Heather McFadyen wins first Chitwood Award

Chitwood Award 2014

Recording Industry student Heather McFadyen accepts the inaugural Chitwood Award for Excellence in October for work in her Copyright Law class. The award is in memory of David “Ritt” Chitwood, a Mass Comm student who died in an accident in January 2014. Above McFadyen’s shoulder is a plaque honoring Chitwood, which now hangs in the new Student Success Center in the Mass Comm Building.

MTSU senior Heather McFadyen captured the first Chitwood Award for Excellence for her proposal that would allow beloved children’s author Beverly Cleary to reclaim ownership of her legendary book Ramona Quimby, Age 8.

The Chitwood Award for Excellence is awarded to the Recording Industry Department’s Copyright Law student delivering the best overall recapture project of the year. The recapture project is tied to U.S. Copyright Act (Section 203) that allows for creators of copyrights to terminate the rights of their publishers and reclaim ownership of their songs or books. This cutting-edge project is required of each student studying copyright law with MTSU Associate Professor Deborah Wagnon, who is a recognized attorney in copyright law, contracts and international entertainment transactions.

Now that the winner has been named, Wagnon will contact Cleary’s representatives to present McFadyen’s proposal to her.

“The students achieve a working knowledge in an area that is challenging and relevant to current issues of importance in the entertainment industry,” Wagnon said. “They research and execute the ‘recapture’ of the copyright to significant works of their targeted creators, whether songwriters or literary authors. Each student must also design a proposed plan for the current exploitation of the recaptured work that is worthy of presentation to their recording artist/songwriter or literary author, providing information needed to get valued works back after 35 years.”

McFadyen was named the 2014 winner by unanimous vote of the Selection Committee for her proposed recapture of Cleary’s book, which was published in 1981. “Ms. Cleary is a revered author who has dedicated her long career to inspiring children through her many published works,” Wagnon said. “This project was a highly creative and thoughtful master plan for how to secure the book’s copyright for its original author and how to bring this great work to a new generation with innovative and exciting new ideas proposed by Heather.”

Ritt Chitwood

Ritt Chitwood

McFadyen said she selected Cleary’s work for her project because her character Ramona Quimby inspired her to always follow an adventure. “Today, as I had an opportunity to use the works of Beverly Cleary in my studies, I had no idea that yet again, she’d be taking me on another adventure,” she said. “The recapture project not only gave me the chance to continue Ms. Cleary’s mission to help children, but also sparked a new path that I hadn’t imagined. In doing this project, I discovered a passion for law. I’m thankful for the excitement and push the Chitwood Award for Excellence has given me, and I look forward to my latest adventure: law school.”

The award is named for David “Ritt” Chitwood, a popular MTSU Recording Industry student who served as an inspiration for faculty and students alike as he remained optimistic and eager to learn despite being paralyzed after a 2006 car wreck. In a tragedy that rocked the university, he was killed at the age of 28 after being struck by a dump truck on Jan. 24, 2014.

His motto was “keep on keeping on,” so it is appropriate that this recapture project, which requires tenacity and attention to detail, was created in his honor.

Ramona Quimby Age 8“Heather’s project was particularly impressive as she had obviously taken great care in her research, in addition to giving a strong presentation of how she would propose taking this great book back to the marketplace once the copyright was secured by Ms. Cleary,” Wagnon said.

Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary

“I began developing the recapture project in 2011 for my Copyright Law classes,” Wagnon recalled. “It requires research and legal detail on the one hand, and creativity and entrepreneurial thinking on the other. Heather demonstrates both in her project and is most deserving of the award.”

Copyright Law is a required course in MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry, which was just named among the nation’s Top 5 music business schools.



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