December 4, 2007

Jim Caswell joined former SMU student leaders at the dedication of the expanded Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports.

Not many individuals can claim to have influenced the lives of almost 50,000 college students for nearly five decades. But that estimation applies to the late Jim Caswell, who served since 1964 in student affairs positions at SMU, most recently as vice president for student affairs. After retiring in May 2007, he planned to enjoy a second career as a church pastor, but lost his battle to cancer October 22.

Entering SMU as an undergraduate in 1958, Jim Caswell earned three degrees on the Hilltop – a Bachelor of Arts in social science in 1963, Bachelor of Divinity in 1966 and Master of Sacred Theology in 1970, both from Perkins School of Theology. The only time he strayed from SMU was to gain more preparation for leadership in student affairs – when he earned Master’s and doctoral degrees in education management from Columbia University.

"Jim Caswell devoted his professional life to the well-being of SMU’s students, providing them with a campus experience that would strengthen their educational and personal development," says President R. Gerald Turner. In the days following his death, that statement was confirmed repeatedly as alumni wrote remembrances of him in a special blog on SMU’s web site. Writing on the site, Sandra Plowman Kraus (’76, ’80) summed up the feelings expressed by many:

"I first met Jim in 1972 when I was an undergraduate student. He was a kind, gentle and fair-minded guy. When my son became a Mustang in 2004, Jim carved out time from his busy schedule and invited my son to his office for a chat and an informal welcome to the SMU community. I sit in gratitude for his contributions to SMU and for his generosity to my family and me. His life made a difference."

Although he was honored with numerous awards throughout his career, alumni who shared remembrances affirmed that his greatest reward was, no doubt, his influence on them – as a fellow student, teacher, administrator, alumnus and friend.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Jim Caswell Endowment for Leadership Development and Training at SMU or the American Cancer Society. For more information on the Leadership endowment, contact Bonner Allen at 214-768-2986, or at SMU Box 750305, Dallas, TX 75275. To contribute comments about Jim Caswell, visit the blog site