The University of Memphis held its first classes in the fall of 1912 with 17 faculty
and 200 students. One hundred years later, the school that was once simply referred
to as “Normal” is preparing to celebrate its history with several major events.
By Greg Russell
The University of Memphis is turning 100 years old this year, and taking part in celebrating
the centennial is as easy as 9-10-11-12.
That’s the date (Sept. 10, 2011 at 12 noon) of the University’s first centennial event
and honors the day, Sept. 10, 1912, that the school, then known as West Tennessee
State Normal School, held its first classes.
The University has a number of special events scheduled through 2012 to mark this
monumental occasion, including the official centennial kickoff gala Sept. 30 at the
Cannon Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Memphis. Concerts, special homecoming
events, premieres of The Phantom of the Opera and a documentary on Dr. Benjamin Hooks, and commemorative items such as a history
of the U of M detailed through a marvelous book written by U of M professors will
|The University will celebrate Homecoming with a game Sept. 24 against Souther Methodist
The University’s athletics department is planning several special events including
the opening of the U of M Hall of Fame.
In the past 100 years, the U of M has grown from a small teachers college into a major
metropolitan research institute with more than 22,000 students and the state’s largest
honors program, the Helen Hardin Honors Program. Join us beginning this fall as we
celebrate our past and look to a bright future.
Some of the events include:
Sept. 10. Don’t be alarmed if Tiger spottings start popping up all over town — it is just part
of the University of Memphis Alumni Association’s “Tigers Around Town” Centennial
Celebration. The Association is offering 100 uniquely designed life-size Tiger statues
to alumni, businesses and the public for sponsorship.
The Tiger statues will be unveiled Sept. 10, 2011 at 12 noon in the fountain area
adjacent to the Administration Building. The public is invited to take part in this
unveiling. It will be the first official Alumni Association centennial event.
“The 100 Tigers represent the 100 years the University has been open,” says Alumni
Association coordinator Alexa Begonia. “Each will be individually painted and designed
by local artists, students, alumni as well as faculty and staff.”
After remaining on campus through 2011, the Tiger statues will be placed in locations
around Memphis in early 2012.
|One hundred Tiger statues will be unveiled on campus Sept. 10. Alumni and friends
of the University can “sponsor” a statue and have a say in its design.
The Celebration level sponsorship ($3,000) allows the business or individual to sponsor
a Tiger throughout the Centennial celebration. These Tigers will then be offered through
an online auction in the summer of 2012. The Centennial Legacy sponsorship level ($5,000)
allows the sponsor to keep the statue. (Contact Alexa Begonia at email@example.com or Tammy Hedges at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 901/678-ALUM) for sponsor details.
Each Tiger statue, which is based off the measurements of TOM II, is made of fiberglass
and stands about 6 feet high, 3 feet wide, 9 feet long and will weigh about 600 pounds.
The design for the Tiger pose was created by senior art education major Brooke Ebersole.
While the pose for each Tiger is the same, other artists are being sought to make
each individual Tiger’s design unique.
The campaign is similar to the Germantown Charity Horse Show’s 60th anniversary in
2008 — uniquely designed horse statues were sponsored and placed throughout Germantown.
Begonia says sponsors select a year between 1912 and 2012 to go with their Tiger.
“It might be the year they were married, had children or graduated, or the year the
sponsor started their business. Each statue will have a plaque that includes the sponsor’s
name, the year the Tiger represents, an important University fact for that year, as
well as the artist’s name and name of the Tiger.”
“We want people to see what an asset the campus is and show what the U of M means
to the community,” says Mark Long, past president of the U of M Alumni Association
and alumnus who helped develop the idea for the Tigers Around Town.
Approximately 50 statues have been sold so far. There will be only one Tiger per year
and the Tigers are being sold on a first-come, first-served basis.
Sept. 24. The U of M will host Southern Methodist during a Homecoming celebration weekend that
will include the annual parade and pep rally. 2012 will include the official centennial
Homecoming. Watch for details at www.memphis.edu/alumni as they become available.
Sept. 30. The University’s official centennial kickoff event will be held at the Cannon Center
for the Performing Arts in downtown Memphis. Described as “a full evening of entertainment
and celebration of the University of Memphis,” the gala will feature music by well-known
artists and the premiere of the University’s official “Centennial Fanfare,” written
by longtime Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music professor James Richens. The piece will
be conducted by Dr. Kraig Williams, director of the U of M’s Wind Ensemble.
“The fanfare is intended to be an iconic musical symbol for the centennial year,”
says Richens. “It was written as a tribute to the University of Memphis for the 100th
birthday celebration of the opening of the school. The fanfare was conceived as a
joyous salute to an institution that has developed from a small regional college in
a corner of the state to a nationally recognized university with a strong and important
influence on our city as well as the entire state.”
The evening will be a night to remember — stay tuned for details.
Dec. 17. The University will hold its 100th fall commencement ceremonies Dec. 17 at FedEx
Forum with a special guest speaker.
Feb. 16-25, 2012. The largest theatre production ever undertaken by the U of M will happen this February
on the University’s MainStage as the Department of Theatre and Dance and the Rudi
E. Scheidt School of Music present Andrew Lloyd Webber’s beloved musical The Phantom of the Opera.
“The University challenged us to ‘dream big’ for its 100th birthday,” says Bob Hetherington,
chair of theatre and dance. “There is no bigger undertaking than Phantom. We are very
proud to have been granted the rights to produce this special event, which will show
Memphis the very best that the University of Memphis has to offer.”
|The largest theatrical production ever at the University will be The Phantom of the
Opera in February 2012.
Tickets for the eight performances will go on sale in November 2011. Fall 2011 auditions
will be open to the campus.
Phantom’s production at the U of M will capitalize on the mutual successes of the Scheidt
School of Music, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and the creation
of a new undergraduate program in musical theatre will admit its first incoming class
This will be the fifth collaboration between the two arts programs in the College
of Communication and Fine Arts. Their first was a critically acclaimed production
of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd in 2000. The Phantom show has won more than 50 major theatre awards including three Olivier Awards, the
most recent being the 2002 Olivier Audience Award for Most Popular Show; an Evening
Standard Award; seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical; seven Drama Desk Awards;
and three Outer Critic Circle Awards.
April 20-22, 2012. The “Alumni Weekend” next April will be something the entire University campus will
want to participate in. As part of the centennial celebration, the University will
unveil a life-sized bronze sculpture of beloved mascot TOM. This one-of-a-kind sculpture
will be placed in front of the main entrance of the University Center, adjacent to
the future Centennial Alumni Mall.
In looking to add new traditions to campus, the Tiger sculpture may be rubbed for
good luck or serve as the perfect place to pose for a photo.
The entire project will be funded exclusively through private gifts. Everyone is
invited to participate, and donors who make gifts of at least $100 toward the initiative
will have their name inscribed adjacent to the sculpture. The $100 minimum gift is
symbolic to the centennial anniversary. The University will recognize donors of $10,000
or more on the sculpture itself.
|The University will hold its 100th fall commencement exercises this December.
Sept. 27-29, 2012. One month before the U.S. presidential election, the U of M’s Department of Communication
will host the 30th Biennial Public Address Conference “On Civic Learning: Rhetoric,
Public Address, Political Division.” Nationally recognized experts in political processes
will be featured. With it being held just before the election, it is expected to hold
Centennial book and other events. Dreamers.Thinkers.Doers: A Centennial History of the University of Memphis, to be published this fall, will mark the University’s centennial with anecdotes
and more than 600 historical photos.
The 128-page coffee table book, written by history professors Janann Sherman and Beverly
Bond, will rely heavily on photos and illustrations to tell the University’s story.
Photos include everything from a young, bell-bottom clad Larry Finch playing basketball
with some youths to aerial views of an early campus and protesters at the groundbreaking
1970 production of the controversial musical Hair.
The full-color book won’t be a dry, scholarly history, Sherman promises. “I want this
to be a fun history,” she says. “I could concentrate on presidents and policies, but
that book would be in a repository for historical preservation. I want anecdotes people
can tell to their friends.”
The University of Memphis Magazine will produce a special keep-sake centennial edition this September.
There will be dozens of other major events during the University’s centennial celebration.
Each of the University’s colleges as well as the Confucius Institute will host special
celebrations. Visit the University’s website at www.memphis.edu for more details.