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Faculty and Staff

The College of Fine Arts and Communications Honors Retirees for 2021–2022

Four Faculty and Staff Members from the College of Fine Arts and Communications Have Retired This Past Year

“I would like to express my appreciation and gratitude for the faculty and staff within the College of Fine Arts and Communications who have retired after years of dedication and hard work,” said Dean Ed Adams. “These individuals did so much to improve the college community during their time here and they will continue to inspire us through their lasting legacies.”

Faculty and staff retirees this year include Elizabeth Funk, George Nelson, Ray Smith and Ward Wright.

Elizabeth Funk
Courtesy of Elizabeth Funk

Elizabeth Funk | Department of Theatre and Media Arts
Elizabeth Funk worked as the administrative assistant in the Department of Theatre and Media Arts for 21 ½ years. Before she worked for the TMA department, Funk graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor's degree in music education, taught private voice and piano lessons and worked as a schoolteacher, including teaching at Utah Valley University as an adjunct English instructor. She worked briefly for the School of Music before moving to TMA. During her time with TMA, she worked closely with each department chair, provided support for the faculty rank and status and hiring processes and published two department newsletters each week. From 2006 to 2016, she served as an advisor to Divine Comedy. She was awarded BYU’s President’s Appreciation Award for her department service in 2009. She loved learning about the accomplishments of the faculty and providing support wherever needed. She also especially enjoyed working with TMA’s amazing office team, including student, staff and administrative members, who always inspired her with their generosity and positivity.

George Nelson
Courtesy of George Nelson

George Nelson | Department of Theatre and Media Arts
George Nelson worked as a professor and head of the theatrical writing program in the Department of Theatre and Media Arts for 32 years. He has also worked as a writer, curriculum designer, director and educational consultant. An award-winning director, Nelson has directed over 60 films, plays and musicals at BYU and other venues. Nelson’s musical “Single Wide” was named one of the top ten Broadway plays of 2015 by Hypable and also won the Blanche and Irving Laurie Musical Theatre Award in 2015. Nelson was also named as a Playwriting Fellow at the O’Neill Playwriting Conference in Connecticut. Nelson worked as an adjunct faculty member at several universities in Poland, including Adam Mickiewicz University and Pedagogium Wyższa Szkoła Pedagogiki Resocjalizacyjnej w Warszawie. Curriculum created by Nelson has been used internationally to help teachers and trainers with their students. Nelson appreciated that BYU allowed him to work creatively with students and said, “I’d like to thank the donors to the BYU Theatre and Media Arts Department for being so generous and allowing me to practice my art in such a powerful spiritual environment.”

Ray Smith
Courtesy of Ray Smith

Ray Smith | School of Music
Ray Smith worked as a professor in the School of Music for 40 years. After graduating from BYU with a bachelor’s degree in music education, he received both his master’s and doctorate degrees in woodwinds performance from Indiana University. “I love teaching where I can teach aesthetic and musical truths and concepts within the framework of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Smith. Smith is proficient in all five woodwind instruments and numerous other instruments. He has recorded on more than 250 CDs and movie scores and has played with the Utah Symphony and the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. When Smith joined the faculty in 1982, he became the first ever saxophone teacher at BYU. In addition, he was the director of BYU's jazz ensemble, Synthesis, for all 40 years of his BYU career. He is most proud of Synthesis for being well-known nationally and internationally, as well as being one of 10 bands invited to the Jack Rudin Jazz Championship in 2022. Smith has received the Voice of Jazz Award for the state of Utah as well as a lifetime achievement award from the International Association for Jazz Education. Smith’s jazz pedagogy and saxophone pedagogy books, as well as his YouTube tutorials, have received high praise from around the globe.

Ward Wright
Courtesy of Ward Wright

Ward Wright | Department of Theatre and Media Arts
Ward Wright worked as the assistant technical director and scene shop supervisor for the Department of Theatre and Media Arts for 21 years. Wright and his team were responsible for constructing and designing sets for many of the theatre program’s musicals, such as “The Phantom of the Opera.” Wright said that his favorite thing about working at BYU was the students. Over the course of his career at BYU, Wright has had over 150 students working for him in the shop and has stayed in contact with many of them. Prior to working with the TMA department at BYU, Wright was a professional actor for stage, screen and television productions. While at BYU, he worked on numerous productions, taught stage combat classes and helped adapt the children’s book “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey” into a musical. “I really enjoyed working with the many people in the theatre department,” said Wright. “I’ll cherish those memories, and I’ll also cherish all of the memories of working with people in BYU Arts production.”

The College of Fine Arts and Communications thanks each of these faculty and staff members for their service.