It is with great sadness that we share news of the passing of emeritus faculty member R. Terrell Finney, Jr. Devoted husband of Dr. Susan N. Finney, loving father of Blake Finney (Alice Tang) and Sarah Finney (Sean Peters), cherished grandfather of Ronin and Hollis Finney, beloved son of the late Audrey and Robert (Bob) Finney, and an esteemed member of the CCM family for more than 30 years, Finney passed away on Jan. 23, 2020, at the age of 66.
Finney was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Drama and Speech in 1975. He then earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in Directing from Boston University in 1978. While there, he was fortunate to study with such notable American directors as Alan Schneider and Zelda Fichandler. Additional training saw him spend the summers of 1992 and 1995 at the Royal National Theatre Studio in London, where his instructors included legendary voice and speech specialists Patsy Rodenburg and Cicily Berry and actors Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellen, among others. He was a member of the Actors’ Equity Association throughout his theatrical career.
Finney was a faculty member at his alma mater, Birmingham-Southern College, from 1978 until his move to Cincinnati in 1984. He then began teaching at Cincinnati’s School for Creative and Performing Arts and at CCM. He was soon named head of the Division of Opera, Musical Theatre, Drama and Arts Administration (now known as the Division of Theatre Arts, Production and Arts Administration) at CCM, a post he held for over 20 years.
In a 1992 interview with Artscape: Classical WGUC’s Monthly Arts Magazine, Finney commented, “I like the process of nurturing young talent. I really enjoy seeing students mature as they develop and refine the craft, whether it be acting, directing or design.”
CCM Professor of Acting and Directing Richard Hess recalls:
“We referred to him as the energizer bunny, because his life force was so strong. If someone needed help he’d say ‘I’ll do it’, raising his hand, taking on monumental tasks with ease that helped thousands of CCM graduates and faculty. His compact frame belied surging energy; he was a Southern gentleman through and through. As a result, he was always a towering figure at CCM. His talent and leadership and love were one of a kind.” [View Hess’ full remembrance in the comments section.]
In addition to his administrative work, Finney taught voice and speech for students in the musical theatre and drama departments and directed productions for each. He was also Artistic Director of the Showboat Majestic, where selected productions included Crimes of the Heart and They’re Playing Our Song, and produced many seasons of CCM’s acclaimed Hot Summer Nights series. In 2010, he was named Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Director of Graduate Studies at CCM, a position he held until his retirement in 2016.
Finney’s numerous directing credits include Charley’s Aunt, Floyd Collins, Dancing at Lughnasa, The Diviners, Myths and Hymns, As You Like It, Lend Me A Tenor, Chekhov in Yalta, Blithe Spirit and the world premiere of Clever Dick for CCM/Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, among others. He also directed The Importance of Being Earnest for the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival. Acting credits include Nurse Nanny Fanny in ETC’s Snow White, Hysterium in the Hot Summer Nights production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Argon in CCM’s The Imaginary Invalid. He also served as narrator for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
At the national level, Finney was the immediate past president of the National Association of Schools of Theatre and continued to serve on its Board of Directors until his death. He was also a board member of the University/Resident Theatre Association and an advisor to the American High School Theatre Festival. He was in great demand as a consultant and worked with college and university theatre programs across the U.S. Locally, he was a loyal member of the Literary Club of Cincinnati.
Friends and family are invited to a public visitation on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020, from 9-11 a.m. at Spring Grove Funeral Homes, 4389 Spring Grove Avenue (45223). A celebration of life will be held immediately thereafter at 11 a.m. Inurnment will take place in the cremation woodlands at Spring Grove Cemetery at a later date.
Condolences at springgrove.org. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be directed to Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
Please join us in sending your thoughts, prayers and condolences to the entire Finney family. Terrell was a guiding force at CCM for more than three decades. During that time, he influenced multiple generations of students, colleagues and arts lovers. He will be deeply missed.