Class Notes 2000-2013
Travis Justin Matthews Sr. received his Doctorate in Supervision, Curriculum and Instruction in Higher Education from Texas A&M Commerce in May.
Ian McCann, after 12 years as a reporter for The Dallas Morning News, has joined the City of Richardson as information coordinator.
Mary Elizabeth Ellis (right) is an actress living and working in Los Angeles, who has appeared in the television programs “New Girl,” “Up All Night,” “Happy Endings” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
Bernard Jones has been appointed an Oklahoma County District Judge. Jones earned a law degree from Notre Dame Law School and was previously associate dean for admissions and external affairs at Oklahoma City University School of Law and an associate at law firms in Oklahoma City and Ohio. He is board chair for the Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City and serves on the boards for Sunbeam Family Services, the American Cancer Society, Oklahoma Lawyers for Children and the national board of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network. Bernard lives in Edmond with his wife, Mautra, and son, Bernard.
David B. Lacy is a litigation attorney recently elected a partner at Christian & Barton LLP, a civil law firm in Richmond, VA. Treasurer of the Richmond Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, he is a member of the CLE Committee for the Bar Association of the City of Richmond and the Lewis F. Powell Jr. American Inn of Court.
Kristen Holland Shear and Mark F. Shear, OD, celebrated the birth of Benjamin Clay on September 23, 2013. Benjamin joins two older sisters, Savena and Cora.
Frank White (J.D., M.B.A. ’06) and his wife, Stephanie ’06, are parents of three children: twins Henry and Clayton, age 3, and Wesley, born Sept. 14, 2012. Frank has created a new website, CollegeFrog, which helps employers recruit accounting majors and manage the hiring process in one simple, inexpensive Web application.
Jodi Warmbrod Dishman, a trial and appeals lawyer formerly with the San Antonio office of Akin Gump, has joined Oklahoma’s largest law firm, McAfee & Taft, as Of Counsel. She and her husband, Brent, also an attorney, live in Edmond, OK.
Dodee Frost Crockett, Managing Director – Wealth Management at Merrill Lynch, placed 20th on the list of “America’s Top 100 Women Financial Advisors 2013” ranked by Barron’s. She focuses on building one-on-one relationships founded on trust and developing an understanding of her client’s needs and financial goals.
Juan José de León won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Great Lakes Region finals, in January representing Pittsburgh, where he has been in the Pittsburgh Opera Young Artists program for the last two seasons. In 2013-14, he will make his debut with The Metropolitan Opera in Nico Muhly’s Two Boys and with the Atlanta Opera as Count Almaviva in The Barber of Seville. He is spending the summer with the Wolf Trap Opera Company where he will perform in The Journey to Reims, Falstaff and Carmina Burana. He was a winner of the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition in 2010 and made his Dallas Opera debut in 2011.
Cameron W. George was promoted to director of finance at Linn Energy (NASDAQ:LINE), a top-15 U.S. independent oil and gas company based in Houston. He joined Linn in August 2005 to help take the company public. Previously he was an energy investment banker with RBC Capital Markets.
Eva Parks joined NBC 5 Investigates as an investigative producer in 2012. In their first year together, the investigative team has won two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for Best News Series and Continuing Coverage, and a national Sigma Delta Chi Award for Best Investigative Report from the Society of Professional Journalists.
D.J. Pierce is an actor primarily known as the drag character “Shangela.” Having once appeared on the reality series “Rupaul’s Drag Race,” he broke out to guest on “2 Broke Girls,” “The Mentalist,” “LA Hair,” “Glee” and the E! Network’s “The Soup.” Last September he debuted in the YouTube scripted series “Jenifer Lewis and Shangela” and has recently launched a stand-up comedy tour.
Susannah Cullum McGown and her husband, Patrick McGown ’09, celebrated the birth of their first child, Jackson Paul, Jan. 19, 2013.
José Leonardo Santos (Ph.D. ’08) was appointed social science assistant professor in anthropology at Metropolitan State University’s College of Arts and Sciences in Saint Paul, MN. He teaches 21 semester credits per year, advises students and frequently guests on Minnesota Public Radio. He has taught at SMU’s Taos and Dallas campuses.
Matt and Melissa Rothschild Bragman (right) welcomed future Mustang Molly Elizabeth Bragman (Class of 2027) September 17. She was born just in time to watch the Battle for the Iron Skillet, says Matt. The Bragmans live in Long Beach, CA where Matt is an administrator for Green Dot Public Schools and Melissa is the entertainment events manager at the Queen Mary.
Ashley Randt Kneisly and her mother, Margo Geddie, who attended SMU’s Cox School of Business, work side by side managing large investment and retirement portfolios at The Geddie Group at Morgan Stanley in Houston. Ashley earned a bachelor’s degree in corporate communications and public affairs from SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts and says her mother has been a supportive mentor in her career in the financial services industry.
Ruthie Leggett married Zachary Thicksten July 6, 2013, in Beaver Creek, CO. The newlyweds live in Little Rock, AR.
Melissa Meeks runs TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art, an annual contemporary art auction in Dallas benefiting two organizations – the Dallas Museum of Art and amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research – and drawing prominent artists, art collectors and philanthropists from around the world. She was recently profiled in ELLE magazine as one of ELLE’s 2012 Fresh Makers, an art world power player. She is an active member of the Dallas Cowboys Stadium’s art council, with a hand in its founding.
Allison Pfingstag graduated from Tarrant County College in 2012 with a degree in dental hygiene and is now a dental hygienist in the family and cosmetic dentistry practice of Dr. Ted Hume III.
Natalie Bidnick has relocated to Austin to attend graduate school at St. Edward’s University, working toward a Master of Liberal Arts degree with an emphasis in creative writing.
Tamara L. Jones has completed an orthodontic residency and earned a Master of Science in Dentistry degree from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. She is excited to be joining Willow Bend Orthodontics in Plano.
Brent Turman (J.D. ’12) has been named an associate at the Dallas-based law firm SettlePou, where he concentrates on contract disputes, real estate litigation, consumer financial services litigation, negligence claims, Texas Deceptive Trade Practices claims and commercial disputes.
Jay Wieser has been selected a 2012 Fort Worth “Top Attorney” by Fort Worth, Texas magazine in the December issue. He practices civil litigation in Jackson Walker’s Fort Worth office.
Katharine Brunson and Travis Clark were married in Dallas June 23, 2012, and live in Fort Worth. She is a paralegal with Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP, and Travis is a geologist with Dynamic Production Inc.
Mary Pat Higgins, at the Hockaday School in Dallas since 1990, is a CPA and Hockaday’s longtime chief financial officer. On Jan. 1, 2013, she began new duties as president and CEO of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, where she looks forward to possible construction of a new museum.
Lindsay Scanio is the new assistant director of alumni engagement at SMU. Previously she was coordinator for SMU alumni relations and a program specialist for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, where she helped recruit and retain over 200 volunteers.
Jamila Benkato received an M.A. in Global and International Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2012, after completing internships at the Arab American Institute and Human Rights Watch, both in Washington, D.C. After serving for a year as Program Coordinator for West Michigan Refugee Education and Cultural Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, she is returning to California to become a member of UC, Irvine School of Law’s Class of 2016.
Brian M. Kwesiga was elected the 10th president and CEO of the Ugandan North American Association (UNAA) at its 25th annual convention held August 30-September 1 in Dallas. The organization promotes the “social, cultural and economic development of the Ugandan community in North America [which numbers more than 120,000] and beyond.” Brian chaired the organization’s 2013 Dallas Convention Organizing Committee (COC).
Nikki Cloer married Sam McDonald Jan. 12, 2013, in Corinth, TX. The newlyweds live in Dallas.
Ashley Howe (M.S. ’12) and James Justinic (M.S. ’12) were married at Perkins Chapel Nov. 3, 2012. They met in the Mustang Band.
Andrew Nguyen was profiled as a “real hero” by Peter Calabrese on Huffington Post July 1, 2013. Nguyen founded Honor Courage Commitment, Inc. a nonprofit that provides free training, mentorship and education to develop vets into entrepreneurs. Nguyen, who holds a Master of Science in Entrepreneurship for SMU’s Cox School of Business, also launched WSI Search, a digital marketing and Web development firm, in 2008. He served in the Marines for four years all over the world, including Afghanistan, before returning to Dallas and attending SMU.
Jordan Chlapecka and Jennifer Wagstaff were announced last October 3 as two of five national winners of The Big Ad Gig, an annual Advertising Week competition that invites aspiring copywriters and art directors to vie for a 30-day paid freelance position at one of the industry’s best agencies. Jordan won a spot at Deutsch, and Jenny, a position at Ogilvy & Mather.
Olivia Anne Smith is an artist whose first show, “Site Reading,” was front and center last September 23 – October 20 in Brooklyn at an experimental gallery called A Slender Gamut. She describes her work: “I throw an inked ball into the walls of a small, unlit room. Word, image, and action are suddenly indistinguishable. A drawing is something to be done to a wall inside the site of display, platform for performance, and exclusive container of art.”
Natalie Blankenship and Ryan Wolfe were married June 8 at Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church here in Dallas. They met in high school in Austin. At SMU Ryan was the president of Delta Sigma Pi and Natalie is a member of Delta Gamma.
Paul Boynton participated in the summer internship program of Sabre Holdings, a global technology company serving the world’s largest industry – travel and tourism – and now has accepted an offer to work for Sabre Travel Network as a marketing communications associate.
Laura Brandt has joined the Dallas-based law firm SettlePou as an associate in the commercial litigation practice group and the insurance defense practice group.
David de la Fuente has accepted a position as field representative/caseworker for Congressman Marc Veasey of Texas in the United States House of Representatives.
Kyle Hobratschk recently won the Turner House art competition with a copper plate etching of the Turner House itself. His was the winning entry in the Oak Cliff Society of Fine Arts art contest, marking the 100th anniversary of the historic residence. Kyle pursues painting, printmaking, woodworking and furniture design. He is a resident of Oak Cliff, a suburb of Dallas.
J. Jody Walker is a new associate at SettlePou, a law firm based in Dallas, where he is a member of the business counsel services practice group. At Abilene Christian University, where he earned his undergraduate degree with a 4.0 GPA, he was a starting linebacker for the Wildcats.
After two years with Merrill Lynch, Trenton B. Owens recently transitioned to the role of financial advisor as an associate partner with the team of Price, Diwlorth & Associates here in North Texas. Trent resides in Dallas.