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Gift of President Beach became art museum’s first major collection
Charles Lewis Beach (1866-1933), President of the University from 1908 to 1928, bought his first painting in 1924 as a gift for his ailing wife, Louise Crombie Beach. She passed later that same year, but Charles continued to buy paintings, established the Louise Crombie Beach Foundation, designated it to receive a portion of his estate and directed that the money be used to continue purchasing works of art. — Paraphrased from an article by Mark J. Roy in the November 3, 1997 issue of the “University Advance.”
Beach was an early Leader and Donor who contributed to the Origins of the School of Fine Arts. This and other events which took place before 1940 will be developed further in posts for events taking place in later decades, in this case, the decade of the 1940s.
The Jorgensen Years, 1935-1962, were years of significant growth and expansion
Albert N. Jorgensen was inaugurated as the University’s seventh President in 1935. Throughout his tenure as President, but especially in the years following the end of World War II in 1945, President Jorgensen spearheaded a period of tremendous growth and expansion, not only in terms of increased enrollments and greater variety and availabilty of new academic programs, but also in terms of the construction and improvement of the University’s physical facilities. One of his most notable achievements as President was his work with the Legislature of the State of Connecticut to launch an extensive and far-reaching building campaign that dramatically changed the look and feel of the Storrs campus. The new student union building (1952), the auditorium that bears his name (1955), and the new Fine Arts Center (1959) that was to be the home of the new School of Fine Arts, are examples of Jorgensen’s vision of a revitalized academic and cultural community which he brought to fruition at Storrs. Jorgensen was commitment to the increased development of professional schools, and he strove to improve the level of graduate higher education at the University. Commenting on his first decade in office, the Hartford Times observed, “During these ten years, the college has become a university in fact as well as in name.”
Herbert France appointed first full-time Professor of Music
Herbert France was appointed first full-time Professor of Music in 1942. He had been appointed to teach music by President McCracken in 1931. His appointment as a Professor of Music marked a culmination of a long, proud tradition of Music instruction at the institution dating to the 1880s.
Wilma Keyes is an early visionary for art(s) at UConn
Wilma Belknap Keyes (1902-1993), a young Assistant Professor, played a distinctive role which fed the groundswell toward a separate Art Department, and, by extension, an independent School of Fine of Fine Arts. She taught Drawing and Design coures in the Home Economics Department throughout a career spanning thirty-eight years, from 1923 to 1963. She once observed that “there were five art courses when I arrived. There were sixty when I retired.”
President Charles McCracken appointed Walter Ihrke Head of Music Department
Provost Albert E. Waugh called for creation of a School of Fine Arts
In 1950, Albert E. Waugh was appointed University Provost by President Albert Jorgensen. Combining high hopes for UConn’s future with high standards of excellence, Waugh was a significant force in the process which led to the founding of a School of Fine Arts. Pointing to the contributions the School would make to the cultural, educational, and artistic dynamics of the campus, the region, and the State, he wrote, “I am convinced that the establishment of a separate School of Fine Arts would be a step toward better understanding and awareness of the nature of our institution, and that it would result in more effective uses by our young people of the facilities which have been provided for them.”
Walter Meigs appointed Head of Art Department
Walter Meigs appointed Head of Art Department, served 1953-1961.
Ihrke Leads University Convocation Committee, Initiates a new Arts Series
Like the Fine Arts Festival before it, the newly appointed University Convocation Committee’s Arts Series was a welcomed sign of an increased interest in fine arts activities on campus. It was also the precursor to the many fine series offered today by the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, as well as yet another sign that a School of Fine Arts was in UConn’s future. The strong leadership and vision of Walter Ihrke at this juncture represented a vital and necessary counterpart and reinforcement to those of President Jorgensen. Ihrke was a significant transitional figure between the initiatives of President Jorgensen, and those of President Homer Babbidge, Jr. who would soon assume the Presidency of the University.
Jorgensen Auditorium opened
A modern, spacious and well-equipped hall with outstanding acoustics for musical and dramatic performances of all kinds, the newly created Auditorium was initially known as the “University Auditorium.” Beneath the Auditorium is a comfortably spacious art gallery.
As the decade of the 1960s dawned, movement accelerated toward the creation of a School of Fine Arts
As the tumultuous decade of the 1960’s was dawning, the groundswell for the creation of a School of Fine Arts was reaching new peaks of intensity. The three departments — Art, Music, and Speech and Drama — were now housed together in the new Fine Arts Center. However, the University Board of Trustees had yet to approve the establishment of a separate, independent School of Fine Arts. Advocates for a new School needed to marshal their arguments for an impending vote. Several of the documents that follow reveal some of the ‘in-house’ thinking and strategic planning that was employed by President Jorgensen, Provost Waugh, and other University administrators as they prepared for the critical vote. The following reports filed by the three department heads shortly after their arrival at the new Fine Arts Center are similarly revelatory. Before studying the documents, you might take a moment to consider this question: If the vote were held today, what arguments would you advance for the creation of a School of Fine Arts?