College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Joe Turner Cantú, Cora Lee Graham Award for Outstanding Teacher of Freshmen

Joe Turner Cantú, assistant professor of theatre arts, is the 20th recipient of the annual Cora Lee Graham Award for Outstanding Teaching of Freshmen.

“He teaches all freshman performers, does an outstanding job and sets the standard for the rest of their performance studies here,” McCoy said.

“Joe Cantú has an enthusiasm for teaching that is rare,” said Liberal Arts Dean Glenn Hopkins. “It is not surprising that his students nominated him for this important award.”

An actor trainer, director and playwright, Cantú is head of the Acting Program in the Department of Theatre Arts and artistic director of the summer Oxford Shakespeare Festival. His teaching expertise is in acting process, acting styles and directing. He was previously on the faculty at Northern Arizona University at Flagstaff, the University of Texas at Austin and Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where he earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Cantú’s professional playwriting credits include “Rock and Betty Dance” and “American Cowgirls.” He also won a Rockefeller playwriting grant and directed the New England Festival of New Works and the Texas Playwrights Festival.

Cantú said he is pleased and honored that his freshman students nominated him for the award.

“It’s rare to be recognized with such an award for our teaching,” said Cantú, who joined the UM faculty in fall 2002. “I’m humbled by it and am obviously proud to be included among the past recipients.”

The award is named in honor of Cora Lee Graham of Union City, Tenn., who established an endowment in 1984 to “help retain better professors who teach the freshman classes” in the College of Liberal Arts. Criteria for the Graham Award include excellence in class instruction, intellectual stimulation of students and concern for students’ welfare.

Past recipients of the award include Aileen Ajootian, Gerard Buskes, Walter E. Cleland Jr., Gary R. Gaston, Hans-Jurgen Gaycken, Cornelius Gispen, Paul Lago, Kathryn McKee, Timothy Nordstrom, Jon Parcher, Holly Reynolds, William D. Scott and Jeffrey R. Watt.