RIC Alum Anne Murphy, Arts Advocate, Dies

Anne Murphy, a 1959 Rhode Island College graduate who was one of the nation’s leading advocates of the arts and humanities, died earlier this month at her home in Washington, D.C. She was 74.

Murphy, who received an honorary Doctorate of Humanities Degree from RIC in 2009, was best known for her work as executive director of the American Arts Alliance. Now known as the Performing Arts Alliance, it is a consortium of hundreds of theater, dance and opera companies, as well as orchestras and museums. She led the alliance for 13 years.

She had been a tireless advocate for the arts, dating back to the 1960s when she helped draft legislation that created the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Murphy later worked for the NEA and the Public Broadcasting Service to develop public policy on federal funding of the arts.

Most recently, she was an adviser to the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies, also known as the Digital Promise. She served as director and co-chair of the nonprofit organization, which was created by Congress in 1999 to promote research into the use of digital technologies to improve learning and education to help Americans compete in the global economy.

"We are deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Anne Murphy, a true friend of Rhode Island College and the entire arts community," said Rhode Island College President Nancy Carriuolo. "She leaves behind a tremendous legacy, for which we are tremendously grateful."

Murphy, a native of Providence, has said that she was fortunate to have found her passion in life during her years at Rhode Island College. Her class was the first to graduate from RIC’s Mount Pleasant campus, and she was a volunteer during President Kennedy’s 1960 campaign. After graduating, she worked as an elementary school teacher in Rhode Island before moving to Washington to work for former Rhode Island Congressmen John Fogarty and Robert Tiernan.

When she returned to RIC in 2009, she made college history by being the first member of a golden anniversary class to be chosen as a commencement speaker. In her commencement address, Murphy emphasized the importance of free speech. She said, “Learning how to think and the freedom to think are what you take with you as you leave this campus. These are the passports to a world of untold opportunity.”