April started and ended with two major events for the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. On April 8, the University of Houston Center for Public Policy honored Richard W. Murray, Director of the Survey Research Institute and the Bob Lanier Endowed Chair in Urban Public Policy in the Department of Political Science, at the first Wortham House reception hosted by President Khator and Suresh Khator.
Murray is an internationally respected expert in American politics, and has been an observer and an analyst of Texas politics for more than three decades. He also has distinguished himself as one of the nation’s top professors of political science since he joined our faculty as an instructor in 1966, teaching courses that range from introductory U.S. Government to graduate seminars
In 1981, he and a small group of faculty members founded the Center for Public Policy, and in that same year established the Center’s renowned polling operations. He became the Center’s director in 1996 and held that position for ten years.
Murray has co-authored two books (Texas Politics: An Introduction and Progrowth Politics: Change and Governance in Houston), and has written numerous book chapters and journal articles. He has served as an expert witness or as a consultant in several court cases. Houstonians frequently watch him in his role as a political analyst for television news organizations.
Lots of politicos, swells, and colleagues attended the event to pay tribute to Murray and to unveil the establishment of the Richard W. Murray Endowed Scholarship.
(Photo credit: Pete Baatz, Formula One Photography)
President Khator and Dick Murray
Jim Granato, Dick Murray, President Khator, Sen. John Whitmire
John Antel, Sen. John Whitmire, Jim Granato
Dick Murray and Sen. Mario Gallegos
Gov. Bill Hobby, Debbie Hartman, Harris County Clerk Beverly Kaufman
Elizabeth Brock, Houston City Council member Adrian Garcia, Rogene Gee Calvert
Kathyrn McNeil, Justice of the Peace David Patronella, John Powell,
and Houston City Council member Wanda Adams
Suresh Khator, President Khator, Houston City Council member Anne Clutterbuck
Dona Cornell, Gene Locke
Glenn Clements, Alison Leland, Dick Murray, Jim Granato, Mary Bange
UH System Board of Regents Chair Welcome W. Wilson Sr., President Khator
UH System Regent Lynden Rose and John Guess
Dick Murray, Sen. John Whitmire, Jim Granato
Barton and Wendy Smith and Paul Gregory
Laven Pickford, Jim Perdue, Chris Bell
Steve Jetton and Nene Foxhall
Tatiana Keeble, James Howard Gibbons, George and Donna Alexander
Jim Anderson, Gene Locke, Tissy Hardin, Melanie Lawson
Janie and David Branham
School of Communication gets new shingle
Valenti video tribute and proclamation presented by the Valenti family by Chairman Wilson.
NOTE: Video opens in separate player window.
The big announcement for the School of Communication came at the school’s annual scholarship luncheon on April 25. That’s when University of Houston System Board of Regents Chair Welcome W. Wilson, Sr. (’49) announced the Board’s intent to name the school after UH alumnus Jack J. Valenti, (’42 ASD General Arts and Sciences, ’46 Business Administration) who died on April 26 of last year. You can watch an interview with Wilson in this month’s Discovery section in which he talks with John David Powell, CLASS Interim Director of Communication, about the naming of the school and the administration’s plans for the university.
We’ll have some nifty photos next month of some of the folks who showed up at the luncheon. Meantime, here’s a video tribute to Valenti, produced by the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and the proclamation presented to the Valenti family by Chairman Wilson.
WHEREAS, Jack Joseph Valenti was born in Houston and was the youngest high school graduate in the city, at age 15; and
WHEREAS, Jack Joseph Valenti enrolled in evening classes at the University of Houston at age 16 while employed as an office boy with the Humble Oil Company, which is now Exxon Mobil Corporation; and
WHEREAS, Jack Joseph Valenti served as President of the University of Houston Student Association, the UH Night Student Council, the Texas Student Government Association, his sophomore class, and the Pre-Law Club, as Vice President of his freshman class, as Vice Chairman of Frontier Fiesta, as director and co-writer of Varsity Varieties, and as a staff member on The Daily Cougar; and
WHEREAS, Jack Joseph Valenti’s leadership at the University of Houston also includes the presidency of the Ex Students Association, which became the Houston Alumni Organization, from which he received a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1952; and
WHEREAS, Jack Joseph Valenti was a member of the original University of Houston Board of Regents established in 1963 upon the entry of UH into the state system of public universities; and
WHEREAS, Jack Joseph Valenti served his country with distinction during World War II as an Army Air Corps lieutenant, flying 51 combat missions as the pilot-commander of a B-25 attack bomber with the 12th Air Force in Italy, and receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with four clusters, the Distinguished Unit Citation with one cluster, and the European Theater Ribbon with four battle stars, and
WHEREAS, Jack Joseph Valenti co-founded the successful Houston advertising and political consulting agency of Weekly & Valenti that served as liaison with the news media during the November 1963 visit to Texas by President John F. Kennedy, and
WHEREAS, Jack Joseph Valenti was the first person hired as a special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson within hours of President Kennedy's assassination in Dallas, and served as the new President’s speech writer and advisor, and
WHEREAS, Jack Joseph Valenti left the White House in 1966 to become the third President and Chief Executive Officer of the Motion Picture Association of America where he served with great distinction for 38 years as the film industry’s leading spokesperson, guiding the nation’s film and television industry through many social and economic challenges, from establishing the motion picture rating system to investigating film and videotape pirating and counterfeiting at home and abroad, and
WHEREAS, Jack Joseph Valenti received many honors and awards during his lifetime, including the Honorary Life Member Award from the Directors Guild of America, the coveted Legion d’Honneur, the French Legion of Honor, and the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from the University of Houston, now, therefore
LET IT BE KNOWN, that the University of Houston will name the School of Communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences The Jack J. Valenti School of Communication in honor of his remarkable, unparalleled, and unselfish service to his nation, the motion picture industry, and the University of Houston.
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Four CLASS faculty members came away from this year’s Faculty Awards ceremonies with top honors.
David Francis (’84 MA Psychology, ’85 Ph.D. Psychology), Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor, Chair of the Department of Psychology, and Director of the Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation, and Statistics (TIMES), received the Esther Farfel Award, the University’s highest honor recognizing faculty excellence.
The award includes a trophy and a $10,000 cash prize provided through an endowment established by the late Aaron Farfel, former UH System Board of Regents Chair, in honor of his wife.
Francis was key in founding the National Research and Development Center for English Language Learners within TIMES. Funded by a $10-million U.S. Department of Education grant, the project focuses on literacy and English language development of Spanish-speaking elementary and middle-school students.
He also was among the researchers who founded the Texas Center for Learning Disabilities. The center’s development was assisted by an $8.5-million grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. It also combines efforts from TIMES and other institutions.
Francis arrived at UH as a graduate student in 1979. He earned a master of arts and a doctorate in clinical neuropsychology, and in 1985, he was hired as a visiting professor. One year later, he became a permanent member of the UH Psychology faculty. Since then, he’s been proud to be a Cougar and is thrilled to call UH his home.
“UH has been a great place for someone like me,” Francis said. “My work has been valued, and I have been treated well. To be encouraged to pursue the work that I find interesting, to be treated well and to have great colleagues, collaborators and students is all one can ask for in academia.” - Mike Emery contributed to this article.
Lorraine K. Stock, Associate Professor of English, received the Teaching Excellence Award for Innovation in Instructional Technology based on her use of modern media to teach medieval literature. The award, recognizing outstanding faculty who have demonstrated innovative teaching in a course using instructional technology, carries a $5,000 prize and a trophy.
Here’s a bit of irony (would you expect less regarding a literature prof?). Stock wasn’t always a techie. While developing her Film and Literature course, Stock began editing film clips to show in class. Now, she designs customized Web pages incorporating audio, video, and text. - Mike Emery contributed to this article
And here’s another note. Before receiving her faculty award, the Graffit-e editors decided to run a short story about a lecture she gave in March to the 28th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies at Fordham University: And Now Starring in the Third Crusade: Depictions of Richard I and Saladin in Films and Television Series.
Stock interspersed her talk with clips from Third Crusade (1189–1192) movies, most depicting Richard and Saladin. She says 20th century filmmakers and other dramatists viewed the 12th century holy war through the prism of their own times, with the occasional historical accuracy.
According to Stock:
- Robin Hood (1922, starring Douglas Fairbanks), contributed to the idea of a gay Lionheart by ending the film with Richard trying desperately to interfere with the wedding night of Robin and Maid Marian.
- The Crusades (1935, directed by Cecil B. DeMille), reflected the USA’s isolationist mood.
- El Naser Salah el Dine (aka Saladin and the Great Crusades or Saladin the Victorious), a 1963 Egyptian film written and directed by Youssef Chaine, looked at the Third Crusade from the Muslim point of view.
- King Richard (1954, starring Rex Harrison as Saladin), recalled the end of the Second World War.
- Robin and Marian (1976, starring Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn), reflected the post-Vietnam mood of the U.S. and filmmakers’ dim view of the war’s military leaders, as seen in the portrayal by Richard Harris of a demented King Richard.
Margot Gayle Backus, Associate Professor of English in The Honors College, received the Faculty Award for Mentoring Undergraduate Research Students.
For Backus, a university should do more than teach material; it should help students discover themselves. Her classroom is home for coursework, but her home or nearby café are havens for learning not only how to make a living, but how to make a life, to paraphrase her motto. She has mentored countless students pursuing doctorates, writing papers for conferences, writing a thesis or trying to get through James Joyce’s Ulysses. She strives to be more than a teacher. She aims to be an ally and guide. - Marisa Ramirez (’00 English)
Thomas O’Brien, a scholar of Latin American history, culture, politics and labor in the Department of History, received a John and Rebecca Moores Professorship, a five-year renewable award, carrying a $10,000 annual stipend, given to faculty who are outstanding in teaching, research and service.
O’Brien joined our faculty in 1977. Since then, he received numerous honors and awards, including the Conference on Latin American History Book Prize and the Robertson Prize for best article in the Hispanic American Historical Review. One professor wrote in a letter of support, “What makes his achievement almost singular is the comparable command he brings to his understanding of U.S. international history, particularly as it pertains to business and economics.” - Francine Parker
In next month’s Graffit-e, we’ll introduce you to the newly promoted and newly tenured CLASS faculty, and our latest professors emeritus. You can learn more about all of this year’s Faculty Award recipients by visiting the UH Today website.
Find out more faculty news on the CLASS News and Events page.
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May 9 was the big day for students and their families, as CLASS held Commencement ceremonies for about 750 undergraduate and graduate students who showed up in caps and gowns. In all, the Dean’s Office will review about 1,100 undergraduate applications for graduation.
Next month’s Graffit-e will have videos of each participating student walking across the stage.
CLASS does not bring in an outside speaker, relying instead on student speakers chosen in a special competition judged by a panel made up of faculty, staff, students, and alumni.
Melva Becnel, who had a double major in Spanish and Chinese Studies, gave the undergraduate address, and Bradford Telford, who received his Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature, gave the graduate address.
We’ll have Melva’s speech in next month’s Graffit-e. Meantime, just go up and click on the video link and watch Bradford’s speech.
Singing on The Fly . . .
Ashlyn Rust to work with Plácido Domingo, L.A. Opera
Graduate Student Selected for Prestigious Young Artist Program, Cast in U.S. Premiere of The Fly, by Mike Emery.
It was the opera audition of a lifetime, and vocalist Ashlyn Rust hit all of the right notes.
After all, it’s not every day that an aspiring vocalist auditions for legendary tenor and Los Angeles Opera director Plácido Domingo.
Rust, who just received her master’s in vocal performance from the studio of Assistant Professor of Voice Cynthia Clayton-Vasquez at the Rebecca and John J. Moores School of Music, knew what she had to do and impressed The Tenor with her crisp soprano and charismatic delivery.
Domingo was so taken by her voice and stage presence, he offered her a residency in Los Angeles Opera’s noted Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program. Adding to this exciting opportunity is the fact that Rust has been cast in three of the company’s main stage productions including the U.S. premiere of The Fly. This opera adaptation of the classic horror movie (we still like the original Vincent Price versison!) is a collaboration between Domingo and award-winning director David Cronenberg, who helmed the 1986 Jeff Goldblum version of the film.
“My first reaction to this news was ‘Are you kidding me?’” Rust said. “This is such a wonderful opportunity, but I had a hard time believing that it was really happening. I have worked very hard to get to this point, so as incredible as it seems, I am very grateful for the chance to grow as an artist and work with some of the world’s most prolific opera talents.”
A native Texan, Rust has always enjoyed singing and music. Her natural talents led her to the Big Apple to pursue an undergraduate degree at the Manhattan School of Music. When it came time to enroll in a graduate program, she looked at a few institutions, and our Moores School of Music immediately caught her attention. With its acclaimed Edythe Bates Old Moores Opera Center, the school was a natural fit for Rust’s talents.
Rust performed in several Moores Opera Center productions while pursuing her master’s degree, including Les Mamelles de Tirésias, Ghosts of Versailles, Street Scene, Flavio, and the Houston premiere of A Wedding.
Performing in these professional quality, lavish operas was excellent preparation for upcoming work with Los Angeles Opera, she said. Equally helpful was the guidance and direction provided by Moores Opera Center director Buck Ross and her mentor and coach Cynthia Clayton-Vasquez.
Rust’s road to Los Angeles Opera began with a screening process in which a panel reviewed her resume and an audio sample. Next came a live audition in New York City, followed by a trip to Los Angeles for the last test – a live audition for Plácido Domingo.
In addition to The Fly, Rust also has been cast in Carmen and Die Zauberflöte.
The Moores Opera Center provides comprehensive operatic training as part of a voice program offering flexible baccalaureate, masters, and doctoral programs in voice performance, pedagogy and choral conducting. The center trains singers, vocal coaches and conductors aspiring to careers as stage performers and teachers. Degree programs combine sound vocal study, intensive language diction training, stage direction, career counseling and audition techniques. Graduates have gone on to distinguished professional careers, appearing with companies and in venues including the Met, Chicago Lyric, San Francisco, Houston, Washington, Seattle, New York City Opera, Carnegie Hall and various European houses.
And now, from a star on the stage to a star on the diamond . . .
Laurie Wagner, a junior Right Fielder for the Cougar Softball team, and a Communications/Journalism major from Houston, is a member of the 2008 Conference USA All-Conference First Team!
Laurie was the C-USA Hitter of the Week back on May 7, 2007. She also made the 2005-06 and 2006-07 C-USA Commissioner’s Honor Rolls. Laurie also made the National Fast Pitch Coaches Association All South Region First Team.
Head Cougar Kyla Holas was named C-USA Coach of the Year for the second straight year after leading her team to its second consecutive conference regular season title.
Holas, Wagner, and the rest of the No. 8-seeded Cougars hosted the NCAA Houston Softball Regional at Cougar Softball Stadium the weekend of May 17.
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The kudos just keep on coming. And we’re lovin’ it!
The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education magazine just released figures obtained from the U.S. Department of Education that show CLASS ranks among the top colleges and universities in the nation (yes, the nation!) in the number of degrees awarded to Hispanic students.
For total undergraduate degrees awarded to Hispanics in the 2006-07 academic year, the University of Houston came in at # 14 in the nation and #5 in Texas. For master’s degrees, UH came in #54 in the nation and #10 in Texas. And for doctoral degrees, UH ranked #12 in the nation and #2 in Texas.
“UH has a commitment to retain and graduate Hispanic students,” said Lorenzo Cano, Associate Director of the Center for Mexican American Studies. “Our Academic Achievers Program is recognized for its ability to encourage students as young as middle school to think about college, enroll and graduate.”
Here’s how CLASS fared.
- Communications: #6 in the nation and #3 in Texas
- Psychology: #10 in the nation and #2 in Texas
This is the first year the magazine includes figures for colleges and universities enrolling the most Hispanic students. UH is 17th in the nation for that category, enrolling more than 6,630 Hispanic students. The figure represents 19 percent of the UH total enrollment. The magazine, which annually ranks colleges and universities graduating Hispanic students, notes that, generally, more Hispanic women than men were awarded degrees in the nation. - Marisa Ramirez contributed to this story
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At first blush, it looks like the more things change for Brett Cullen (’79 Drama), the more they seem to stay the same. In the first photo from his Web page, we see what appears to be a young Brett in the arms of his beautiful mother. In the next photo, a publicity shot for his new film, The Life Before Her Eyes, he’s snuggled up next to his screen wife and co-star, Uma Thurman. At least he lost the hat, not a cool fashion statement for the 21st century.
His film credits include Where Sleeping Dogs Lie (1992, starring Dylan McDermott, Sharon Stone, and Tom Sizemore); Leaving Normal (1992, starring Meg Tilly and Christine Lahti); Wyatt Earp (1994, starring Kevin Costner and former Theatre major Dennis Quaid); Courage Under Fire (1995, starring Denzel Washington and Meg Ryan); Something To Talk About (1995, starring Julia Roberts and Quaid); Apollo 13 (1995, starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris and Kathleen Quinlan); and The Replacements (2000, starring Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman).
His small screen credits include The Thorn Birds (1983 miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain, Rachel Ward, Barbara Stanwyck, Christopher Plummer, and a bunch of other big name thespians); Falcon Crest (1986 series starring Jane Wyman, Robert Foxworth, and Susan Sullivan); Lost (as the adulterous and usually dead or soon-to-be-dead Goodwin Stanhope); Ugly Betty (as Ted LeBeau, the rich squeeze of Wilhelmina Slater, aka Vanessa Williams ); Private Practice (as Violet’s ex, Allan); and Friday Night Lights (as the alcoholic Walter Riggins).
Listen closely and you can hear him singing backup on Meat Loaf's Life is a Lemon (and I want my money back) from Bat Out of Hell II. Brett and Meat (or Cullen and Loaf) own the production company Yellow Rose, Inc.
His next film, The Burning Plain, is in post-production, and stars Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger.
You can find out more about Brett Cullen at his web site. Drop him a line and tell him you read about him in Graffit-e.
Find out more about CLASS alumni on the CLASS web site.
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This month’s Discovery guest is the Chair of the University of Houston System Board of Regents, Welcome W. Wilson, Sr. (’49)
Other than being the Chair of our governing board (which is reason enough to have him as a guest), Wilson was a driving force behind the naming of the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication.
After you watch the interview with Wilson and Graffit-e editor John David Powell, jump over to the Feature section (if you haven’t been there already), and watch the video tribute put together by Ward Booth (’05 Media Production), our Media Production Facilities Manager in the Valenti School. That sure has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
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Around CLASS and Campus
Music and more to delight the senses
The 2008 Immanuel & Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival runs from May 30 to June 28.
Founded in 1990, the festival provides young professional musicians with a challenging musical environment in which to develop skills in orchestral, chamber music, and solo performance. Distinguished faculty artists from the Rebecca and John J. Moores School of Music, members of the Houston Symphony, and international guests guide the students during the four-week orchestral fellowship program on the University of Houston campus. Many festival faculty members perform as soloists with the festival orchestra and as part of the Distinguished Artist Series.
Visit the Season Schedule page of the Texas Music Festival Web site for season schedule and ticket information.
The School of Theatre & Dance released its 2008 – 09 season, which opens with Bridges by Nathaniel Freeman, and directed by Steven Wallace, Oct. 3 to 12, in Wortham Theatre.
Bridges is based on the oral histories of Hurricane Katrina survivors stranded on the I-10 overpass. Participants in the UH Surviving Rita and Katrina Project conducted the interviews. Bridges is presented in collaboration with the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts.
Find out more about the upcoming theatre season at the School of Theatre & Dance Web site.
Photographer Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris, Inspiration For Major Choreographic Work, Celebrated Through Exhibition at UH Blaffer Gallery
By Mike Emery
Few things eluded the watchful eye of Charles “Teenie” Harris during his time as a photographer for one of the nation’s premier African American newspapers, The Pittsburgh Courier. Between 1931 and 1975, the trailblazing photojournalist captured countless images of his community, sporting events and celebrities.
Houstonians now can learn more about the man as his photos make a seamless transition from gallery exhibition to stage performance during two dynamic events. Harris’ work will be on view in the exhibition Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris: Rhapsody in Black and White, which runs through Aug. 2 at Blaffer Gallery, the Art Museum of the University of Houston. Noted choreographer Ronald K. Brown and photographic arts expert Deborah Willis are curators for the exhibition, presented by the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts.
Shifts in Time, which offers a look at African American community life through Harris’s work, as well as through the eyes of students from UH and Jack Yates High School, runs concurrently with the video installation
More at CLASS
For more information about what’s going on at CLASS, please visit our News & Events page.
Make sure you visit the CLASS home page for more information about our programs, students, faculty, and staff. Missed an issue of Graffit-e? Catch up by visiting the online archive.
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Transcript of Dean Antel's Video Message
Hello. I’m John Antel, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
Partnerships with individuals and groups from the community play a major role in the success of our programs, our faculty, and our students.
Last month, we saw how the professional impact from a faculty member translates into community partnerships that benefit our students.
Thanks to the generosity of several state and local individuals and businesses, we have added the Richard W. Murray endowed scholarship to the many scholarships available for our students.
Dick Murray is an internationally respected expert in American politics, and has been an observer and an analyst of Texas politics for more than three decades.
He also has distinguished himself as one of the nation’s top professors of political science since he joined the University of Houston faculty as an instructor in 1966, teaching courses that range from introductory U.S. government to graduate seminars.
In 1981, Dick and a small group of faculty members founded the University of Houston Center for Public Policy, and in that same year established the center’s renowned polling operations.
He became the center’s director in 1996 and held that position for ten years.
Dick also is the first person to hold the Bob Lanier Chair in Urban Public Policy.
The establishment of the endowed scholarship is a great way to honor this outstanding professor, while also helping a high-performing student.
Finally, on behalf of all of the faculty and staff in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, I send congratulations to our new alumni, who graduated this month.
We’ll have more about them in next month’s Graffit-e.
Transcript of Intro for Discovery Wilson Interview
From the television studios of the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication at the University of Houston, welcome to the Discovery section of Graffit-e, the electronic newsletter of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.
My name is John David Powell.
May always is an important month for CLASS. It’s when we recognize our newest alumni, a little more than one-thousand undergraduate and graduate students.
This year, may also brings another milestone. The School of Communication can now hang out a new shingle, one that reads: the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, after approval last month by the University of Houston System Board of Regents.
The driving force behind the naming of the school is University of Houston alumnus and Chair of the UH System Board of Regents, Welcome W. Wilson, Sr.
Governor Rick Perry appointed him to the Board of Regents in 2006, and the Board elected him as its Chair for the current fiscal year.
Chairman Wilson has been part of the fabric of Houston, of Texas, and of the nation since his graduation from the University of Houston in 1949.
He is a successful real estate developer, a former chairman of three Texas banks, and a member of the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations as a five-state director of Civil Defense Mobilization, the forerunner of today’s FEMA.
And I’m pleased to have him as our guest this month . . .
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