Robert Corrigan; Writer, First President of CalArts

Robert Corrigan, the educator, critic and writer who was forced to resign as the founding president of CalArts in a dispute with the Walt Disney family over finances and management, has died.

Corrigan, also a former dean of the School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas, was 65 when he died there Sept. 1. His family said this week that the cause was Shy-Drager syndrome, a neurological disease.

Corrigan was hired by CalArts in 1967 from what is now the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. The CalArts Valencia campus opened in 1970 and the administration almost immediately became embroiled in controversy with Disney’s heirs. The family had almost single-handedly founded the $37-million institution and felt that the school had become too avant-garde. Their immediate target was provost Herbert Blau, who was dismissed in 1971; Corrigan resigned in May, 1972. He was replaced by William Lund, husband of Walt Disney’s daughter Sharon.

Corrigan, who earned a doctorate in literature from the University of Minnesota in 1955, also headed the drama department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa., and later was the dean of the School of Fine Arts at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. He became dean of the Dallas school in 1984 and resigned last year.


A prolific writer, Corrigan produced more than 100 articles and was author, editor or translator of many books on the arts and the theater.

He is survived by his wife, JoAnn, two sons, his parents, four brothers and two grandchildren.