily Helmsman, which began as a protest newspaper in 1931 called The Tiger Rag, has been published by University of Memphis students continuously since then. Even during World War II when paper and other resources were scarce, the newspaper published as a newsletter posted on bulletin boards around campus. The name of the newspaper was changed to The Helmsman in 1972, and became The Daily Helmsman in 1981, when the newspaper began publishing four days a week. Over the years,the paper has won many honors for reporting, photography and design, including awards given by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, Columbia University and the Southeastern Journalism Conference. 

In an effort to preserve Memphis' musical heritage, Mississippi River Music Publishing Company, Music River Publishing Company, and High Water Recording Company were established in our College in the early 1980s.

In 1981, the Department of Art was accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. The Department has been further distinguished among state institutions by being the home of both a Chair of Excellence and a Center of Excellence.

The Dorothy Kayser Hohenberg Chair of Excellence in Art History allows us to host a distinguished visiting scholar every year. The Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology (IEAA) is one of the very few centers in the U.S. supporting the study of ancient Egypt with a library, museum collection, and a distinguished faculty.

Also in 1981 the Art Museum of the University of Memphis (AMUM), then known as University Gallery, opened. AMUM houses the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology’s permanent collection and the Museum’s collection of Works on Paper. Recently, the Andy Warhol Foundation's Photographic Legacy Program selected AMUM as one of 183 college and university art museums to receive a collection of original Andy Warhol photographs. Through a generous donation from Robert and Martha Fogelman, AMUM’s permanent collection now also includes African art and artifacts.

In 1984, CCFA was honored by a visit from Jehan Sadat, wife of the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Mrs. Sadat came to celebrate the opening of CCFA’s Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology (IEAA) under the leadership of Carol Crown who also brought the Divine Tour of Ancient Egypt to the recently established Art Museum. A year later, IEAA became a Tennessee Center of Excellence, one of five such Centers at the University of Memphis. In 2005, the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) announced that an expedition sponsored by the IEAA had discovered a new chamber in the Valley of the Kings, dating to the 18th Dynasty.

In 1995 Helen and Jabie Hardin endowed the Hardin Chair of Economics/Managerial Journalism, which is awarded to a distinguished journalism scholar or practitioner. Otis Sanford, former managing editor and editor for opinion and editorials at The Commercial Appeal, currently occupies the Hardin Chair of Excellence.

In 1995 the Department of Theatre and Communication Arts separated into the Departments of Theatre & Dance and Communication. 

The Department of Theatre & Dance has since then added professional staff positions, forged strong relationships with local theatres, advanced its technical program with digital sound and lighting equipment and computer numerical control (CNC) and added a Musical Theatre Program. The department also revived its European theatre school exchange program. Thanks to generous funding from Jim McGehee, the department now offers students the opportunity of an Italian theatre study program at the Accademia dell’Arte in Tuscany, Italy.

The Department of Communication added a Ph.D. program in communication to its nationally recognized master's degree. Its doctoral degree's rhetorical studies program is now also ranked among the best. The department's film and video production faculty became noticed for award winning work, including Peabody, Cine Golden Eagle, and Emmy awards.

In 1997, the Department of Journalism together with Memphis City Schools and The Commercial Appeal started the The Teen Appeal, the first citywide high school newspaper. Today, many of The Teen Appeal writers study journalism on a full scholarship and often become outstanding journalists.

In 1998 J. Michael "Mickey" Robinson and his wife Catharine Ladnier established the Elizabeth and Harold Robinson Scholars and Fellows Fund at the University of Memphis to in honor of Robinson's parents. To date, more than 60 students in the College of Communication and Fine Arts have benefited from the couples generosity.

In the fall of 2000, the Department of Music became the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music thanks to a multimillion-dollar gift from Rudi E. Scheidt and his wife Honey Hohenberg Scheidt. Rachel Tucker, a doctorate student at the time, said: "The most important thing that Honey and Rudi Scheidt have done for the University of Memphis is to believe in us. From the young artist's standpoint, to have a man like Rudi Scheidt—who obviously knows how to make a good investment—invest in us, not only with his time and his heart, but now with this incredible gift—well, actually, I don't have words for that." 

Also in 2000, the BFA in architecture degree was initiated in the College of Communication and Fine Arts, when the architecture program, then located in the College of Engineering, joined CCFA as part of the Department of Art. 

In November 2003, the FedEx Institute of Technology, a state-of-the-art research and innovation support facility, opened on the U of M campus. CCFA is represented at the Institute with the Center for Multimedia Arts (CMA), an interdisciplinary and community-engaged research, education, and business resource of our College. The Center for Sustainable Design (CSD) is part of the College's architecture program. Both Centers are engaged in cutting edge research that addresses real world challenges.

In 2005 the Center for Sustainable Design and the college's architecture program initiated the TERRA (Technologically + Environmentally Responsive Residential Architecture) demonstration house. Groundbreaking of the house in Memphis' Uptown neighborhood was in June 2007.

In August 2007, The Teen Appeal, Memphis' citywide high school newspaper, celebrated its 10th anniversary. The paper was started through a partnership between the University of Memphis, Memphis City Schools, the Scripps Howard Foundation and The Commercial Appeal.

In 2008 the Art Museum expanded its art storage space and exhibition preparation area. During the renovation, which started in May 2008, all of AMUM's stored art objects were organized and inventoried. Many objects were "re-discovered," and their origin and significance determined. Some of the discoveries include Codex Duran (hand colored prints recording the history of the Aztecs), Thomas Handforth prints, Pre-Columbian artifacts, engravings from The Complete Works of Shakspere [sic], and more than 200 political cartoons from Harpers Weekly.

In July 2008, the Department of Architecture was established as an independent unit and Michael Hagge, professor of architecture, was appointed the department's first chair. The department includes the architecture and interior design programs and now offers the graduate level professional Master of Architecture (M.Arch) degree.

In February 2009, the University and Memphis community gathered for the ribbon cutting ceremony and formal opening of the TERRA house. Designed by architecture students under faculty supervision, the house brought a new understanding of sustainable architecture and design to Memphis. One of the project's main objectives was to embody the idea of "green" design while blending in with the other residences in the area. In 2010, TERRA was awarded a LEED Platinum rating, the highest rating possible, by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

Also in early 2009, Sound Fuzion, the premier touring ensemble of the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music, celebrated its 20th Anniversary.

Later that year, Malvin Massey, Jr. was appointed general manager of WUMR-FM 92, the radio station of the University of Memphis, also known as The Jazz Lover. Massey replaced long-time general manger Robert "Bob" McDowell who died in March 2008 after a short battle with cancer. Before being named general manager, Massey had served as the station's music director, program director, traffic director, and production director.

Also in 2009, the University of Memphis Opera at the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music won first place in its category in the National Opera Association's (NOA) Production Competition for the 2008 production of Hänsel and Gretel. Former recent winners in this category include SUNY – Purchase, Boston Conservatory and Florida State University.

In late 2009, word spread that Tam Tran, a 2008 journalism graduate, was selected to show her work in the 2010 Whitney Biennial at New York City's Whitney Museum of American Art. Tran was the only Memphian and, at 23, the youngest of 55 artists who were selected for the prestigious exhibition that showcases new trends and outstanding work in contemporary American Art.

In January 2010, a new Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a major in Interior Design was approved by the Tennessee Board of Regents and Tennessee Higher Education Commission. Previously, students studying interior design at the University of Memphis received a BFA in art with a concentration in interior design. Establishing a BFA degree in interior design was one of the goals when the program moved into the newly established Department of Architecture in 2008.

In April 2010, the Art Museum opened its new African gallery, "Africa: Visual Arts of a Continent." Financial support from anonymous donors and First Tennessee Foundation contributed to the development, design, and installation of the inaugural exhibition. Thanks to a generous gift from Martha and Robert Fogelman, AMUM's collection of African art now includes objects from The Sudan, West Africa, and Central Africa.

During the May 2010 commencement, the Department of Architecture celebrated the graduation of its first M.Arch student. Pam Hurley was the first student to earn the professional, two-year Master of Architecture degree at the University of Memphis.

In September 2010, the Art Museum celebrated the life and work of pioneering American architect Paul R. Williams with an exhibition that showcased Williams' work and the significance of AMUM's Paul R. Williams Project. The project began with the idea of a small exhibition that would honor Williams in conjunction with the 150th anniversary celebration of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 2007. It soon grew into a more comprehensive approach to expand expertise and include additional collaborators.

Later that year, the Art Museum began the Memphis Heavyweight project, a collaboration with performance artist Nick Cave that culminated in an exhibition during the summer of 2011. Cave is a Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist best known for his signature "Soundsuits."

Also in 2010,the Center for Multimedia Arts (CMA), in partnership with the Shelby County Office of Early Childhood and Youth (OECY), was among a small group of innovators from an international field to outline game-changing proposals to significantly improve the well-being of children. The results of CMA's research were included in "Big Ideas: Game-Changers for Children," a compilation of creative solutions to help develop a national agenda for children's rights, published by First Focus, a Washington D.C.-based, bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families a priority in federal policy and budget decisions.

In November 2010, the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music celebrated its 10th anniversary with a performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 2, Resurrection, considered one of the Bohemian-Austrian composer's greatest works. The performance featured the University of Memphis Symphony Orchestra, the University Singers, and soloists Trisha Phillips Huntley and Kristin Vienneau. More than 130 of the Scheidt School's students from at least 30 states and 14 different countries performed together that night.

In April 2011, J. Michael "Mickey" Robinson (BBA '68) and his wife Catherine Ladnier, longtime CCFA supporters, received the 2011 Regents' Award for Excellence in Philanthropy. John Morgan, chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, and Shirley Raines, president of the University of Memphis, presented the award. Over the past two decades, more than 100 undergraduate and graduate students at the University have benefitted from the Robinsons' generosity.

Also in April, architecture professors Sherry Bryan and Michael Hagge received the 2011 Francis Gassner Award—the most prestigious honor given each year by the Memphis chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Memphis). The award recognizes outstanding contributions to Memphis' built environment and achievements in architecture.

In the summer of 2011 more than 120 Ancient Egyptian Artifacts from the University's collection were part of an exhibition at the Tennessee State Museum. This was the first time that objects from the Institute of Egyptian Art & Archaeology (IEAA) were part of an exhibition outside of Memphis.
The official unveiling of the latest major gifts to the IEAA took place in October. The anthropoid coffin of priest Pa-di-Atum (ca. 712 – 332 BCE) was transferred to the University of Memphis from the Museum of Discovery in Little Rock, Arkansas with funds provided by The Scheidt Family Foundation. New exhibition cases, generously funded by The Knapp Foundation and Lucite International, were installed in the Egyptian Gallery earlier in 2011.

At the beginning of the fall 2011 semester, the Department of Theatre & Dance welcomed the first class of 15 undergraduate students to its newly established Musical Theatre Program. The department's musical theatre curriculum includes intensive studies in dance, theatre, music and musical theatre.

In September 2011, the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music shone as the University of Memphis commenced its centennial celebrations with a concert at Memphis' Cannon Center for the Performing Arts. Headlined by popular R&B singer Aaron Neville, the University invited three recent Scheidt School alumni back on stage to be featured alongside the nearly 200 music majors. Louis Otey (BM '11) was the featured bass baritone in Te Deum from Tosca and Votre Toast from Carmen (together with U of M students Stafford Hartman, Christina Paz, Kristin Vienneau, J. Daniel Altman, and Jeremiah Johnson). Pyung-Kang Sharon Oh (BM '08) presented Gypsy Airs (Zigeunerweisen), Op.20, Pablo de Sarasate's passionate composition for violin and orchestra, and Xiao-Ou Zhao (MM '05) conducted the University's Symphony Orchestra during Ferde Grofe's Mississippi, A Modern Descriptive Suite.

In February 2012, as part of the University of Memphis' centennial celebration, CCFA brought Broadway magic to campus by staging one of the Mid-South's first college productions of The Phantom of the Opera. A collaboration between the Department of Theatre & Dance and the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music, the grand undertaking drew on virtually all available resources of both units and set new standards for musical theatre at the University.

Richard R. Ranta, the founding Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts, breaks ground for the CFA Building in 1979.

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Last Updated: 4/23/12