Honoring TCU’s first alumni chancellor and communicating a message

In the late 1970s, TCU wanted to build a facility to join communication and visual arts programs that were scattered across campus. To that end, Fort Worth arts patron Ruth Carter Stevenson, who had honored her father’s wishes in creating the artistically important Amon Carter Museum in the 1960s, offered TCU a $16 million gift from the Amon G. Carter Foundation. At the time, TCU Chancellor James M. Moudy, for whom TCU’s trustees declared the new building would be named, said the Carter Foundation gift for a visual arts and communication complex was the largest single gift received by TCU, aside from bequests.

Ruth Carter Stevenson

Chancellor J.M. Moudy giving student awards.

Moudy’s donor: Selecting a visionary architect

Stevenson’s only condition was that she choose the TCU building project’s architect – and she selected a nationally prominent architect who could communicate an artistic message for the campus: Kevin Roche.


Roche studied with legendary architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and later became principal designer for another legendary architect, Eero Saarinen. After Saarinen’s death, Roche partnered with engineer John Dinkeloo to create the firm Roche Dinkeloo and Associates. Their firm completed 12 major Saarinen projects that were under way when he died. Those projects included finishing the iconic Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the TWA Center at Kennedy Airport in New York, and the CBS Headquarters in New York.

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The complex that Roche designed for TCU became the J.M. Moudy Building for Visual Arts and Communication. It was Roche’s first design in Texas. (He later designed a Neiman Marcus department store at NorthPark Center in Dallas and the Conoco Oil headquarters in Houston.) Construction of the Moudy complex began in 1978, and it was dedicated in 1982. That same year, Roche won the Pritzker Prize, which sometimes has been considered the equivalent of a Nobel Prize for architecture.

Despite its design by a renowned architect who went on to complete New York’s Ford Foundation building and major projects for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Central Park Zoo, the United Nations and the American Museum of Natural History, the Moudy complex was not immediately beloved by some members of the TCU community. The building was dubbed a “radical break” from the more traditional campus buildings it faced across University Drive.

Groundbreaking ceremony booklet for the building

The Original Dedication Booklet

Architect: Promoting ‘synergy’ and ‘a creative environment’

The Roche Dinkeloo firm designed the Moudy complex as two nearly separate buildings constructed mostly of concrete rather than TCU’s more common buff-colored brick. The north building was home to visual arts programs, and the south building housed communication programs. The buildings were joined across a shared courtyard. “The courtyard contains a glass-covered arcade linking the two buildings,” the architecture firm said. “The center of the court forms an octagonal garden, open to the sky, around which the facets of the pavilion cast an intricate pattern of dappling shadows. Occasional lines of clear glass admit the brilliant Texas sun. … Because the climate in Fort Worth is hot and often windy much of the year, this partial enclosure provides a protected concourse to the different disciplines – a sense of place where outdoor events and exhibitions can be held with the intention of encouraging an exchange of ideas among the students, teachers, and general public. Connecting both the visual and performing arts in such a way develops a synergy which highlights their creative similarities and provides the dynamism that makes for a creative environment.”

Inside, the Moudy South building communicated the most up-to-date understanding of communication the architects could imagine. Those up-to-date features were showcased in the building’s dedication program.

Academic departments: Raving about state-of-the-art facilities

On its first floor, Moudy South housed the Radio-TV-Film Division, complete with KTCU-FM radio studios and “two color television studios” that “would be the envy of some commercial stations.” The Radio-TV-Film Division declared, “The Moudy Building gives TCU students access to the newest of equipment; it is probably the country’s best learning facility in this field.”

The Journalism Department, complete with offices for The Daily Skiff campus newspaper and Image magazine, moved onto Moudy South’s second floor. Journalism declared that its new classrooms “could well be the newsrooms of a small daily newspaper,” while other rooms contained the “electronic equipment” such as “video display terminals” and a “magnetic disc system” for typesetting that were now state of the art in journalism.

Click or drag to scroll through images of the Moudy Building’s Interiors.

Upon moving onto Moudy South’s third floor, the Department of Speech Communication boasted that “Special building facilities include simulation classrooms, performance laboratories, a computer-based audience analyzer, a demonstration classroom, private practice and TV screening rooms, along with other facilities uniquely suited for study in this new field.” The Speech Communication Department also touted an octagonal classroom featuring mirrors on every wall that could be used for classes in interpersonal communication “to demonstrate how a feeling of being part of a crowd influences interaction.”

When the mirrors were no longer needed, “the wall panels can rotate into soft cloth-covered surfaces, lights can be dimmed, the sound softened” and create what “may be the first classroom anywhere specifically designed to study the influence of surroundings on communication.” The department also expressed pride in a system named COMET (for “Common Effectiveness Trainer”) that let instructors guide small group discussions by sending teletype-written messages that would appear on small screens placed on students’ tables. A speaker’s podium that “has all the buttons and switches to control sound and lights and projectors” was also praised by the department.

Chancellor James M. Moudy had been present at the Moudy complex ground breaking in 1978, and he was among the speakers during the 1982 dedication ceremony for the complex. The program booklet that guests at the ceremony received summarized Moudy’s career:

“James M. Moudy, the first alumnus of TCU to become its chancellor, stepped down as the University’s seventh chief executive officer in September 1979. He was named chancellor in 1965, eight years after returning to his alma mater as dean of the graduate school. Under his direction research-oriented doctoral programs took root, expanded and brought TCU a ranking among the nation’s major universities. His emphasis on a strengthened faculty brought to TCU Texas’ fourth chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the most prestigious recognition of undergraduate quality in the liberal arts, and a chapter of Sigma Xi, recognizing research in the sciences. The new building bears his name at the request of the donating Amon G. Carter Foundation and the TCU Board of Trustees.”


Press play to listen to a podcast about the Moudy Building.

Courtesy of Schieffer Associates

Maintaining The Legacy

The Amon G. Carter Foundation again positively influenced the Moudy complex in 1995, when it endowed a $1.5 million fund that helps fund the building’s maintenance and occasional refurbishment.

Photograph by Phil Hartman