Dodee Crockett: Serving the kingdom by helping clients steward their money faithfully

Dodee Frost Crockett (M.T.S. ‘03) was a financial advisor when she began her Perkins education. Today, she’s still a financial advisor, serving as Managing Director at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management in Dallas — and more certain than ever that she chose the right path.

“One of the unexpected blessings of being a theology student was reaffirming that being a wealth advisor was a calling for me, and a valuable calling in the kingdom,” she said.

There’s no question that Crockett is good at what she does. She was recently named to Forbes’ “America’s Top Women Wealth Advisors Best-In-State List.”  For 11 consecutive years, she made Barron’s annual list of the Top 100 Women Financial Advisors in America and, for eight consecutive years, Barron’s “Top 1,200 Advisors State-by-State.

“As a wealth advisor, my job is to work with clients to plan,” she said, “to affirm the future for them and find ways to meet their goals and express their values in stewardship of their assets.”

But it was her time at Perkins, she said, that deepened her sense of service in her career.

One clue came just a few days after September 11, 2001.   She was on campus that day with many of her fellow students who gathered in the chapel.  When she returned to the office a few days later, “People were so frightened. A couple of my team members came to me and said, ‘Could you explain the difference between Muslim and Islam?’ I realized how little people really know about other faith traditions, what their teachings are and how to regard them and respect them.”  She credits her study in the Perkins class on World Religions and the deep engagement offered by her professors as most helpful in her understanding.

She added that, while she is a committed Christian, some of her clients profess other faith traditions. Thanks to her Perkins education, “Being able to have an interfaith voice in this conversation is powerful. My clients are not fearful to bring their own faith traditions to our meetings and to what we are doing. Because of my seminary education, I’m better able to help them put language on their own vision of the future.”

Crockett’s financial savvy also has enabled her to give back to Perkins, too, through volunteer service in governance and fundraising and with her own philanthropic contributions. She joined the Perkins Executive Board just days after graduation in May 2003 and has served on the Board ever since. Currently, she’s co-vice-chair. She also served as a co-chair of the Perkins Centennial Campaign for SMU, co-chair for the current SMU Ignited fundraising campaign, and as the Perkins chair for the Pony Power fundraising campaign.

As a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy, fundraising comes naturally.

“I enjoy connecting people to their passions and encouraging them in their giving,” she said. “I’m a believer in the idea that you should not wait until you’ve passed away to give your money away.  Give some of it now, so you can see its impact. You can be part of affirming the future today.”

Crockett has also made significant monetary contributions to Perkins. She and her husband, William B. “Billy” Crockett, Jr.  (SMU, M.L.S. ’05) funded the Ruben L.F. Habito Labyrinth on the campus of Perkins. The labyrinth, which honors Perkins faculty member Habito, professor of World Religions and Spirituality, was dedicated September 11, 2009.

All of these accomplishments are pretty impressive for someone who originally enrolled at Perkins simply for personal enrichment — a path Crockett thinks any committed Christian should consider.

“I encourage people who are faithful laity to embrace a more robust understanding of their theology and their own place in the world,” she said. “I believe that a strong laity is one of the greatest assets of the church, in being able to support our clergy from a place of knowledge and with an understanding of their challenges.”

While at Perkins, she admits, she did at times feel like a “fish out of water,” but also recalls clearly a moment in Dr. Paula Dobbs-Wiggins’ Pastoral Care class where that changed. After Dr. Dobbs-Wiggins praised her work on a project designing a premarital counseling program for clergy, Crockett said, “It really brought home to me that you don’t have to be a pastor to have these kinds of relationships with people, or to be this kind of resource. There is a calling in every profession to lead from that deep place of service. That was a moment of reaffirmation for me.”

Professionally, Crockett’s work is based in Dallas but spends about half her time in the Texas Hill Country with her husband, an acoustic singer-songwriter who performed for decades as a contemporary Christian artist. Billy just completed a new recording, scheduled for release in April, with cellist Dirje Childs: “Simple Gifts,” a recording of 13 traditional hymns. Proceeds will benefit arts and humanitarian organizations. (www.simplegifts22.com)

The project originally began as a gift for Billy’s mother, who was orchestra conductor at First Baptist Church in Richardson for more than 30 years. “Even though she has fairly severe dementia right now, she still knows those hymns,” Dodee said. The couple is also looking forward to serving as honorary chairs of the National Day of Prayer gathering at the Meyerson in Dallas in May.

When she looks back on her years at Perkins, Crockett often recalls a lecture given by the late Billy Abraham. In the first half of the lecture, he argued his view of Scripture from a very conservative viewpoint. Then he took a deep breath, and for the second half of the class, argued with equal passion from a very liberal point of view.

“Both were equally compelling,” she said. “He told us, ‘Whether you end up being more liberal or more conservative, I just want you to be a good one. I want you to be able to express deeply and truthfully from whatever vantage point you look at the Scripture.’

“To me, that was the most powerful message of Perkins. Be good at what you do. And be authentic.”