alumni news

$15 million gift to endow SMU’s Hunt Leadership Scholars Program

Hunt Scholars Group Portrait with Tate Speaker Indra Nooyi

Nancy Ann Hunt (third from left, front row) and Ray L. Hunt (fifth from left, front row) with Hunt Leadership Scholars.

A $15 million gift from the Nancy Ann Hunt Foundation (a supporting organization of the Communities Foundation of Texas) will ensure the long-term support of one of SMU’s signature scholarship programs. With this gift, Nancy Ann ’65 and Ray L. Hunt ’65 will have contributed $65 million to the University’s Hunt Leadership Scholars Program – a nationally recognized scholarship program that attracts academically gifted and exceptional service-driven student leaders from across the country.

In 1993, the Hunts  and SMU announced a vision to create an annually funded leadership program to preserve the well-rounded and entrepreneurial nature of SMU’s student body while the University grew its academic standing. They believed that an SMU education fosters, and benefits from, students who exhibit demonstrated leadership skills, intellectual ability, a spirit of entrepreneurism and a strong work ethic, combined with a desire to grow these skills and apply them in service of the community.

> Learn more about SMU’s Hunt Leadership Scholars Program: smu.edu/hunt

“SMU has benefited enormously from Nancy Ann and Ray Hunt’s historic generosity,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Today SMU receives three times the number of applicants than it did in 1993 with many now having proven leadership, entrepreneurial and academic strengths. Therefore, although the Hunts feel that the original program’s objectives have been accomplished, we were delighted when they agreed to make this significant gift that will enable the University to create an endowment to insure the long-term continuation of the Leadership Scholars program and the legacy that the Hunts have created.”

“We are grateful for the impact this program has had upon the lives of so many students, both at SMU and beyond, in terms of preserving and enhancing the entrepreneurial spirit and “Texas heritage” which Nancy Ann and I enjoyed years ago when we were both students at SMU,” said Ray L. Hunt. “We are honored that SMU wishes to sustain this program in perpetuity to meet the needs of students at SMU and the Greater Dallas community in the years to come.”

“Our intent was to create a scholarship program that would be based upon more than just strong academic credentials,” said Nancy Ann Hunt.  “We wanted to help SMU attract truly outstanding students who demonstrate a strong potential to be a leader throughout their lives; young men and women who will stand up, speak out, and make a positive difference to a broader community.  We firmly believe that Hunt Scholars represent that type of person.”

Ten million dollars of the Hunts’ gift will be placed in an endowment that will generate funds in perpetuity. The remaining $5 million will be spent over the next several years as the endowment matures, allowing time to develop additional sources of support for the Hunt Leadership Scholars Program.

— Written by Regina Moldovan

> Read the full story from SMU News

SMU Guildhall students play games for good during 2017 Extra Life Game-a-Thon Dec. 2-3

Extra Life logo 2017This weekend, you can join SMU Guildhall for 24 hours of esports excitement and gaming for good – all from the comfort of your living room.

The Guildhall’s Extra Life Game-a-Thon returns Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 2-3, 2017, to raise funds for Children’s Miracle Network. The student-led event features online battles in both popular titles and new student-designed games, and the event will be streamed from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. both days on the SMU Guildhall Twitch channel.

Watch Extra Life 2017 live at Twitch.TV/SMUGuildhall

Guildhall graduate students have raised more than $12,000 for Children’s Medical Center Plano during their two years of Extra Life competition. The team has set a 2017 goal of $7,500, with The Hersh Foundation pledging to match dollar-for-dollar all funds raised up to $10,000. The Dallas-based foundation was created in 1997 by Kenneth A. Hersh, president and CEO of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, and his wife, Julie, who serves as its president.

> Visit Team SMU Guildhall’s Extra Life direct-donation link

The students will return with some of the most popular competition titles, including Mario Party, Rocket League Tournament and Overwatch. New this year: Mowin’ and Throwin’, a full-length game designed by Guildhall alumni that began as a 24-hour design challenge during last year’s game-a-thon.

> Sign up for a Mowin’ and Throwin’ play test at House Pixel Games

A partial list of this year’s tournament titles:

The event will include an appearance by local esports team Dallas Fuel, competitors in the new Overwatch League. They will discuss the life of a professional esports gamer beginning at 5:15 p.m. on Sunday. In addition, SMU Guildhall will give away two copies of Star Wars Battlefront II provided by alumni donors; more giveaways and fun activities will take place throughout the weekend and will be announced during the streams of each game.

Since its inception in 2008, Extra Life has raised more than $30 million for sick children through thousands of gamers from around the world, raising funds from friends and community to help heal sick and injured kids. One hundred percent of donations, which are tax-deductible, go to local Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.

> Read the press release from the SMU Guildhall website

> Learn more at the SMU Guildhall Extra Life team page

Bishop Michael McKee ’78 named 2017 Distinguished Alumnus by Perkins School of Theology

Bishop Michael McKeeMichael McKee, SMU trustee and resident bishop of the Dallas Area of The United Methodist Church, has been named the 2017 Distinguished Alumnus of SMU’s Perkins School of Theology. He will be honored during the annual awards banquet on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017 at 5 p.m. in the Great Hall of Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall.

Bishop McKee was selected for the award by the Perkins Alumni/ae Council for his demonstrated effectiveness and integrity in service to the church, continuing support and involvement in the goals of Perkins School of Theology and SMU, distinguished service in the wider community and exemplary character.

A native of Fort Worth, Bishop McKee’s service to The United Methodist Church, to Southern Methodist University, and to Perkins School of Theology has spanned almost five decades and has influenced the denomination at the local, regional, national, and global levels.

“Bishop McKee is an outstanding choice for the 2017 Distinguished Alumnus Award,” said Perkins Dean Craig C. Hill. “Throughout his ministry, he has been a faithful servant of both The United Methodist Church and Perkins School of Theology, and I — like so many others — have come to rely on his judgment and to count on his assistance.”

“There is no better partner in the work of our school,” Dean Hill said.

In his nomination letter, Dr. John Robbins — senior pastor of Memorial Drive United Methodist Church in Houston — cited Bishop McKee’s extraordinary and courageous leadership through the years.

“He served the local church with distinction with every congregation he led experiencing significant growth,” he said. “His strong leadership created an exceptional level of respect from his clergy colleagues, as well as countless lay people. He has never shied away from challenges or conflicts that might impede his ability to share the Gospel message through the spoken word and hands-on efforts,” Dr. Robbins said. “Because of that and many other accomplishments, he is more than deserving of this prestigious honor.”

A member of the SMU Board of Trustees since 2012, he has been a member of the Perkins Executive Board since 2004 and currently serves as its chair. He was a member of the Perkins Dean Search Committee in 2016 and was co-chair of the successful Second Century Campaign, which increased financial aid and faculty chair endowments at Perkins School of Theology.

Bishop McKee is president of the Board of the denomination’s General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA), a member of the Council of Bishops Executive Committee and is immediate past-president of the South Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops. In addition to SMU, he serves on the Boards of Trustees of the Texas Methodist Foundation, Southwestern University, and Methodist Health System, Dallas

Elected to the episcopacy by the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church in 2012, he previously served for 15 years as senior minister of First UMC in Hurst, Texas. He was appointed as senior minister of Overton Park UMC, Meadowbrook UMC in Fort Worth, and First UMC in Joshua. Bishop McKee also served as associate pastor of First UMC in Fort Worth and Richland Hills UMC.

A clergy member of the Central Texas Annual Conference prior to his election to the episcopacy, he was ordained Deacon in 1975 and Elder in 1979. He served as chair of the annual conference Board of Ordained Ministry, was elected delegate to the General Conference in 2008 and 2012, and was an alternate delegate in 2004. In addition, he was a delegate to South Central Jurisdictional Conferences each quadrennium from 2004-2012.

Bishop McKee received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin (1973), a Master of Theology from Perkins School of Theology of Southern Methodist University (1978), and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Texas Wesleyan University (2005). He is married to Joan (Craig) McKee and they have two adult children: Erin McKee Chidsey, son-in-law Darin, and grandsons Knox and Ford, Los Angeles, California; and Meredith McKee, who lives in Dallas.

> Buy tickets for the SMU Perkins awards banquet online

New book on Holocaust Poland commemorates 10th anniversary of SMU human rights program

'No Resting Place' book coverBearing witness to Poland’s deep physical and emotional scars that linger long after World War II – when the Nazis made the country the epicenter of the Holocaust – is the focus of a new book by SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program.

No Resting Place: Holocaust Poland (Terrace Partners, $39.95) combines more than 200 contemporary photos of occupied Poland’s deadliest Holocaust sites with historical vignettes and poignant observations from those who have experienced one of the most comprehensive, longest-running Shoah study trips offered by a U.S. university.

> Read a preview of No Resting Place: Holocaust Poland

Each December, the two-week “Holocaust Poland” trip – led for more than 20 years by SMU Prof. Rick Halperin – exposes students and lifelong learners to the Third Reich’s genocidal “Final Solution to the Jewish Question.” Both the trip and book are meant to ensure historical remembrance and “history as warning,” says history professor and co-author Halperin. “In our increasingly polarized world, where hate crimes against Jews and Muslims are on the rise, the need for tolerance and understanding has never been greater.”

Dallas philanthropist and SMU alumna Lauren Embrey (’80, ’06) couldn’t agree more. Embrey’s life would be profoundly changed by the 2005 “Holocaust Poland” pilgrimage she took while pursuing a Master of Liberal Studies (MLS) degree at SMU. In 2006, Lauren, her sister Gayle, and their Embrey Family Foundation funded the pioneering Embrey Human Rights Program, led by Halperin, within SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. In 2012, enthusiasm for the program allowed SMU to go from offering a human rights minor and MLS concentration in human rights and social justice to providing a Bachelor of Arts degree in the field, making SMU one of only five U.S. universities to do so. (Since then, two others have followed suit.)

Since Halperin began leading SMU study trips to Poland in 1996, the number of participants has grown from a handful to more than three dozen who went on the 20th anniversary pilgrimage in 2016 (including two dozen students able to travel thanks to a gift from SMU alumnus Mike Disque ’64 and his wife, Cherri). To commemorate the program’s 10th anniversary and trip’s second decade, Halperin teamed up with SMU colleagues Sherry Aikman and Denise Gee to create No Resting Place.

The trio’s primary objective was to produce a book sensitively depicting “the last places ever seen by millions of innocent people who didn’t want to die in such horrific places,” Halperin says. “And unlike most other Holocaust books we wanted this one to be produced in color – because the Holocaust happened in color.”

— Written by Denise Gee

> Read the full story from SMU News

Congressman Sam Johnson ’51 creates scholarship fund, donates archive to SMU

Rep. Sam Johnson, SMU Class of 1951As Congressman and war hero Sam Johnson ’51 prepares to retire from the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, he is making two gifts to SMU that will support the education of military veterans and preserve for future study papers and materials from a 29-year military career and 26 years in Congress.

A gift of $100,000 will establish The Hon. Sam Johnson Endowed Military Scholarship Fund, with the Collin County Business Alliance (CCBA) providing seed funding to make the scholarship operational for the 2018-19 academic year. Members of the student U.S. Military Veterans of SMU (SMU MilVets) joined the CCBA for the scholarship gift announcement in early October.

SMU’s Board of Trustees and President R. Gerald Turner will celebrate both the scholarship and the donation of Rep. Johnson’s papers and other materials to the University during an on-campus reception at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, in Fondren Library.

“SMU helped shape me into the person I am today, and I can’t think of a better way to say thank you to my alma mater than with this scholarship and library gift,” Johnson said. “I’m grateful to join SMU in making a commitment to the military and its families by helping these deserving individuals achieve their higher education. And I’m hopeful that this library archive will help inspire future generations to build a legacy of service on behalf of others and our great nation.”

Johnson’s archive will be housed in DeGolyer Library, SMU’s special collections repository.

“We have always been proud to hold up Sam Johnson as an example to our students,” Turner said.  “His courage and strength of character helped him survive nearly seven years as a prisoner during the Vietnam War. The military veterans on our campus who benefit from his support will be doubly proud that their scholarships carry his name, and we will all benefit from the donation of his archive.”

“Congressman Sam Johnson has made a tremendous, positive impact on our community that will continue to be felt by generations to come. His distinguished legacy endures with his scholarship for military students, which will widen opportunities for deserving men and women who have unselfishly served our country,” said CCBA Chairman and President, Capital One Financial Services, Sanjiv Yajnik.

Johnson received a Distinguished Alumni Award from SMU in 1994, the highest honor the University bestows on its graduates.

Johnson, 86, grew up in Dallas.  He began his career in public service in ROTC at SMU, where he also was a member of Delta Chi and Alpha Kappa Psi fraternities, and graduated in 1951 with a B.B.A. degree in insurance and real estate. He and Shirley Melton Johnson ’51 married the year before they graduated. Mrs. Johnson passed away in 2015.

During his 29-year career in the U.S. Air Force, Johnson served as the director of the Air Force Fighter Weapons School and was one of two authors of the air tactics manual that is still used today. After retiring as a colonel from the Air Force in 1979, Johnson started a home-building business in North Dallas. He was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1985, where he served until winning the race for Texas’ 3rd congressional district in 1991. Johnson announced in a January letter to his constituents that he plans to retire at the end of his term in 2018.

SMU and the Johnson family welcome additional contributions to The Hon. Sam Johnson Endowed Military Scholarship Fund. Gifts may be made here.

— Written by Kenny Ryan

> Read the full story from SMU News

Mary Vernon Painting Prize honors longtime art professor, helps launch young artists’ careers

Nicolas Gonzalez and Mary Vernon

Nicolás González and Mary Vernon

Mary Vernon plans to retire in May 2018, and Meadows School of the Arts wanted to create a fitting honor for the longtime art and art history professor. In 2016, along with a group of donors, the School established the Mary Vernon Painting Prize to help launch the careers of top art students.

Now, Meadows seeks to endow the prize fund in perpetuity, so that it can continue to help students establish their careers in the art world.

The School has set a goal of $100,000 or more to endow the annual award – presented to an undergraduate painter with the best body of work in the year, as judged by faculty. When fully vested, the endowment fund will generate $5,000 annually to be awarded to one or more promising art students.

To date, more than $60,000 has been secured toward the goal. An anonymous donor has offered to match dollar-for-dollar the next $20,000 in new gifts to help achieve or surpass the funding goal.

“In spring 2016, Mary told me it was time to transcend from an art student into an emerging artist,” says Nicolás González ’17, the prize’s first recipient. “She told me to invest my passion and time with painting materials that are rich in pigment and surfaces that are delicate to the touch. She said, ‘Let the world know that you are a painter, a serious painter, who knows how to paint.’”

The Mary Vernon Painting Prize has enabled González to purchase higher-quality painting supplies such as oils, Yupo paper, linen fabric and  brush script liners, he says. “Through these specific materials, my abilities as a painter have greatly expanded. They have allowed me to have a better understanding that the quality of the painting surface and the type of paint are very important.”

Vernon, says González, taught him to be brave and to persevere. “She encouraged me to never give up within the world of the arts,” he says. “There were times when I just wanted to throw in the towel, but every time, Mary seemed to always appear as a glowing light within the shadows of my fear. She would always encourage me to be better, to always do my best, and tell me that doors would always open as long as I turned the key. She said, ‘You already possess the key. It’s in your heart and soul, it speaks through your work. As long as you keep trying, doors will always open.’

“Mary Vernon is someone very special to this world and a true master of the arts and its history. Her love for the arts and her students is equal to none. I am so grateful to have Mary Vernon as my mentor, professor and true friend whom I hold close to my heart.”

— Written by Mary Guthrie

> Read the full story from the SMU Meadows homepage

Jody and Sheila Grant pledge $1.5 million to SMU’s Robson & Lindley Aquatics Center

Robson and Lindley Aquatics Center, artist's rendering

Former varsity swimmer Joseph M. “Jody” Grant ’60 met his wife, Sheila Peterson Grant, while they were both SMU students. Now they have provided $1.5 million to help fund the University’s new Robson & Lindley Aquatics Center.

With their gift, they’ve also created the Sheila and Jody Grant Challenge, which encourages other donors to give the remaining $1.5 million to complete the Center’s $22 million funding goal. The 42,000-square-foot facility, soon to be home to the University’s internationally recognized men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams, will be dedicated Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, during SMU Homecoming.

Jody and Sheila Grant

Jody and Sheila Grant

“As community business and philanthropic leaders, Jody and Sheila Grant know the importance of reaching the finish line and completing worthy goals,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Their generosity is inspirational and helps get us closer to completing funding for the Robson & Lindley Aquatics Center and providing a place where our student athletes can continue the championship legacy of SMU swimming and diving.”

Jody Grant attended SMU on a swimming scholarship. He earned four individual Southwest Conference swimming championships and was twice named to the All-America team.

“SMU’s swimming program has been near and dear to my heart since Coach Red Barr recruited me many years ago to swim for the Mustangs,” said Dr. Grant. “I am honored to support this new facility, which will be home for the swimming program that was so meaningful to me.”

> Read the full story from SMU News

SMU trustee David B. Miller ’72, ’73 to receive Methodist Health System Foundation’s 2017 Folsom Leadership Award

David B. MillerThe Dallas-based Methodist Health System Foundation has named business and community leader and SMU trustee David B. Miller ’72, ’73 as the 2017 Robert S. Folsom Leadership Award recipient.

The award will be presented at a dinner on Wednesday, October 25 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Hilton Anatole Hotel’s Grand Ballroom. Established in 2005, the honor recognizes individuals whose demonstrated commitment and excellence in community leadership emulate the achievements of the late Dallas Mayor Robert S. Folsom.

Methodist Health System Foundation President James M. Johnston said, “David Miller clearly exemplifies Bob Folsom’s legacy as a revered community leader, serving Dallas with integrity, humility and respect. Like Mr. Folsom, David’s dedication and involvement with SMU, his dynamic leadership as a successful entrepreneur/business leader, as well as his care, concern and generosity toward others who are less fortunate, have made a lasting impact on Dallas and beyond. This year is particularly poignant because of the passing of Mr. Folsom in January. We hope to make this a special celebration as we pay tribute to Mr. Folsom as well.”

Miller, co-founder and managing partner of EnCap Investments, L.P., said, “I am humbled and honored to receive this significant award as Bob Folsom was a role model for many of us, and he was a true servant leader.”

A two-time SMU graduate, Miller earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from Edwin L. Cox School of Business. He has served on the SMU Board of Trustees since 2008 and also serves as chairman of the Cox Executive Board. He is a recipient of Distinguished Alumni Awards from both the University and the Cox School. In 2009, Miller was honored with the Silver Anniversary Mustang Award by the SMU Lettermen’s Association.

In 2016, Methodist Health System provided more than $149 million in unreimbursed charity care, a growing portion of total care provided in North Texas. The Folsom dinner, recognized as one of Dallas’s largest fundraising events, has raised more than $15 million net to benefit Methodist Health System’s programs and services.

Co-chairs for the event include Nancy Ann and Ray Hunt, Lottye and Bobby B. Lyle, The Honorable Jeanne L. Phillips and Gail and R. Gerald Turner.

Past Folsom Leadership Award recipients include Robert S. Folsom (2005), Nancy Ann Hunt (2006), Troy Aikman (2007), Laura Bush (2008), the late Norman Brinker (2009), Pat and Emmitt Smith (2010), Trevor Rees-Jones (2011), Mike Boone (2012), Rev. Mark Craig (2013), Bobby B. Lyle (2014), Jack Lowe, Jr. (2015), and R. Gerald Turner (2016).

> Read the full story from SMU News

Dallas cardiologist, SMU alumnus hosts 2017 Literature + Medicine Conference Saturday, April 2 in Mack Ballroom

2017 Literature and Medicine Conference logoCardiologist John F. Harper ’68 can still vividly remember waking in the middle of the night to the sound of his father crying out in pain.

It was 1964 and Harper was 17 years old – just a year shy of starting college at SMU. But he was as frightened as a small child that night when he peeked through a cracked-open bedroom into the hallway of his West Texas home. A physician named Bruce Hay was arriving at 3 a.m., impeccably dressed in a three-piece suit, his black doctor’s bag in hand, to offer his father aid.

Harper’s father was a bear of a man, a former basketball player named Frank who was his son’s hero. The doctor walked up to Harper’s father, put a hand on his shoulder and said, “Frank, it’s OK. I’m here now, and I’ll stay until you’re better.”

And then he did. The doctor tended to Harper’s dad, answered his mother’s concerns, and even reassured the young man who was watching from a bedroom door.

That’s the kind of personal touch Harper says is often missing from medicine these days. The key to getting it back, he says, may be literature. That’s why he’s hosting the 7th annual Literature + Medicine Conference from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 1, 2017 in SMU’s Mack Ballroom, Umphrey Lee Center.

“Science has become so complex and hard to keep up with that it’s a legitimate thing to say you don’t have time to be empathetic, but it’s important to try,” says Harper, the Ewton Chair of Cardiology at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. “My argument is that you need good science to be a good doctor, but you also need a compassionate side. The best medicine is science and compassion intersecting at the patient.

“We’re trying to get young physicians, medical students and premedical students to understand that literature can affect the way they approach patients in a positive fashion.”

Though members of the public are welcome to attend the Literature + Medicine Conference, it’s those young physicians and medical students who are the primary audience of the annual event. The conference will feature a series of breakout sessions on topics like “Antidotes to Clinical Burnout: Creative Reading and Writing Foster Physician Satisfaction” and “How Poetry Can Heal the Healers.”

The results of the conference’s annual writing contests will also be revealed, with a cash prize on the line for the winners.

Attendance is $40; the fee is waived for medical residents, students and medical house officers.

— Kenny Ryan

> Learn more at the 2017 Literature + Medicine Conference homepage

SMU honors four oustanding graduates at 2016 DAA Awards Thursday, Nov. 3

DAA 2016 headshots

A philanthropist, a financial services leader and a real estate and construction magnate will receive SMU’s 2016 Distinguished Alumni Awards, the highest honor the university bestows upon its graduates. The DAA Award banquet and ceremony takes place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3  on the University’s historic Main Quad.

This year’s recipients include:

Kevin Lavelle ’08 will receive the Emerging Leader Award, which recognizes an outstanding alumnus or alumna who has graduated within the last 15 years. Lavelle is the founder of Mizzen+Main, a clothing company that introduced advanced performance fabrics to traditional menswear.

> Learn more at smu.edu/daa

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