University of Memphis Magazine
A view of the Student Plaza, facing south. Inset: A view of the same area, facing west toward the Administration Building, as students and their families gather for commencement activities in 1956.
Spring 2011 Features


Making headlines
Reason to celebrate
Blind ambition
All in the family
Smart money
Remembering a legend

Development News
The Columns: Alumni Review
Internships key to stronger Mid-South workforce
Reason to celebrate

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 will celebrate Homecoming with a game Sept. 24 against Souther Methodist University.
The University will celebrate Homecoming with a game Sept. 24 against Souther Methodist University.
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 be offered.

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.”

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.
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.
After remaining on campus through 2011, the Tiger statues will be placed in locations around Memphis in early 2012.

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 or Tammy Hedges at 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 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 largest theatrical production ever at the University will be The Phantom of the Opera in February 2012.
The largest theatrical production ever at the University will be The Phantom of the Opera in February 2012.
“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.”

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 fall.

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 University will hold its 100th fall commencement exercises this December.
The University will hold its 100th fall commencement exercises this December.
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.

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 special significance.

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 for more details.

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Last Updated: 1/23/12