July 2015

Six Things You Might Not Know About the School of Fine Arts

Jennifer Doak-Mathewson
Jennifer Doak-Mathewson

5 min read

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve snagged tickets to a Connecticut Repertory Theatre show or danced in your seat during a performance at Jorgensen or von der Mehden. Maybe you’ve bragged to your friends about how UConn is only one of two schools to offer an undergraduate degree—and the only school to offer a master’s—in puppetry.

But we bet even the most devoted patrons of the arts didn’t know some of these tidbits about the School—all of which were supplied by Professor Emeritus Donald Murray, who wrote “The University of Connecticut’s School of Fine Arts: A History of the First Fifty Years.”

The school was created through a grassroots effort.

UConn was founded in 1881 as an agricultural school, but even in its first few decades students and faculty created artistic societies, courses, and even fraternities.

“The desire to create musically, dramatically, poetically, resides in everyone,” said Murray. And this was true even for UConn’s farming students.

The fraternal Athenian Club came first, in 1911—an organization devoted to social connections and promoting love of the arts but also known for its “exclusive” private dining room and baseball games. Another fraternity, Theta Alpha Phi, sprang up in 1920. The honorary dramatic society produced plays well into the 1930s.

In 1921, a group of coeds started the Monteith Arts Society, named after English and History professor Henry Ruthner Monteith (who was later honored with the classroom building that today bears his name). The Society sponsored programs, lectures, and art exhibitions, most of which were held at or in Holcomb Hall, in East Campus. “The Monteith Arts Society remained active until Pearl Harbor, when the group sponsored an exhibition and sale of Japanese prints,” wrote Murray. “The untimely showing was considered a factor in the Society’s demise.”

Monteith Arts Society, UConn Nutmeg Yearbook
The Monteith Arts Society in the 1930 Nutmeg Yearbook. (UConn Archives)

And in 1929, recently retired President Charles Lewis Beach established the Louise Crombie Beach Foundation in memory of his late wife. The funds were designated for future art purchases, and the collection eventually evolved into today’s William Benton Museum of Art.

Students, faculty, and staff pushed to coalesce these artistic endeavors into a solidified curriculum early on, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that formal departments—and eventually, the beginnings of a school—began to take shape.

Art classes used to be a part of the Home Economics curriculum.

home ec costume design student
Home economics student studying costume design in the 1951 Nutmeg Yearbook (UConn Archives).

Three art courses and three costume-design courses were offered through Home Economics by the late 1930s, marking the first appearance of set art courses at UConn.

When more diverse course offerings sprang up over the next couple of decades, the administration decided in 1951 that a separate Department of Art should be established under the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The Arts and Sciences college dean justified the move by explaining that the new classes, unlike those within Home Economics, didn’t have practical application. But “an asserted but unsubstantiated reason for moving art from Home Economics was related to the influx of GIs to the Storrs campus: GIs wishing to study art did not want to be in Home Economics.”

Faculty from the departments of art, music, and drama lobbied to create a cohesive unit, but it wasn’t until 1961 that the School of Fine Arts was formally established.

 

 

Puppetry classes used to be held in the basement of Sprague Hall.

Renowned puppetry professor Frank Ballard came to UConn in 1956, with the dream of establishing a degree program at the University. His dream was realized in baby steps, however, with his first classes and storage space held in the basement of Sprague Hall in East Campus and in a few rooms on South Campus.

Ballard was eventually able to get his department moved to the more spacious Depot Campus, and the degree program was established in 1966. Ten years later, Ballard established the National Puppetry Institute at UConn. We’ve come a long way since: Today, you can visit the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at Storrs Center.

Other arts classes were scattered across campus—drama and dance classes were taught at Hawley Armory, which served as UConn’s gym, and other performances were held in dormitories.

The UConn Marching Band has been around since 1953—but it wasn’t the first band on campus.

Military Cadet Band
The Connecticut Agricultural College Military Cadet Band, c. 1908 (UConn Archives)

The Pride of Connecticut has been spelling out “U-C-O-N-N” on football fields since the 1950s, but the first band to appear in Storrs dates back to 1900. The Connecticut Agricultural College Cadet Band led students and alumni through campus to football games until the 1930s, when a more formal College Band was created.

By the 1950s, UConn had not only a marching band, but a ROTC band, a traveling concert band, an Athletic Band, and even a dance orchestra. The latter, known as the Connecticut Collegians, skyrocketed to fame in the 1930s as one of the best swing dance bands in New England.

It’s what the Boston Symphony, Marcel Marceau, and Ray Charles have in common.

Louis Armstrong at Jorgensen 1960
Louis Armstrong before his 1960 Winter Weekend performance at Jorgensen Auditorium, then called the University Auditorium, from the 1960 Nutmeg Yearbook. (UConn Archives)

For the people of Northeast Connecticut, Storrs was the closest access to artistic and cultural performances—Boston and Providence were hours away, especially before the national highway system was expanded. So when the Albert N. Jorgensen Auditorium (now the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts) was created in 1955, its performances attracted tens of thousands of people—and as a result, some pretty big names early on.

In its inaugural season, the auditorium hosted the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the New York City Opera, and renowned sopranos Eileen Farrell and Jennie Tourel.

Other notable performances at Jorgensen include Louis Armstrong, the Kingston Trio, Dave Brubeck, the Martha Graham Dance Company, Luciano Pavarotti, Harry Belafonte, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the Indigo Girls, David Sedaris, Dave Chappelle, and many, many more.

All proceeds of Professor Murray’s book go to scholarships.

The School of Fine Arts Geodesic Dome
Anyone remember the School’s geodesic dome? (UConn Archives)

By purchasing the book, you’ll find out a lot more about the School of Fine Arts and support scholarships for dramatic arts undergraduates.

“The school, the faculty, the students, the audience participants are a product of what had gone before,” says Murray. What they’re doing now—and what you’re doing by supporting the School—is shaping another generation.
The University of Connecticut School of Fine Arts book cover

Become An Ambassador
Connect with fellow Huskies
Don't miss out on alumni events and more

Related Posts

Philanthropy Brings Beautiful Music to School of Fine Arts

Philanthropy Brings Beautiful Music to School of Fine Arts

Read More
Multimillion-dollar gift launches UConn arts and engineering institute

Multimillion-dollar gift launches UConn arts and engineering institute

Read More
Law School Foundation Makes Strategic Move to Join UConn Foundation

Law School Foundation Makes Strategic Move to Join UConn Foundation

Read More

Manolo Blahnik Shoe Sale to Benefit UConn Students

Jack Kramer
Jack Kramer

< 1 min read

The Manolo Blahnik shoe sale has become a summer must for shoe lovers near and far away. This year, for the first time, proceeds will benefit UConn agriculture students.

The sale will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, August 15 at the Bantam Fire Company at 92 Doyle Road in Bantam, Conn. It benefits the Arethusa Farm Scholarship Fund, which will aid UConn agriculture students who need help paying for their education.

The shoe sale comes at the same time the UConn Foundation is in the midst of its “Transform Lives” initiative that aims to double the amount of financial support—including merit and need-based scholarships—that the Foundation raises for the benefit of the UConn student body.

“Tony Yurgaitis and George Malkemus have been very supportive of Connecticut agriculture,” said Dean and Director of the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources Gregory J. Weidemann. “This scholarship makes an investment in Connecticut agriculture by ensuring the opportunity for future generations of students to support this vital industry through education.”

“The owners of Arethusa Farm have established a world-renowned facility for the production of purebred dairy cattle and dairy products,” added Cameron Faustman, Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Associate Dean for Research at the Ratcliffe Hicks School of Agriculture. “Investing in human capital in this manner is consistent with the owners’ longstanding commitment to excellence in everything that they have undertaken.”

 

Become An Ambassador
Connect with fellow Huskies
Don't miss out on alumni events and more

Related Posts

Manolo Blahnik Sample Sale in West Hartford

Manolo Blahnik Sample Sale in West Hartford

Read More
Shoe Sale Raises $198K for UConn Scholarships

Shoe Sale Raises $198K for UConn Scholarships

Read More
UConn to Align Alumni Efforts Within Foundation (UConn Today)

UConn to Align Alumni Efforts Within Foundation (UConn Today)

Read More

Sikorsky Funds UConn Engineering Scholars

Jack Kramer
Jack Kramer

3 min read

Through a new initiative by longtime partners Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. and the University of Connecticut School of Engineering, Sikorsky will provide $67,000 in scholarships to selected UConn engineering students this fall. Sikorsky Aircraft is a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX).

“We have a strong alumnae base of UConn graduates at Sikorsky and establishing this program at UConn has been a top priority,” said Dulcy O’Rourke, Sikorsky’s Research & Engineering Manager of University Relations. “With such a strong representation of UConn graduates already working at our company, the potential is there for this initiative to grow.”

UConn’s engineering graduates are an integral part of Sikorsky’s workforce. Many began their professional work experience at Sikorsky while they were students at the university.

“I personally benefited from Sikorsky’s commitment to engineering education when Sikorsky sponsored my Ph.D. research at UConn,” said Michael R. Urban, Ph.D., structural analysis manager at the company. “Sikorsky’s support allowed me to obtain a UConn doctorate degree that I may not have otherwise been able to realize.”

Dean of the School of Engineering Kazem Kazerounian said, “Sikorsky is a willing, and great, partner for us. The variety of scholarships funded will reach a number of our top students and help them here, at UConn, and down the road as they launch their engineering careers.”

O’Rourke said the UConn scholarship program will help Sikorsky “blend its portfolio,” noting the company has a similar program at the University of Maryland.

“UConn is a focus school for Sikorsky because it provides a wealth of engineering talent and leadership for the corporation,” said Doug Shidler, Director, Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR TD) program and Executive Sponsor for UConn.

Sikorsky’s gifts to UConn’s School of Engineering—and its students—include:

  • Bridge scholarships, totaling $12,000, to enable underrepresented groups in Engineering to attend a five-week residential intensive study of mathematics, chemistry, physics and computer programming the summer before their freshman year.
  • Scholarships for undergraduates, totaling $30,000, designated for mechanical and electrical engineering students in their sophomore through senior years. The scholarship will follow a promising student throughout his/her undergraduate education, contingent upon the student remaining in one of these majors and maintaining an overall grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.5.
  • A graduate student fellowship, totaling $25,000, will be awarded to top graduate students in mechanical or electrical engineering to create a pipeline of refined expertise recruited from the best young engineering graduate students. Fellows may be invited, but are not required or entitled, to work beside UConn faculty on Sikorsky research.

Recent Sikorsky hire Lauren Salisbury, another UConn graduate, added that her engineering coursework at UConn, sponsored by Sikorsky, provided “the practical engineering skills that I am using now.”

As a UConn alumnus and long-time Sikorsky engineer, Technical Fellow Paul Inguanti added, “I am excited that Sikorsky is expanding UConn’s School of Engineering scholarship funding. Sikorsky must excel compared to global competitors by building the best helicopters in the world, and to accomplish that goal we must attract and retain engineers who have a passion for solving the toughest technical problems.”

And Brian Rothermich, a recently hired blade design engineer, said, “UConn prepared me to make the transition from being a full-time student to an effective practicing engineer at Sikorsky immediately after I graduated. Many of my professors at UConn previously worked in the aerospace industry, which provided an opportunity to learn how concepts learned in school apply to real-world engineering.”

“Sikorsky’s generous gift will benefit our top achieving engineering undergraduate and graduate students, and helps us in our overall effort to increase the number of students who receive financial aid,” said Josh Newton, president of the UConn Foundation.

 

Become An Ambassador
Connect with fellow Huskies
Don't miss out on alumni events and more

Related Posts

Multimillion-dollar gift launches UConn arts and engineering institute

Multimillion-dollar gift launches UConn arts and engineering institute

Read More
UConn Students Show Middle Schoolers How Fun Engineering Is at Science Center

UConn Students Show Middle Schoolers How Fun Engineering Is at Science Center

Read More
UConn to Align Alumni Efforts Within Foundation (UConn Today)

UConn to Align Alumni Efforts Within Foundation (UConn Today)

Read More

RELEASE: UConn Alumni Association Votes to Dissolve

Jack Kramer
Jack Kramer

2 min read

Members of the UConn Alumni Association (UCAA) have, by a vote of 1,852 in favor to 555 opposed, approved dissolving the organization and transferring most of its assets to the UConn Foundation in order to strengthen alumni engagement efforts.

Approximately 13,000 voting members of the UCAA had until Monday, June 29 to submit their ballots for consideration. More than two-thirds, or nearly 77 percent, of those who returned ballots voted in the affirmative, the threshold required for the dissolution to proceed.

The University Board of Trustees, the Foundation Board of Directors and the UCAA Board of Directors have already endorsed this change.

“We are gratified by the support and confidence that members of the Alumni Association have placed in us,” said Joshua R. Newton, president & CEO of the UConn Foundation. “We all want the same thing—a strong and vibrant UConn Nation—and this change will help us get there. We plan to dramatically increase the opportunities for all alumni and friends to stay close to UConn through expanded and improved programs and services.”

Lori Riiska, president of the UCAA, added, “This vote is great news for all 230,000 UConn alumni. Bringing all institutional advancement activities under one umbrella—instead of having two separate organizations with overlapping goals—will increase the level of resources available to support alumni. In fact, I’m pleased to hear that the Foundation already has plans to enhance career networking opportunities for alumni beginning this fall, as part of their new alumni services platform.”

Under the terms of the agreement, which are still being finalized, the UCAA’s assets—including approximately $6 million—will be transferred to the Foundation, specifically designated for alumni/chapter programming, scholarship support and maintenance of the Alumni House.

Become An Ambassador
Connect with fellow Huskies
Don't miss out on alumni events and more

Related Posts

RELEASE: UConn Foundation Board Votes to Lead New Engagement Model for UConn’s 230K Alumni

RELEASE: UConn Foundation Board Votes to Lead New Engagement Model for UConn’s 230K Alumni

Read More
UConn to Align Alumni Efforts Within Foundation (UConn Today)

UConn to Align Alumni Efforts Within Foundation (UConn Today)

Read More
UConn Alumni Giving Relatively High, but Room for Improvement

UConn Alumni Giving Relatively High, but Room for Improvement

Read More

Physicians’ Group Endows Scholarship

Jennifer Huber
Jennifer Huber

3 min read

Berlin, Conn., graduate initial recipient

A group of nearly 100 Connecticut physicians pledged their support to help promising students attend the UConn School of Medicine. The Hartford Medical Society established a $103,000 endowment that will provide a scholarship to a medical student every year in perpetuity.

pooja_patel
Berlin, Conn., resident Pooja Patel, who received the 2015 Hartford Medical Society Scholarship to attend the UConn School of Medicine.

“Aside from joy and gratitude, I also feel extremely supported,’’ said Pooja Patel, the first recipient to receive the medical scholarship. Patel, of Berlin, Conn., graduated from the University of Rochester and starts at the UConn School of Medicine in fall 2015.

“I know that at UConn I will be surrounded by faculty and physicians who want to share their love for medicine and service,’’ said Patel. “To receive support from a local organization only deeper instilled how thankful I am to be from an area with such a strong sense of community. I would thank them for their generosity in helping to fund my education.’’

The Hartford Medical Society’s gift comes amid the UConn Foundation’s student support initiative to raise $150 million in scholarships and fellowships over the next five years.

Founded in 1846, the Hartford Medical Society brought together physicians of Hartford County monthly to share new knowledge and discuss interesting cases. Meticulous records from those early meetings, antiquarian medical books, and ephemera have been preserved for 169 years by generations of doctors. Today, the Hartford Medical Society’s mission is to maintain the archive and encourage interest in the medical humanities. Since the group moved its archive from its own facility to the Lyman Maynard Stowe Library at UConn Health in 2009, the members have built strong relationships with UConn’s faculty and staff.

“We found a new home at UConn,” said Ira Spar MD, president of the Hartford Medical Society. “Our medical history archive is in good hands, preserved for our use and that of future generations. The staff we work with at UConn share our passion and vision. Our members subscribe to the same ethic that drives the mission of the National Archives: ‘The past is prologue.’”

Members still meet several times a year, hosting special guest speakers. This year’s speakers include a UConn Health faculty expert on Ebola, former Governor Lowell Weicker, and radio personality and columnist Colin McEnroe. “Part of our mission as we see it today is to encourage collegiality within our profession and mentor medical students and new doctors. Being at UConn has helped us fulfill our commitment while carrying on the legacy of the Hartford Medical Society,” said Spar.

When the Hartford Medical Society had to decide what to do with proceeds from the sale of its property on Scarborough Street in Hartford, there was unanimous consensus among members that the best investment in the future of their profession would be a scholarship to help talented students afford medical school.

“The Hartford Medical Society is putting its money where its mouth is. I think we have an obligation. Where should our dollars go? Into education,” added Spar.

Spar and his fellow physicians want their scholarship to reduce the need to rely on loans.

“I’m aware of the costs to attend medical school today. Many banks don’t provide student loans anymore and if you look at the loan funds available for students, the interest rate is exorbitant. Federal loans to banks have lower interest rates than student loans. These are the facts of life for people who want to go to medical school today,” explained Spar. “That’s why it’s so important to give back through scholarships to help the next generation.”

Patel proudly accepted the Hartford Medical Society’s invitation to attend the group’s fall meeting in September and looks forward to thanking her supporters person.

“I am especially honored to receive the Hartford Medical Society Scholarship in particular. The HMS library is an invaluable resource and UConn students are lucky to have this wealth of knowledge at their fingertips,’’ said Patel.’’ “Furthermore, the lecture series that the HMS sponsors, which highlights both current issues in medicine and the history of medicine, are both informative and interesting for medical students and physicians.’’

 

Become An Ambassador
Connect with fellow Huskies
Don't miss out on alumni events and more

Related Posts

Recently Established Pichette Scholarship Names First Neag School Student Recipient

Recently Established Pichette Scholarship Names First Neag School Student Recipient

Read More
Nursing Scholarship Changed His Life

Nursing Scholarship Changed His Life

Read More
Michelle Dugan’s Scholarship Will Help Women Fulfill Dreams

Michelle Dugan’s Scholarship Will Help Women Fulfill Dreams

Read More