Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences English

Marillyn Seeberger shattered glass ceilings in the Dallas advertising industry – but never received a degree until now

At age 85, Marillyn Seeberger is graduating with a B.A. in film and media arts and minor in English from SMU with plans to write screenplays.

When Marillyn Seeberger graduated in 1954 from Ardmore High School in Ardmore, Oklahoma, she had a dorm room reserved at the University of Oklahoma, where she intended to study journalism. But an “enchanting” young fellow offered her an engagement ring, and she married and moved to Denison, Texas, instead. By the time she was twenty-three she was the mother of three daughters.

Sixty-eight years later, she is fulfilling her dream to go to college, earning a B.A. in film and media arts from SMU with plans to write screenplays.

“I don’t want to just take up space on the planet,” she says.

No fear of that.

Seeberger has been breaking boundaries since landing her first job in the 1960s at an Oklahoma City television station after attending secretarial school at night. She worked in several departments at the station, helping produce live shows directed at women’s and children’s audiences, writing copy and producing public service programs and occasionally appearing on live shows.

“I always wanted to work,” she says.

After a move to Dallas in 1968, Seeberger joined the film production team at the Bloom Agency, then the largest independent advertising agency in Dallas. Thirteen years later she was the first woman vice president of broadcast production at Bloom, rolling out  commercials for national campaigns, music videos and award-winning films for corporate and nonprofit groups.  She was the first woman to lead nearly every film and production professional organization in Dallas and created her own production company, Turtle Island Pictures.

“I never met anyone as strong, tenacious, and capable as Marillyn, said Mary Collins, ’79, who worked for Seeberger at Bloom in her first job after graduating from SMU with a degree in advertising. “Working for her set the standard for me as a woman in business.”

After managing the casting of talent for Seeberger at Bloom, Collins opened her own talent agency in 1984 – the first in the Southwest dedicated to experienced voiceover and on-camera performers. The two joined forces recently as actors from the Mary Collins Agency provided the talent for Seeberger’s senior production class film, “The Author.”

Seeberger didn’t tell her family when at age 80, she began taking community college classes, “just to keep busy after my retirement.” But as her credits accumulated, her thoughts returned to her long-time dream to become a writer.

“I always wanted to write,” she says. “I knew I had stories to tell with a little bit of fact and a little bit of fiction.”

In January of 2020, Seeberger transferred to SMU to complete her degree in film and media arts. “It was important to me to have the credentials to be a screenwriter,” she says.

Like other college students, Seeberger learned to navigate pandemic-driven ZOOM classes “The young people in my classes have helped me out,” she says. “I have their names and phone numbers. I learned long ago from my work that the most important thing to know is who to call for help.”

Students and faculty in SMU’s Film and Media Arts department appreciate her too. At the Meadows School of the Arts Commencement ceremony on May 14, Seeberger will lead other film graduates into SMU’s McFarlin Auditorium as their marshal.

“Every spring, faculty in every program select a marshal from among the students, said Derek Kompare, chair and associate professor of film and media arts. “We tend to grant this honor to students who have displayed some signature perseverance and have a unique path to graduation. Marillyn was the only, obvious choice for us this year!”

Learn more about Marillyn’s experience as a student at SMU.