Ruth Denney, Professor Emeritus of the Department of Theatre and Dance, died on Monday, March 26, 2007 in Austin at the age of 92. Denney taught in the department's Theatre Studies/Teacher Training programs from 1976-1988. She is remembered as a powerful force for high standards in theatre education and in the department. Professor Coleman A. Jennings remembers her fondly: "She was a grand lady. She was a creative, imaginative director, excellent teacher, and one who inspired all." Professor Robert Schmidt recalls her character: "She was a person with strong opinions who was always happy to share them, but she was also someone who would listen carefully to the opinions of others. She will be missed."
Widely known and honored theatre educator, Denney was a member of the departmental faculty from 1976 until her retirement in 1988. She taught, directed, chaired committees and served as head of the drama education area. Before joining the faculty, Denney taught almost 20 years at Lamar High School of Houston and, while she was there, her students won six state championships in the University Interscholastic League's One-Act Play Contest.
In 1971, she founded the Houston High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, which has become a nationally acclaimed four-year school. In recognition of her contribution to its success, the HSPVA has named its theatre the Denney Theatre. Her former students from Lamar High School include such distinguished theatre professionals as Tommy Tune, Carlin Glynn-Masterson, Robert Crutchfield and Robert Foxworth. Denney received the Sara Spencer Award, one of the highest honors given by the American Association of Theatre Education. She was also the first recipient of the Fredell Lack Award give by Young Audiences of Houston "for outstanding contributions to the arts in education." In 1987, she was selected to receive the Houston Mayor's Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Arts for her role in creating a strong arts community in Houston.
From 1984-1986, she held the endowed Frank C. Erwin, Jr. Centennial Professorship in Drama at The University of Texas at Austin. From 1986-1988, she served the Department of Theatre and Dance in partial retirement as supervisor of student teachers in drama and as a teacher of directing for secondary school theatre. At retirement she was named Professor Emeritus, and many of her former students and colleagues helped establish a scholarship in her honor. The Ruth Denney Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Theatre helps benefit and development of theatre arts students.