An estimated 118 alumni and guests gathered to honor the past and celebrate the future when Black Alumni of SMU recognized 13 of its history makers and introduced the inaugural Black Alumni Scholarship February 17.
The honorees included award-winning athletes, outstanding student leaders and members of the “SMU 33,” a group of students who, in 1969, staged a sit-in to call attention for the need for more diverse faculty and curriculum.
13 History Makers Recognized
- Bernard Jones ’01 – The first write-in candidate elected to the SMU Student Senate and, in 2002, the first person to be elected student body president without a runoff in a multi-candidate race.
- Michael Waters ’02 – The former student body vice president who, while serving as a chaplain’s assistant in 2004, founded the SMU Civil Rights Pilgrimage to the “shrines of freedom” throughout the South. As a senior political science major at SMU, he helped create a set of remembrance journals where students recorded their reflections on the events of September 11, 2001.
- Jerry LeVias ’69 – The first African-American player in the Southwest Conference to receive an athletic scholarship.
- Mike Rideau ’76 and twins Joe Pouncy ’74 and Gene Pouncy ’74 – Members of the 400-meter relay team that won the Southwest Conference championship for three consecutive years.
- The “SMU 33” – A group of students, including Rufus Cormier ’70, Charles Howard ’72, Charles Mitchell ’71, Michael Morris ’72, Anga Sanders ’70 and Detra Taylor ’72, whose activism in 1969 drew attention to the need for more diverse faculty and curriculum and called for the University to improve working conditions for its African-American employees.
- Rev. Zan Holmes Jr. ’59, ’68 – A Perkins School of Theology graduate who, as pastor of Hamilton Park United Methodist Church and a Texas legislator in 1969, helped successfully resolve the standoff between the “SMU 33” and the University administration.
The evening not only highlighted past accomplishments, but it also set the stage for future achievements through the Black Alumni Scholarship. The first scholarship will be awarded this spring to a rising sophomore or graduate student. To apply, a student must be a member of the Association for Black Students, maintain a 3.0 GPA and qualify for financial aid.
Anga Sanders ’70, a member of the “SMU 33” honored that evening, called the scholarship “a long-awaited dream.”
A video that included photographs, newspaper clippings and other materials from the SMU Archives showed the University as it was when many attendees were students. The contrast between the SMU of yesterday and today was palpable for Detra Taylor ’72, another member of the “SMU 33.”
“It really is like being in a different place today,” Taylor said. “There is a sense of community and belonging now.”
The history of the black student experience at SMU was an inspiration – and revelation – for some current SMU students at the event.
“Hearing their stories made me proud, and it really motivates me to want to be more courageous as a student,” said Bri Evans, a first-year English major in Dedman College. “I want to affect positive change like they did.”
For Fred Leach, a senior majoring in history and film, the evening was personal: his father, Fredrick S. Leach ’83, an SMU Trustee, and his uncle, Bobby Leach ’86, are SMU alumni.
“This is their history, and learning more about it makes me even prouder of their accomplishments,” he said.