Among the first women to attain faculty status at an American university, Mary Rippon (1850–1935) began teaching French and German during CU’s second semester in 1878. At the time, there were only two other faculty members and 65 students.
A year after her death, the Regents approved plans for an outdoor theatre in Rippon’s honor. This theatre was completed in 1939 in the courtyard created by the Henderson Museum Building and the Hellems Building. It was designed by George Reynolds (1877–1964), a professor of English and one of the founders of the theatre department.
In 1944, James Sandoe directed a production of Romeo and Juliet in the outdoor theatre. Its success led to the establishment of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival (CSF) in 1958.
In 1992, the CSF was named one of the top three Shakespeare festivals in the nation by Time magazine.