Carnegie Mellon News Online Edition: December 5, 2001
Carnegie Mellon News Online Edition
In This Issue

BioVenture/Life Sciences Greenhouse Aims to Develop Bioscience Industries

Behrmann Cited for Research into the Mind's "Eye"

Students Get Chance to Impact Public Policy Through Friedman, Johnson Fellowships

HR Launches New Just-in-Time, Self-Service Web Technology

Akram Midani Remembered for His Knowledge, Sense of Humor

Heinz School Appoints William Guttman To Head Software Industry Center

Judith Modell to Direct Center for Arts in Society

Simon Memorial Fund Established

"Strong, Distinctive Voices" Take Circuitous Routes to Poetry, Carnegie Mellon

News Briefs
Historian Manning Marable is Keynoter for Martin Luther King Day

Most Eligible Bachelor Returns

Regina Gouger Miller Gallery Presents...

Entries Sought for Martin Luther King Writing Awards

This Issue's Front Page
Carnegie Mellon News Home
Carnegie Mellon News Services Home Page

Midani Akram Midani Remembered for His Knowledge, Sense of Humor
"He's the patron saint of the arts at Carnegie Mellon," says Drama Professor Don Marinelli.

Multidisciplinary Fine Arts Professor Akram Midani, former dean of the College of Fine Arts (CFA) and a longtime member of the university faculty, died on Nov. 28 at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital after a long battle with heart disease. He was 73.

Visitation was held Nov. 29 at Freyvogel Funeral Home in Oakland. The funeral and interment were private.

Midani joined the faculty as an associate professor of drama in 1965 and became dean of CFA on July 1, 1972, the same day the late Richard M. Cyert became president of Carnegie Mellon.

In 17 years as dean, Midani is credited for leading significant interdisciplinary curriculum developments and enhancements in the university's architecture, art, design, drama and music programs. CFA also began to educate non-fine arts majors during Midani's deanship as more than 50 courses were made available to students across the university. Students were given the opportunity to minor in a fine arts discipline.

In the School of Drama, Midani helped to create a successful film and television production program, involving about 50 percent of drama students by the late 1980s. On the Kresge Theatre stage, the school continued to produce original dramatic productions, such as "Four of a Kind," "Concer Theatre" and "Portrait."

"He was a wonderful man, interested in so many things," said Barbara Anderson, associate dean of the School of Drama. "His knowledge of all the areas of the fine arts and his lovely sense of humor made him a fine dean and a wonderful friend."

"Akram Midani was my idol," said Drama Professor Donald Marinelli, co-director of Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center. "I viewed him as the Lorenzo dei Medici of Pittsburgh, a true renaissance man and arts patron. In the same way that Lorenzo dei Medici's sarcophagus in Florence, Italy, bears the inscription, 'Il Magnifico,' so should Akram's.

"If anyone deserves to be buried within the College of Fine Arts building proper it would have to be Akram Midani. He's the patron saint of the arts at Carnegie Mellon," Marinelli said.

"I cannot imagine Carnegie Mellon without Dean Midani," said Phil Nemy, a 1983 Drama School graduate. "Yes, he was a wonderful teacher and administrator, but it was the heart of the man that I will remember. Dean Midani always stopped to say hello and find out what was happening in my life. If I ever needed advice or guidance, he was always available, willing to listen, and consistently provided sage counsel.

"Even 18 years after graduating, when I would see him on the campus, it was as if we picked up right where we left off. His kindness and generosity is what I will most remember. I will miss him," Nemy said.

During Midani's tenure, the School of Architecture created the first computer-aided design studio for undergraduates in the U.S. The school's research in the areas of architecture and artificial intelligence, design and human cognition, and building sciences and building diagnostics gained national recognition.

"He was a man of the world bringing about practical results with the help of a deep personal philosophy of life," said Professor Omer Akin, former head of the School of Architecture. "You would often find him speaking softly and with care, humor and understanding. Akram was a wise man. We will miss his humor, his wisdom, his humanity and his friendship."

The School of Art curriculum developed greatly in the '70s and '80s and began to focus its activities around two- and three-dimensional programs as well as computer graphics.

"Akram Midani was a complex man who held a world perspective about art and culture," said Elaine King, professor of art history and theory, who along with Midani created the Carnegie Mellon Art Gallery. "He never was afraid to speak his mind, however, when he did, Akram always did so in a diplomatic and often humorous manner and those he opposed listened. Such a person is rare, but are not all great things? He will be missed."

The School of Music began to explore a variety of musical styles and a sophisticated new laboratory for computer and electronic music was established. The School of Design's curriculum became interdisciplinary, integrating industrial design and graphic design with marketing and manufacturing.

"My best times at Carnegie Mellon were spent during the time that Midani was the dean of CFA," said Leonardo Balada, University Professor of Composition. "He was someone that you could trust and go to for sound advice. He was an extremely sensitive and cultured individual who had a passion for the arts, especially music."

Balada dedicated a "Sonata for Ten Winds" to Midani, which was published by G Schirmer and recorded by the American Brass Quintet and the Woodwind Quintet. Midani and Balada collaborated on an opera, "Town of Greed," that made its world premiere last April in Kresge Theatre.

Midani is also credited for helping to create the Master of Arts Management program, a collaborative effort between CFA and the Heinz School, and CFA's Center for Art and Technology, which later became the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, a revolutionary arts research program.

Under Midani, freshman applications for 250 places in CFA rose dramatically, from 900 in the early '80s to 1,700 in the late'80s. CFA became recognized as an important cultural center in Pittsburgh with its art galleries and many musical performances and stage productions.

After stepping down as CFA dean in 1989, Midani returned to the faculty after a one-year sabbatical. Upon returning to the university, he was the College Professor of Multidisciplinary Studies. In that capacity he has taught in the schools of Drama, Art, Architecture and Music as well as in the Master of Arts Management program.

He recently taught "Poetry &Music" and "Music and Literary Imagination" in the School of Music, and "Godwin & Son" and "Bauhaus" in the School of Architecture.

Born on Dec. 7, 1927, in Damascus, Syria, Midani was raised in Egypt and came to the U.S. in 1955. He earned his bachelor's degree in fine arts from the High Institute of Dramatic Arts in Cairo and his master's degree from New York University.

Before coming to Carnegie Mellon in 1965, Midani was a Syrian diplomat to the United Nations in New York and a critic, playwright, actor, director, and radio actor and scriptwriter for Radio Cairo and Radio Damascus. He served as director of the Arab Information Office in New York in the mid 1960s. He resigned as First Secretary of the Syrian Mission in 1965.

Midani published two short plays and a book on American drama, and acted and directed in numerous productions. He directed the American premiere of "Hangman! Hangman!" a tragic-comic opera by Balada, and "Renard," an opera ballet by Igor Stravinsky. Both performances were well received by critics, including the national publication "Opera News."

Also well received by critics was his photo exhibition, "Fenestration," of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. "Ulysses on Montmartre," a book he co-authored about the relationship of James Joyce's Ulysses to a 1910 shadow play done on Montmartre in Paris, will be published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2002.

Midani served as chairman of the CFA faculty (1968-69), chairman of the Carnegie Mellon faculty (1970-71) and as a member of the university's Educational Policy Council (1968-70). He was a member of the American Society for Aesthetics and the Shakespeare Association of America.

He is survived by his wife, Watfa, a prominent artist, who has exhibited her work in Istanbul, Jerusalem, Cairo, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

CFA will host a memorial service for Midani early next year.

Bruce Gerson and Joelle Park

This Issue's Headlines || Carnegie Mellon News Home || Carnegie Mellon Home