2020 Fall 2020 Features

Rising to the challenge

Unprecedented and uncertain: these are the well-worn descriptors of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, it has also given us opportunities to be our best selves. SMU has met the challenges introduced by COVID-19 with innovation, creativity and resilience. In the midst of the pandemic, here are some of the ways that SMU has continued to be Mustang Strong.

Mustangs meet the pandemic head on

Meeting Growing Needs

In 2017, Owen Lynch, an assistant professor in the Division of Corporate Communication, started Restorative Farms, a self-sustaining nonprofit farm that not only grows food, but also trains and nurtures local urban farming professionals. When the pandemic hit, Restorative Farms quickly transitioned to selling box gardens, dubbed GroBoxes, online with the help of 14 SMU communications students.
“Through working with Restorative Farms, I have learned more about the intersection of giving back to a community and capitalism, and how business and service do not have to be mutually exclusive,” says student Palmer Beldy ’22.

Making Math Easier

For many parents trying to help their children with remote learning during COVID-19, panic set in – especially when math instruction was involved. That’s when Candace Walkington came to the rescue.
Walkington, a math education associate professor in the Simmons School of Education and Human Development, produced a series of videos targeting grades 3-8. She used hand-washing, neighborhood walks and other timely topics to make math fun and accessible. She even calculated the number of rubber bands needed to craft a cord to give a beloved Barbie doll the best bungee jumping experience. Watch the video and try it yourself.

President Turner Zooms In

When COVID-19 forced SMU to move to remote learning in the spring, President R. Gerald Turner missed seeing students on campus and decided to drop in on classes via Zoom.
During his visit to an intro to modern physics class, he asked the students if they had any questions he could answer. One quickly replied, “Would you like to come solve the Schrödinger wave equation, President Turner?”
“You know, if I didn’t have an appointment right after this, I would,” Turner responded with a laugh.

Musem Crafternoons

Even while closed during the pandemic, the Meadows Museum continued to act as a leading center for education and exhibition in Spanish arts and culture through its “Museum From Home” webpage of digital resources for anyone to access.
Among the video offerings was the Crafternoon series of weekly at-home art activities for all ages; a Culture Corner revealing insights into various aspects of Spanish culture; and Tiny Tours featuring deep dives into works of art. In addition, the Poest Laureate program provided a platform for SMU students to voice connections between visual art and poetry.

Free telehealth counseling

When times get tough, SMU’s Center for Family Counseling is there to help. Mandatory social distancing forced the clinic to offer remote counseling when patients could not visit in person. As clinic staff began to work with established clients via Zoom, they also realized that many individuals were now dealing with coronavirus-induced isolation and additional stay-at-home issues. That’s when they came up with a plan.
The clinic began offering free telehealth counseling for those struggling during COVID-19. It’s been so successful that even when in-person visits can resume, the clinic will continue to offer remote appointments.

Striking the right chord

Music therapy students in the Meadows School of the Arts found new ways to stay in tune with those they serve. They connected with clients weekly through HIPAA-compliant Zoom accounts and used live music, talking, singing, playing instruments and therapeutic movement to improve physical and mental health.
This new reliance on telehealth methods meant that students had to get creative. When Malley Morales ’22 discovered that some people she works with didn’t have musical instruments at home, she looked to her kitchen for inspiration and found that pots and spoons can become a drum kit in a pinch.

Q&A with Leigh Ann Moffett, SMU Director of Emergency Management

Leigh Ann Moffett, Director of Emergency ManagementEven for someone as experienced as Leigh Ann Moffett, the challenges COVID-19 brings to her role as SMU’s director of emergency management are unique.
For over a decade she’s been preparing for – and managing – complex emergencies like fires and active shooter situations on college campuses. COVID-19, however, has proven to be as demanding as it is far-reaching.
Moffett is up to the task, with a little help. She leads SMU’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), a cross section of campus departments that coordinates the University’s comprehensive response to the virus.
Moffett discussed how this group handled myriad issues created by the pandemic with SMU Magazine.
At what point did you realize COVID-19 was going to be consequential?
When cases first started to appear in the U.S. in January, that’s when we immedi-ately pulled together our team. We started reviewing our pandemic plan to ensure we had the capability and capacity to execute it. SMU’s decision not to resume on-campus instruction in the spring was significant. We had to further evaluate what resources we’d need and where to pull them from. That’s why it was critical for the EOC to meet regularly and form a united response.
How is this emergency different from anything else you’ve managed?
It’s challenging to target an end date. With any incident, there will always be unknowns. Not only is the timeline uncertain, but a pan-demic is not a scenario where the threat can be immediately neutralized. Because of that, starting the recovery process is uncertain. It’s quite different from a fire or an active shooter in that sense.
This seems like a stressful role. What keeps you going?
This is a good team and these are really good people in the EOC. Everyone is working just as hard and putting in as many long hours as I am. We all do it for the greater good of our students and the SMU community.

2020 Alumni Fall 2020 News

Appointment of SMU’s first chief diversity officer marks a milestone

SMU has taken a significant step forward in its commitment to open dialogue, diversity and inclusion with the appointment of Maria Dixon Hall as the University’s first chief diversity officer.
As Senior Advisor to the President for Cultural Intelligence and associate professor of corporate communications in the Meadows School of the Arts, Dixon Hall has been managing the Cultural Intelligence Initiative – CIQ@SMU – an innovative, grassroots strategy that she developed to infuse the principles of cultural intelligence into every aspect of SMU’s campus life. CIQ@SMU involves more than talking about diversity. It is designed to spark conversations on how people engage. By bridging the gap between traditional diversity training and real-world knowledge and skills, CIQ@SMU gives every Mustang the opportunity to learn, work and lead in diverse cultural contexts.
“I am deeply honored and humbled to be appointed by President Turner to serve our University in this critical role,” Dixon Hall says. “We are at an important crossroads for our country and campus, and the challenges to reweave the fabric of civility, diversity and inclusion that binds us are daunting. However, I believe that as Mustangs, we are more than able to meet this challenge together in authentic and collaborative ways that affirm the sacred worth of every student, staff and faculty member. Every day, I hope you will walk with me on the journey to create a campus where every Mustang knows they are valued.”
The appointment of Dixon Hall, an expert on power, identity and culture in corporate, nonprofit and religious organizations, reflects SMU’s commitment to purposeful engagement and progress in overcoming the challenges to equity.
“I look forward to working with an incredible team of diverse leaders who are dedicated to the idea that diversity, inclusion and cultural intelligence are not add-ons, but essential parts of what it means to be a member of the SMU community. These leaders, some of whom I entered the University with as a new faculty member, are going to be key in working with me to create an environment in which every Mustang is visible and valued. The African American community, and indeed all of our communities, expect nothing less from me in this new role,” Dixon Hall says.
Reporting directly to President Turner, Dixon Hall will collaborate with SMU faculty, students, administrators and staff to both initiate and report the outcome of diversity initiatives, policies and programs. She will continue to coordinate the delivery of SMU’s Cultural Intelligence and antibias training for members of the SMU community.

2020 Alumni Fall 2020 News

Successful tech leader sees opportunities for real change

Author, serial entrepreneur and Silicon Valley CEO Promise Phelon ’93 talks about opportunity, bias and why institutions must change to thrive.
Phelon describes her younger self as somewhat “naive about bias.” Growing up outside Dallas, she was often one of the few nonwhite students in classrooms and clubs. At SMU, that naivete was an asset, Phelon says, giving her the courage to lead in settings where she was often in the minority. The successful CEO and author lives in the San Francisco Bay Area today, and has a new book, The Way of the Growth Warrior, written for underdogs of all sorts.
“We have to start talking about the fact that most people are underrepresented,” she says. “Most of us didn’t go to Stanford, we’re over 40, maybe we’re divorced. It’s beyond gender and race. All these things are biased. As an underdog, you often don’t know you are one.”
Phelon says that while she did face bias in college, she also encountered opportunity. She recalls sharing a sorority house with people from massively privileged families, and being stunned to learn how they handled finances and mortgages, borrowed money and invested in the stock market. “I feel privileged that, as someone who considers herself an underdog, early in life I got access to people who were crushing it economically,” she says.

“If you’re an institution of any kind – an organization, government, university, corporation – you can no longer give lip service to change. You have to actually do it.”

While writing her book, Phelon reflected on her time at SMU and how it shaped her. “I found that one of my superpowers is that I am a divergent thinker,” she says. It’s a quality she traces directly to specific classroom experiences and professors. Phelon, who studied world religion at SMU, says she benefited from a liberal arts degree that taught her to think comparatively and empathetically.
“What I learned in religion was culture, anthropology, language, critical thinking,” she says, tools that helped her thrive as a leader in Silicon Valley. As positively as she remembers her time at SMU, Phelon is honest about the prejudice, and how that needs to change.
“SMU was a hostile environment for people of color when I was there,” she says. “As I progressed in SMU’s culture, I saw there was a certain fraternity that was extremely racist. I realized how hard it was to get into a ‘top sorority’ if you were a person of color or if you weren’t pretty or if you weren’t wealthy.”
Phelon is inspired by the people taking to the streets to march for equality and protest injustice. “Youth culture and Black culture have merged,” she explains. “It’s moved from being ‘those people’ to ‘it’s us.’ Youth today feel a deep sense of kinship with people of color … our cultures are no longer bifurcated. We’re one.” Phelon says this movement, fueled by young people, is one the world can no longer ignore. “If you’re an institution of any kind – an organization, government, university, corporation – you can no longer give lip service to change. You have to actually do it.”
When she advises CEOs and other leaders, Phelon asks them to consider the “why” behind their actions to increase diversity and inclusion. She says it’s important for leaders to see, articulate and believe in the benefit of these actions.
“So I applaud President Turner for starting the conversation,” she says. “And I also implore him to effect real change.”
Visit Promise Phelan’s The Growth Warrior website.

2020 December 2020 Main

All is bright on the Hilltop

Our annual Celebration of Lights started early this year so students could enjoy this heartwarming holiday tradition before they left for Thanksgiving. The Hilltop will remain aglow through January 3 for the enjoyment of our Mustang family and community neighbors.
Enjoy these photos!

2020 Alumni December 2020 News

Remembering Edwin L. Cox, Sr. ’42

SMU mourns the loss of renowned Dallas business leader, entrepreneur, public servant, educational pioneer and longtime University supporter and trustee emeritus Edwin L. Cox Sr. ’42, who died Thursday, November 5, 2020. He had celebrated his 99th birthday on October 20, and remained active and engaged with family and friends until his passing.
“Edwin Cox’s contributions to and enthusiasm for this University and the Cox School of Business are invaluable. He was a tremendous presence and an inspiring influence for every person who crossed his path, and his work with and for his community has reached across generations and over great distances,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “He will remain an example of tireless drive, selfless spirit and boundless energy to the students of Cox and of SMU for generations to come. He is missed, not only because of his determination to make the Cox School a globally recognized institution, but also because of his character and his unwavering commitment to the students of SMU and to the people of Dallas.”
Read more.

2020 Alumni December 2020 News

Building enterprising spirit

A $7.5 million gift from Jane R. and Pat S. Bolin ’73 to SMU’s Edwin L. Cox School of Business will foster collaboration inside and outside the classroom, and strengthen students’ advanced data analysis skills.
The Bolins’ gift will combine with a $7.5 million designation by Gina L. and Tucker S. Bridwell ’73, ’74 from their previously announced gift to create the new Bolin-Bridwell Hall, part of the future Cox School renovation and expansion project. Bolin-Bridwell Hall will offer a learning environment that mirrors the evolving workplace and uses the latest technology to build students’ data fluency.
Read more.

2020 Alumni December 2020

A witness to history

NBC News and MSNBC correspondent Garrett Haake ’07 lives by the advice he learned from an SMU faculty mentor – stay packed, and don’t make any dinner plans that can’t be canceled.
Garrett knew he wanted to major in journalism when he selected SMU. The opportunity to work in the professional-level Pederson Broadcast Studio and the offer of a President’s Scholarship, SMU’s most generous, brought him to the Hilltop.
His first taste of life at a national network came the summer after his junior year when he interned in New York with NBC Nightly News. SMU alumna Lucy Scott ’77, an Emmy Award-winning broadcaster who served as executive-in-residence in the journalism division of Meadows School of the Arts, helped him make the NBC connection.
Read more.

2020 December 2020 News

A full-court press against hunger

It’s been a perfect season so far for men’s basketball, with the Mustangs beating Dayton 66–64 December 5. The team is also doing its part to defeat hunger during the holidays by collecting food donations on campus for the North Texas Food Bank through December 18.
The team has partnered with the SMU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee to help families in need through a food drive. All canned goods and nonperishable food donations collected will be delivered to the North Texas Food Bank for distribution to those in need throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Items can be dropped off at designated boxes outside Ford Stadium and Moody Coliseum.
Read more.

2020 December 2020 News

Unexpected changes bring unexpected rewards

Allison Schultz ’21, a Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar and recipient of the Hamon Internship, quickly adapted her summer internship at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to an online-only format. Although she was not able to interact in person, her experience was not diminished. Find out what Allison found to be rewarding in the post below.
“Reflecting on my experience in DANY’s summer college internship program, I am immensely grateful for the attorneys who took time out of their busy days to mentor and teach me, turning my theoretical and academic understanding of the criminal justice system into a much more nuanced, practical understanding of what it means to be a policy practitioner, attorney, and advocate for both victims and the people of the State of New York. Thank you to the SMU Tower Center for funding my experience and facilitating my pursuit of knowledge in this field – knowledge I know I will carry with me well into the future.”
Read more on the SMU Tower Center Blog.

2020 December 2020

CARES Act sparks new tax incentives

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides increased 2020 tax benefits for charitable giving. For more information on how these changes can affect your charitable goals, please contact SMU’s Office of Gift Planning at or 214-768-1911.Find more information at SMU Gift Planning.

2020 December 2020

Simply the best: Let us know who deserves recognition

Each year, we honor four Mustangs for their outstanding contributions. Nominations are now being accepted for 2021 Distinguished Alumni Awards and the Emerging Leader Award. The submission deadline is December 31.Read more.

2020 December 2020

Nominations for alumni boards due December 31

Calling all volunteers: Mustangs with great ideas and pony drive are needed to join SMU’s alumni boards.
Nominate yourself or a fellow Mustang for the following volunteer boards:
SMU Alumni Board
SMU Young Alumni Board
Black Alumni of SMU Board
Hispanic Alumni of SMU Board

2020 December 2020

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Enjoy these quick links to stories, videos and more about the people, programs and events making an impact on the Hilltop.
Moving Forward Together: Meet SMU’s diversity officers
Stronger Together: 2019–2020 Annual Report
Remembering legendary tennis coach Dennis Ralston
Shane Buechele named to Davey O’Brien QB Class of 2020
Watch: Fact-checking presidential film and TV scenes for Vanity Fair
Grant to advance Deason Center’s criminal justice reform research
Sea Monsters Unearthed Smithsonian exhibit extended to 2022

2020 Alumni Fall 2020 Features News

SMU history: Experiencing challenges and triumphs over more than a century

Today’s health crisis and human rights movement may differ from anything we’ve seen before, but Mustangs of every generation have faced challenges in their times. Sometimes we’ve stumbled. Sometimes we’ve triumphed. But for more than 100 years, we’ve been engaged.
World War I and the Roaring Twenties


A financial crisis and the collapse in cotton prices hurt Texas and the nation. SMU scales back its plans for dormitories in the fall, build-ing three temporary halls for under $40,000. (In 1926, all three still-standing dorms were destroyed in a fire.)


World War I dampens enrollment at SMU from 1,114 (1916-1917) to 1,012 (1917-1918). More than 250 students join the Student Army Training Corps through SMU, and 473 current or former students enter the armed forces. Of those students, 11 die in service. The depressed economy leads SMU into debt that will last years. President Robert Stewart Hyer borrows money to pay professors, using his personal possessions as collateral. Trustees put up their own collateral for loans to keep SMU afloat.


The influenza epidemic invades SMU at the opening of school in September. In October, University officials implement health precautions, including canceling all chapel and church services. Four members of the SMU community perish during the epidemic.


National economic boom and the rise of the oil industry in Texas put SMU on secure financial footing. Following the war, enrollment grows to 1,341 (1920-1921).
The Great Depression


The depression forces SMU to reduce salaries by 20% in 1932–1933, and then by 50% in April, May and June of 1934. Due to these financial challenges, SMU offers its first need-based scholarships to 60 incoming freshmen in 1934. Through it all, SMU students establish several traditions, including two that endure: the live mascot Peruna in 1932 and Pigskin Revue in 1933.


Student Council of Religious Activities and the Moorland branch of the YMCA for Negroes campaign to improve Dallas’ Black high school, Booker T. Washington. SMU students speak at several churches about “Our Responsibility for Negro Education in Dallas” and call for an end to prejudice.


The New Deal’s positive impact on college attendance causes SMU’s enrollment to explode – from 2,445 (1934-1935) to 3,831 (1937-1938).
World War II


Before President Umphrey Lee takes office, he tells the Dallas Chamber of Commerce, “There can be no future for our civilization except a future of tolerance.” During uncertain times, he urges SMU to “emphasize its college of liberal arts” and freedom of inquiry.


As the U.S. gets closer to entering WWII, SMU engineering school facilities are used to train military aviators and others. In 1942, male student enrollment drops from 2,308 to 1,886. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, SMU moves to a quarter system, enabling students to earn a degree in only three years. By November 1942, 27 faculty members have been called into military or government service. The Navy College Training Program (V-12) begins in July 1943 at SMU. By the end of the war, 450 men have participated and nearly 50 have earned SMU degrees. Female students form the College Organization for General Service to support the war effort and increasingly take leadership roles in student organizations. By the war’s end, 127 students and 137 alumni have lost their lives in the service of their country.


Trailerville at SMU during World War IIPresident Lee, anticipating the utilization of the GI Bill’s tuition benefits, establishes the General Co-ordinator of Veterans Education office. The School of Business Administration establishes rehabilitation certificate programs for returning veterans. In fall 1946, 6,780 students (nearly 4,000 of them veterans) enroll – 3,000 more than in any previous semester. Dozens of new faculty members are hired. From 1946 to 1953, many veterans with families live in “Trailerville,” a self-con-tained community including 108 trailer homes.
Post-war Years


Dallas and SMU remain strictly segregated. Beginning in 1946, a small number of Black graduate students begin studying in the Perkins School of Theology, though they do not earn any credits. The 1948 Cotton Bowl football game sees SMU face Penn State, which has its first Black players – establishing the first major southern sporting event with Black and white players competing. After the tied (13-13) game, both teams are honored with a joint dinner at the SMU student center. By 1949, a handful of Black students are attending regular theology classes, doing required coursework and taking exams – all unofficially, with grades being forwarded to the students’ chosen institutions. In November 1950, SMU trustees authorize enrolling Black students as regular degree-seeking students. In 1951, Merrimon Cuninggim, dean of the Perkins School, recruits at Black colleges and enrolls five students who become SMU’s first Black graduates in 1955: James Arthur Hawkins, John Wesley Elliott, Negail Rudolph Riley, Allen Cecil Williams and James Vernon Lyles. The students initially eat their meals only in the Perkins cafeteria and room only with one another. In spring 1953, the four unmarried Black students and four white students choose to become sets of roommates, sparking controversy.


Fall sees the departure of 120 male stu-dents for the military at the beginning of the Korean conflict.


The computing revolution enters its second decade, and the Soviet Union launches the satellite Sputnik. Remington Rand installs a UNIVAC 1103 computing system on SMU’s campus – the first of its kind on any college campus in the southern United States. SMU, the Dallas Chamber of Commerce and Texas Instruments form the Graduate Research Center, a nonprofit organization housed on the SMU campus and focused on research in the pure and applied sciences.
Civil Rights Era


Nationally, protestors challenge Jim Crow laws and the violence and discrimination against Black Americans. In January 1961, Perkins theology students and others commandeer a “white only” lunch counter at the nearby University Pharmacy until the Black protestor in their group is served. In September, after years of Dallas ISD resisting Brown v. Board of Education, 18 Black first-graders enter several Dallas public schools. In April 1962, SMU admits its first Black undergraduate student, Paula Elaine Jones, who graduates in 1966 with a B.A. in speech. By 1969, about 60 Black students – 40 undergraduate and 21 graduate – enroll at SMU, including Jerry LeVias, the first Black athlete in the Southwest Conference to win an athletic scholarship. LeVias later says, “I was a good teammate on the weekends. I got a good academic education, but I didn’t really have a social life.” During this time, SMU has only one Black faculty member: anthropology and sociology professor William S. Willis, Jr. Racist practices such as Old South Week continue throughout the era and beyond.
In March 1965, a contingent of SMU students and faculty participate in the “Bloody Sunday” march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capitol in Montgomery to champion voting rights for Black citizens. After police attack the demonstrators, eight SMU theology students travel to join the second Selma march, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For the third march, 56 students and faculty members join 25,000 other protestors. On March 17, 1966, at the invitation of the Student Association, Dr. King becomes the first major civil rights leader to speak on campus.
In 1967, Black students at SMU create the Black League of Afro-American College Students (BLAACS). In April 1969, BLAACS delivers to President Willis M. Tate a 13-page list of demands; it includes the sentence, “We blacks demand an education which will be useful to us as black people, for black people.” One week later, 34 students negotiate with Tate and other administrators until several agreements are reached, including a goal to enroll 200 Black students and hire five Black faculty members by fall 1969. SMU soon hires its first Black administrator – Irving Baker, assistant to the president and head of the Afro-American studies program – and five additional Black faculty members. Hiring two Black students to help with student enrollment, SMU recruits 50 new Black students – a record number but still far short of its 200-student goal.

SMU student carrying protest sign1965–1975

Inspired by the civil rights moment, the U.S. women’s liberation movement grows. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 extends nondiscrimination protections to educational institutions. By 1965-1966, anachronistic dress codes for women are eliminated. As part of SMU’s 50th anniversary in 1966, the first Women’s Symposium is held, becoming an annual event. By 1970-1971, SMU relaxes or eliminates curfews at women’s residence halls. In 1970, the national Women’s Equity Action League files sex discrimination complaints against more than 300 institutions, including SMU. At this time, women account for only 16% of the faculty, with more than half only being instructors. In 1972, the 15-member Commission on the Status of Women is formed, and one year later, it delivers recommendations for reaching full compliance by 1976. President James


Across the nation, students protest the U.S. military presence in Vietnam. In April 1967, SMU students form a chapter of a national student antiwar group, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). In May 1972, more than 300 SMU students march to Willis Tate’s office in protest of U.S. President Richard M. Nixon’s extending the Vietnam War by mining the harbor of Haiphong, North Vietnam.
Late 20th Century
1972 Los Chicanos


In 1971, the approximately 50 Hispanic students on campus form the Chicano Association, which soon becomes Los Chicanos. Like BLAACS two years earlier, the group delivers a list of demands to President Paul Hardin III. In 1974, the University names a full-time advisor to Chicano students and establishes the Chicano Studies Council. In 1976, José Gonzalez, SMU’s first Chicano professor, helps establish the Chicano Studies program.


In 1975, four Black students are added to SMU’s cheerleading squad, joining nine white members and officially integrating the group, which is later named best varsity team at a major college campus in August. In 1976, students vote to eliminate quotas for the cheerleading team, which resulted in the team’s having only one Black cheerleader in 1977. SMU student sign: Senat, if you take our votes, you take our voices.In 1978-1979, 230 students are Black, and in an unprecedented write-in campaign, David Huntley is elected as the first Black student body president.


The gay liberation movement surfaces at SMU with the Perkins School admitting gay and lesbian students for theological studies. In 1975, the Student Senate rejects a student organization for gay students, who in 1980 form the Gay/Lesbian Student Support Organization. In 1983, the Student Senate again denies recognition. In response, 3,500 students sign a petition in opposition, and several alumni and faculty write letters of protest. Students on both sides appear on Phil Donahue’s national television program in December. Active debate continues until 1991, when the Student Senate charters the organization, officially renamed Spectrum in 2006.


The Office of Admission hires staff focused on recruiting and retaining students from ethnic minorities. In 1987, President A. Kenneth Pye joins SMU and emphasizes the importance of attracting Black, Hispanic and Jewish students. The Campus Jewish Network is created. New faculty are hired to direct the Mexican American Studies and African American Studies programs, which are combined into the Ethnic Studies program. From 1987–1991, minority enrollment increases 40%. By 1993–1994, minority students comprise 22% of first-year undergraduates and 16% of the entire student body.SOURCES:
Darwin Payne, One Hundred Years on the Hilltop (2016)
SMU Archives/SMU Libraries

2020 News November 2020 Main

‘Century Long, Tradition Strong’

Our 100th Homecoming may have looked different, but Mustang spirit was stronger than ever during virtual and live events designed for safety.
Enjoy these photos highlights.

2020 Alumni November 2020

Honoring Mustangs who go above and beyond

Congratulations to our 2020 SMU Distinguished Alumni Award recipients Clark Hunt ’87, Connie Blass O’Neill ’77, Amber Venz Box ’08 (Emerging Leader Award) and Kathryn Kimbrough Waldrep ’72, ’73.

2020 Alumni November 2020

Mustangs in the Wild: Meet Harvey Luna ’14

When this young alum is not crunching numbers for SMU’s Center on Research and Evaluation or helping family members with their floral business, he loves to play fetch – with his cat.
Read more at SMU Alumni.

2020 Alumni November 2020

John Holiday ’07 stuns judges on ‘The Voice’

The blind-audition format meant the Meadows alum showed off his high-range talents for the audience before the judges got to see the opera singer behind the jaw-dropping rendition of “Misty.” After winning his battle round, a duet of Steve Wonder’s “Summer Soft,” he’s primed for the third round of the singing competition.

2020 Alumni November 2020

A candid conversation with Spike Lee

Spike Lee has redefined how we look at Black culture in America through epic films like Do the Right Thing, Mo’ Better Blues, Malcolm X and, most recently, Da’ Five Bloods. On Tuesday, October 20, during the week of SMU’s 100th Homecoming celebration – he talked with Ace Anderson ’13 about a wide range of subjects, including culture, giving back, empowering the next generation and being a filmmaker. The special virtual event was presented by the Black Alumni of SMU Board in partnership with the Tate Lecture Series and raised nearly $40,000 for the Black Alumni of SMU Scholarship Fund.
Almost every year since 1988, the Oscar- and Emmy-winning filmmaker has released a new movie. Lee comes from a long line of educators has been a professor of film at NYU for more than 20 years.
Lee’s candid conversation with Anderson clocked in around 40 minutes. Here are some of our favorite moments.
Giving credit where credit is due
Regarding being a third-generation legacy at Morehouse (class of 1979) where Martin Luther King III was one of his classmates: “I’ve got to say this because a lot of time I get a lot of flak because I didn’t take my major at Morehouse. I took my major across the street at Clark College, which is now CAU (Clark Atlanta University). I’ve got keep reminding myself that I’ve got to give love to Clark AU too.”
Who gave him the gift of confidence
“Film found me. My freshman, sophomore year, I was just drifting.”
The “tumultuous summer of 1977” was a turning point for . Lee. There were no summer jobs to be had, so when a friend gifted him a Super 8 camera and a box of film, he started filming.
It was the “summer of the black out – so I saw my fellow Puerto Rican and African American brothers and sisters looting, I filmed that. It was the first summer of disco, so every weekend there were block parties and DJs were hooking up their turn tables and speakers to the street lamps… people were doing the hustle – and then there was a psychopath called David Berkowitz – Son of Sam. It was bananas, New York City.”
After returning the fall of his junior year and declaring a major in mass communications, his focus was set and his grades improved drastically. He went from being a C/D student to an A+ student. Lee credits this change to Professor Herbert Eichelberger, the man who encouraged him to turn his footage into a documentary that eventually became Last Hustle of Brooklyn, Lee’s first film.
“I’m not the only one who has had their life changed by a professor, a teacher, a mentor, someone for whatever reason took interest in you and for me it was Dr. Herb Eichelberger.”
“When someone looks at you and says you have a gift, when they tell you, like yo’ my sister/my brother you’ve got something special, they give you the confidence in something that you didn’t know that you had.”
On launching the careers of many now-famous actors and actresses
“I knew from the get go that there’s a ton of talent out there, but if people don’t get a chance to display their talent, how are you going to be seen? So sometimes when I’m writing I know who I want for the role or what I’m looking for, but other times, which gives me great pleasure, is when someone comes in and my casting director says, you should look at this person, somebody I don’t even know who they are – never met them, never heard of them – and they just kill the audition. I mean that’s a great, great, great feeling when I get surprised like that.”
Advice for the generation that stands before him now on handling the stories that will emerge from our current social justice movement
“It is my belief that in this crazy world that we live in of the two pandemics, I think artists will lead the way. I think great art, whatever the art form be, it is going to be told.”
“In no way shape or form am I negating historians. … We need historians – to tell the truth, but I think that artists will lead the way. I think there are going to be great movies, plays, novels, poetry, music sculpture photography, I could go on and on – that will be the definitive word on what we were going through now, which has never happened before ever.”
“Artists will lead the way. I will put money down on that.”
In response to the question: “As a white artist, how can I be most effective as an ally to help the Black community without misappropriating Black culture?”
“I think if you have truth in your heart, you won’t step into that fuzzy world of appropriation of culture. If you understand it, you know what appropriation is then you won’t do it. And white artists can be involved with the experience. But the tricky thing is that you have to humble yourself and put yourself in the mindset – I’m saying this, but I just can’t come in here Bogarting and telling everybody this is the way that it is. You have to have some humility”

2020 Alumni News November 2020

Investing in a culture of collaboration

A gift of $11.5 million from Aurelia and Brad Heppner ’88 and family to SMU’s Edwin L. Cox School of Business will strengthen the school’s commitment to fostering the leadership skills of tomorrow’s executives and investing in groundbreaking research that impacts the business world.
The Heppners have committed $10 million to establish the Heppner Family Commons, creating a new hub for collaboration between members of the Cox and SMU community, and a centerpiece of the future Cox School renovation and expansion project. Additionally, $1.5 million to support Cox faculty research will be received from the Heppner Endowments for Research Organizations (HERO).
Read more at SMU News.

2020 Alumni News November 2020

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Enjoy these quick links to stories, videos and more about the people, programs and events making an impact on the Hilltop.

2020 Alumni Features News Spring 2020

Carolyn and David B. Miller ’72, ’73 make $50 million commitment to SMU and the Cox School of Business

When former Mustang basketball standout David B. Miller ’72, ’73 and his wife, Carolyn, made the largest single alumni gift in SMU history, the Hilltop milestone made headlines in Dallas. Longtime business columnist Cheryl Hall ’73, who earned her journalism degree from the University, wrote about the publicity-shy couple for The Dallas Morning News. In this excerpt of the newspaper profile, their generous spirit and their love for family, community and SMU shine through.
How does a guy who went to Southern Methodist University on a basketball scholarship strike it so rich that he can give his alma mater more than $100 million?
Carolyn and David B. MillerHe parlays the finance education that he earned at its Edwin L. Cox School of Business into co-founding one of the world’s largest private equity firms.
And just how David B. Miller came to do that is one of those under-the-radar success tales that Dallas is so famous for.
Miller and his wife, Carolyn, pictured at right, made headlines in October 2019 when they gave SMU $50 million — the biggest individual donation in the University’s 108-year history.
The Millers’ moment in the spotlight was unusual for this Highland Park couple who have quietly given tens of millions of philanthropic dollars since 2006.
The Miller name is already on the event center of Moody Coliseum and the floor of its basketball court, the campus student center at SMU-in-Taos and the ballroom of the new indoor training center.
The couple’s latest donation is intended to keep the Cox School competitive by modernizing and building facilities, hiring additional endowed faculty and expanding undergraduate and graduate scholarships to increase student diversity.
But frankly, a lot of people outside the SMU community don’t know who Carolyn and David are.

“He treats people with dignity and respect regardless of what their lot is in life.
He’s a believer in collective thinking from smart minds.”

– Kyle Miller ’01 speaking about his father, David Miller ’72, ’73

David was a three-year varsity standout center from 1968-72 and earned his undergraduate degree and M.B.A. in finance at Cox in the early 1970s.
Today Miller is a co-founder and managing partner of global private equity firm EnCap Investments LP, which completed its 21st fund last year with 350 institutional partners. That brought the total amount of funds under its management to nearly $40 billion since its inception in 1988.
Carolyn, a former elementary school teacher in Garland and social worker, closely guards her privacy while rolling up her sleeves to work for social causes such as aiding seniors, protecting battered women and sheltering the homeless.
But $50 million is hard to keep under wraps, especially when one intent of the Millers’ huge gift was to lead others to SMU’s next major fundraising campaign.
The Millers sat down for the first time ever as a couple to share how they came to spread such enormous largesse.
David Miller keeps a scrapbook close at hand in his home office. Its title: “A Dream Come True.”
“That dream was to play basketball at SMU,” he says, flipping through the worn pages of newsclips and mementos assembled by his mother.
As Miller was about to graduate from Richland High School, the team’s star center had nearly a dozen scholarship offers but not the one that really mattered to him – SMU.
“There was just nothing bigger in the southwestern part of the country than SMU basketball,” he recalls. “Doc Hayes was their legendary coach. My senior year, SMU beat Louisville, the No. 2 team in the country, in the NCAA regional tournament. I was a passionate fan.”
Two days after National Signing Day, the first day high school players can commit to a college, David told his mother at breakfast that he’d reconciled himself to becoming a Red Raider at Texas Tech University. But Fay Ann Miller, now a 92-year-old SMU alum, urged her son to hold out for one more day.

Celebrating the naming of Moody Coliseum’s David B. Miller Court in 2018.

“It was magical,” he recalls. “I show up at the high school the next day, and there is the legendary coach Doc Hayes and his replacement, Bob Prewitt, who was actually my coach, and they offer me a scholarship. And the rest is history. My dream came true.”
Miller earned his undergraduate degree on a basketball scholarship and his M.B.A. in finance on a teaching fellowship, so he never paid a dime in tuition. He says that as he crossed the stage to receive his M.B.A. diploma, he promised himself that he would give back if he ever could.
His first donation was a $25 gift to the Mustang Club and a $100 pledge to SMU’s general operational fund in 1979.
Little did he know just how much he’d be able to pay it forward.
He started his career in energy lending for Dallas’ Republic National Bank, which was one of the largest financial institutions in the Southwest.
In 1980, the 30-year-old and his buddy, Bob Zorich, left Republic to form an oil and gas company in Denver. Seven years later, when energy boom times went bust, the partners sold out and moved back to Texas.
That same year, Miller — backed by the late, legendary oilman L. Frank Pitts and his son-in-law, Bill Custard — formed PMC for Pitts, Miller and Custard, scraping together energy properties viewed as worthless by most investors.
“The major oil companies had all decided that domestic onshore opportunities wouldn’t move the needle,” Miller recalls. “So they had moved to the deep waters in the Gulf of Mexico and international exploration and were selling their domestic properties. There was a wealth of opportunity to buy. You just had to find the money.”
PMC’s first fund raised $20 million with three institutional investors: Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a huge medical foundation in Washington, D.C., and two major insurance companies.
PMC eventually became part of EnCap (short for Energy Capital) Investments — co-founded by Miller, Zorich and three other friends from Republic Bank. Frank Pitts considered Miller his adopted son, says Linda Pitts Custard, Pitts’ daughter and wife of Bill.
“Daddy was a wildcatter, as you know, and he appreciated David’s entrepreneurship and his ethical approach to business,” she says. “David is a very personable, warm, affable man. None of his success has gone to his head. He remains just as down-to-earth as he was when I met him 30 years ago.
“The business partnership separated, but the deep friendship remained.”
David’s son, Kyle Miller, made headlines of his own three years ago.
In 2012, Kyle started Silver Hill Energy Partners LLC, an independent oil and gas company, with $12 million in seed money. He sold it four years later for $2.4 billion to Dallas-based RSP Permian Inc., a publicly held Permian producer. The Oil & Gas Journal called it the “2016 M&A Deal of the Year.”
Kyle says his father taught him and his sister, Meredith Miller Bebee, that their most valuable assets were their word and integrity.
“He treats people with dignity and respect regardless of what their lot in life is. He’s a believer in collective thinking from smart minds,” says the 40-year-old founder of Silver Hill Energy Holdings LLC, which he founded last year.
David and Carolyn married 19 years ago — the second marriage for each.
“I have massive respect for her and what she thinks,” David says, looking over at Carolyn on the couch. “And while I may not agree with some of her political leanings, I respect them. Frankly, if you think about the discord that’s going on in the country, that’s probably the solution.
“She’s softened me.”
Carolyn grew up in Magnolia, Arkansas, a town of about 12,000, before earning her degree in elementary education at Hendrix College in 1974. She also holds master’s degrees in elementary education and in gerontology.

“She’s an extraordinary person who has a great humanitarian persona.”

– SMU Trustee Caren Prothro speaking about Carolyn Miller

The causes closest to her heart are The Senior Source and Shelter Ministries of Dallas, parent of the Austin Street Center and Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support.
“It’s so important for women to feel empowered to leave an abusive relationship,” Carolyn says. “Most abusers are controllers. So Genesis gives women a sense of control over their lives. And with the increase in homelessness in Dallas County, the need for the Austin Street Center is obvious.”
SMU trustee Caren Prothro says Carolyn is a story in her own right. “She’s an extraordinary person who has a great humanitarian persona. An example of that is her involvement with New Friends New Life, a program for trafficked girls,” Prothro says. “She and David are a wonderful duo. They both have their great strengths and passions. Carolyn holds her own and then some.”

2020 Alumni News Spring 2020

Ashlee Hunt Kleinert ’88 shines a light on the tough topic of sex trafficking

A young woman carrying a backpack walked into the Fairmont Dallas bar, sat next to Ashlee Hunt Kleinert ’88 and her husband, Chris ’88, and ordered a glass of water. In her cutoff overalls and tank top, she stood out in the crowd of suits and cocktail attire. The Kleinerts, who were at the downtown hotel for a social event, thought she looked too young to sit at the bar. They guessed she was about 17 or 18.
More conspicuous, though, was the young woman’s trembling discomfort.
“She was constantly looking over her shoulder, scanning the room and scraping her nails along the bar’s surface,” Kleinert remembers. “She seemed terrified.”

New Friends New Life, co-founded by Nancy Ann Hunter Hunt ’65, Pat Schenkel and Gail Turner in 1998, helps human trafficking survivors.

Kleinert, a longtime volunteer with New Friends New Life, a faith-based Dallas nonprofit offering a comprehensive program for human trafficking survivors, recognized the behavior of a young woman being exploited.
“Her pimp likely sat among the patrons, keeping watch while she waited to join a john in a hotel room,” Kleinert says.
When her husband suggested passing along a note about New Friends and the phone number, Kleinert hesitated. Through her volunteer work, she knew that if the pimp were watching, such contact could put the trafficking victim in peril. Torn by the possible ramifications of their intervention, the couple decided not to risk placing her life in jeopardy. Eventually she walked out of the bar alone, leaving the Kleinerts with a new perspective on a growing problem that has been termed a global epidemic.
That experience six years ago became their “paradigm shift,” Kleinert says. The real-time glimpse into the darkness amplified her understanding of the women she had met at New Friends, who were rebuilding their lives with the help of counseling, support groups, education and job training.
“It made us sick when we didn’t know what to do,” she says. “We’ve never forgotten her.”
Kleinert first got involved with New Friends through her mother. Nancy Ann Hunter Hunt ’65 co-founded New Friends New Life in 1998 with civic leaders Pat Schenkel and Gail Turner, wife of SMU President R. Gerald Turner. Over the past decade of volunteering with the nonprofit, she has spent time with survivors as she assisted with meals and childcare and listened to their stories. On her own, she has devoured grim statistics about the international criminal scourge that affects millions worldwide.
She has learned a lot about human trafficking, maybe more than she ever wanted to know. On a topic that can be awkward – or even dangerous – to broach in public, Kleinert has become a vocal advocate for victims.
Walk The Talk
Creating a community that is welcoming to people from all walks of life starts with frank discussions about thorny topics. Since her student days, Kleinert has appreciated the freedom that SMU provides to explore and discuss crucial issues – when she was a student, when her children were students and today.
“SMU students now have such high awareness and regard for human rights issues,” she says.
Ashlee and Chris Kleinert at SMU's The Big Event in 2019.
Ashlee ’88 and Chris Kleinert ’88 at SMU’s The Big Event in 2019.

She graduated with a B.A. in history from SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. One of her favorite professors was the late Glenn Linden, a revered historian.
“It touched me, the way he portrayed history as the lives of real people whom we could learn from,” she says. “Throughout history, individuals have made a difference by speaking up – and they still do now.”
Ashlee and Chris Kleinert were involved with New Friends as their three children were growing up. However, like most kids, it took them a while to recognize their parents’ wisdom.
Their oldest son, Tyler Kleinert ’14, ’15 , earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sport management from SMU and serves as managing director of The Tritex Group, a startup venture firm focused on entrepre- neurial and civic initiatives. The group’s enterprises include Baldo’s Ice Cream & Coffee, a popular artisanal ice cream shop located across from campus on Hillcrest Avenue. An undergraduate economics class taught by Beth Wheaton opened his eyes to the magnitude of the trafficking problem. Wheaton is a senior lecturer of economics in the Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences who studies the economics of human trafficking.
“He told me, ‘You’re right, Mom, it’s happening,’” Kleinert recalls about her son’s epiphany. She applauds that “interesting and genius approach” to helping young people grasp the issue through the lens of its everyday economic impact.
Daughter Connie Kleinert Babikian ’12, a senior finance analyst for Hunt Oil Company, holds bachelor’s degrees in finance and economics from SMU and volunteers with New Friends New Life. She served as chair of its 20th anniversary recognition luncheon in 2018.
Their younger son, Travis “T.J.” Kleinert ’16, was motivated by his interest in human rights to pursue a law degree at SMU Dedman School of Law. Now a third-year student, he has provided pro bono legal services for the Genesis Women’s Shelter and Support legal aid program, assisting women with restraining orders and custody rights. He also has volunteered as a children’s activity di- rector at Genesis as well as at St. Philip’s School and Community Center in Dallas.

Kleinert continues a family legacy of taking action where there is need. Her parents, Nancy Ann and Ray L. Hunt ’65, established the Judge B. Elmo Hunter Legal Center for Victims of Crimes Against Women at SMU Dedman School of Law in 2014 . The Center is named in honor of Kleinert’s maternal grandfather, a distinguished legal mind and public servant who served as a judge in Western Missouri for 38 years. New Friends New Life refers clients to the clinic, whose services include helping trafficking survivors clear their criminal records.
“Watching the previous generation do something about an issue fosters a feeling of responsibility to pass forward that hands-on, caring style,” Kleinert says.
Ashlee Kleinert quoteThe work of the Hunter Center and New Friends is more important than ever. The Polaris Project, a nonprofit organization that operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline, describes sex trafficking as modern-day slavery. Traffickers prey on the vulnerable. They groom victims by creating dependency, often providing clothing, food, lodging and emotional support. Once they have established trust, they pressure or coerce victims into prostitution.
Traffickers are always on the prowl for new victims. They often approach runaway teens within their first 48 hours on the street, according to the Dallas Police Department.
The sex trade is big business in Texas. A recent study ranks the state as second in the nation, between California and Florida, for trafficking activity. In Dallas, sex trafficking is a $99 million a year illicit industry, according to a 2014 report funded by the National Institute of Justice.
Addiction, domestic violence, homelessness and other social ills foster the feeling of powerlessness and vulnerability that traffickers home in on, Kleinert says. Once the victim becomes dependent, “a pimp will say, ‘I’ve been taking care of you, and now I need you to help me,’” she says.
She points out that sex trafficking can be more lucrative and less risky than drug trafficking, which carries stiffer criminal penalties in Texas. A person can be sold 10 times per night compared to the one-time sale of cocaine or heroin, Kleinert explains. Also, today’s technology makes it easy for johns to remain anonymous. They can select their victims and pay in cash through websites and mobile apps.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline ranks Dallas as No. 2 in the state for trafficking activity – a stain on the city, as far as Kleinert is concerned. She worries about Dallas becoming defined by it.
“Trafficking is evil,” she says. “A perpetrator sells human beings like commodities and eventually discards them like trash.”
Ashlee Kleinert: Candid Conversations
While the topic of sex trafficking can be a conversation killer, it’s too important to avoid. Dodging it doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist, Kleinert says. “Sex trafficking thrives in the dark,” she says. “Awareness, education and dialogue light the path to stop it.”
She embraces opportunities to talk about New Friends New Life’s restorative programs and encourage the public to become involved. However, she’s careful to assess her audience first.
“I’ve learned to gauge interest in how much they want to know,” she says.
More often than not, people want to learn about the crime that hides in plain sight, she says. To engage as many people as possible in their efforts, New Friends created a men’s auxiliary in 2015, the Men’s Advocacy Group. Chris Kleinert served as the organization’s inaugural chair.
The group spells out its mission as mobilizing men “to take action against sex trafficking and exploitation by raising awareness through advocacy, education and volunteerism.” A key component of its educational focus is the manKINDness Project, an interactive learning curriculum aimed at teens and young men. It’s designed to challenge masculinity myths and nurture respect for females and one another. MAG volunteers lead young men to connect the ways demeaning language, including obscene comments and jokes, attitudes and behaviors contribute to an environment where sex trafficking is ignored or tolerated.
Call To Action
Last year, Kleinert partnered her popular Ruthie’s Rolling Café food trucks with Dallas’ Café Momentum, a nonprofit that works with at-risk youth, many of whom are homeless and vulnerable to traffickers. Graduates from that organization’s culinary training program can secure paid externships on the food trucks. “We talk about signs of human trafficking with our employees,” she said. “Unfortunately some of these kids have been on the inside of it.”
Sex trafficking happens everywhere and touches all parts of society, Kleinert says. “It’s hard not to see trafficking, once you know the signs.”
A case in point: Kleinert contacted authorities after observing a suspicious situation at a Dallas-area business park where the Ruthie’s business offices were located in 2011. She reported an uptick in parking lot traffic and a sudden surge of men frequenting a neighboring office space. After a period of surveillance, law enforcement shut down what was, indeed, a trafficking operation.
To raise awareness, New Friends New Life and the Men’s Advocacy Group sponsor a free monthly bus tour guided by representatives of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Participants observe telltale signs of human trafficking and exploitation while learning about real cases worked by Dallas law enforcement.
Kleinert advocates bringing as many people as possible, especially those who regularly deal with the public, into the conversation. Electricians, plumbers and other trades professionals can be trained to spot red flags, such as a private residence housing an unusual number of young women.
In recent years, flight attendants have made headlines by spotting teens being trafficked, which points to the importance of training those in the airline, transportation and hospitality industries to learn the signs and join the fight.
“Everyone can be part of the turnaround,” Kleinert says.
– By Cherri Gann ’15
In 2015, Robbie Hamilton turned to SMU’s Judge Elmo B. Hunter Legal Center for Victims of Crimes Against Women for help in cleaning up the criminal record she acquired over 25 years of working in Dallas strip clubs, battling drug addiction and experiencing repeated arrests for drug possession. On January 11, 2020, on Human Trafficking Awareness Day, she was issued a full pardon by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott after a unanimous vote by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. The pardon wiped away convictions for petty crimes that were the final trace of a dark era in her life.
“I’m humbled and thrilled with this. It seems like the beginning of something bigger,” says Hamilton, a youth mentor and survivor advocate at New Friends New Life, the Dallas-based nonprofit that offers a comprehensive program for formerly trafficked women and children.
The Hunter Legal Center, established in 2014 with a gift from alumni Ray L. ’65 and Nancy Ann Hunter Hunt ’65, is named in honor of Mrs. Hunt’s father, a distinguished judicial leader and public servant who served as a judge in Western Missouri for 38 years. The clinic’s services include helping trafficking survivors determine whether their criminal record convictions can be cleared either by order of nondisclosure or expungement. As public information, criminal records appear on housing, employment and other background checks and get in the way when victims try to rebuild their lives.
“Since its founding, the Hunter Center has worked to ensure that survivors of human trafficking do not carry the burden of criminal convictions resulting from their victimization,” says Natalie Nanasi, director of the Hunter Legal Center and assistant professor of law.
For about four years, Hamilton worked with Nanasi and student attorneys who filed legal petitions to seal or expunge five convictions from her record, including three of her four felonies. In 2017, student attorneys began using the web-based Texas Fresh Start Application, a legal app developed by Dedman School of Law students to streamline the process.
“We have successfully represented many clients like Robbie and celebrate this hard-earned victory,” Nanasi says. “We will continue representing survivors, removing hurdles that inhibit their ability to move past the trauma they endured.”
Student attorneys in the Hunter Legal Center also engage in advocacy efforts, educating Texas lawmakers about the need to expand eligibility for post-conviction relief. “We will keep speaking out about this important issue,” Nanasi says. “And joining with partners, advocates and lawmakers to ensure that criminal histories cease to be a barrier to survivors’ healing.”
For Hamilton, the pardon vindicates her own hard work and the persistence of her legal team and New Friends colleagues. “This feels like being part of a shift toward seeing that women are the victims in trafficking and exploitation, not the criminals,” she says.
Now free to live wherever she likes, Hamilton plans to find a new apartment. She also wants to join a Dallas-based ministry that assists the homeless – an opportunity previously barred by her criminal record.
“I’m holding my head up higher,” she says. “I can look the world in the eye and know I have every opportunity that others do.”
– By Cherri Gann ’15

2020 Alumni News October 2020 Main

Get ready for a Homecoming like no other

We’re celebrating Homecoming Weekend October 22–24 with reimagined experiences for everyone. Whether you plan to be on the Hilltop or cheer on your alma mater from home, we’ve got you covered.
If you can’t make it to the Hilltop for SMU Homecoming, you can count on us to help you get into the spirit of things. Start planning now for your StayHomecoming, and check our Homecoming website in the coming weeks for information about how you can get your very own swag kit. Hail to the red and the blue!
Read more at SMU Homecoming.

2020 Alumni News October 2020

Passion drives this community bridge-builder

No other word is used more frequently to describe Ana Rodriguez ’03, managing director of the SMU Cox Latino Leadership Initiative.
Spend a day in her office at SMU Cox School of Business, and you’ll see just how much passion fuels this Dallas native, community bridge-builder, and business executive leadership adviser to some of the nation’s largest companies.
“Ana is the right person at the right time with the drive and tenacity to make the difference we and our business partners need,” says Shane Goodwin, associate dean of executive education and graduate programs at the Cox School. “She is absolutely a force of nature.”
As the head of the Latino Leadership Initiative (LLI) – the nation’s only executive education program dedicated to the professional advancement of Latinos – Rodriguez helps students and executive-level employees from minority backgrounds transform their lives and careers. The program also helps more than 40 companies –  like AT&T Communications, State Farm, and Walmart – retain and develop C-suite talent, so they don’t miss out on the market value and cultural perspective that Latino professionals bring to the workplace.
As of 2020, Latinos make up over 18% of the population, yet they represent less than 3% of executive-level positions in the United States. Rodriguez knows firsthand what it’s like to struggle to gain a foothold in the U.S.
Read the full story.

2020 News October 2020

Happy 20th to Gerald J. Ford Stadium!

Since its opening in 2000, Ford Stadium has helped the University flourish. We’ll celebrate this milestone for the remainder of the season as our nationally ranked Mustangs continue to make us proud.
Check out the schedule and get tickets.

2020 Alumni October 2020

SMU Network helps alumni and students make career connections

In today’s world, the trend to work virtually or distanced is growing, making digital networking more important than ever. The new SMU Network is on top of this trend and gives SMU alumni and students a platform to connect, integrate their LinkedIn profiles, filter results by school, class year or city of residence, or  identify as “willing to help” or “needing help.” The platform’s user-friendly features mean a Meadows School of the Arts grad arriving in a new city could find fellow alumni nearby with whom they can connect.
Take Juan Francisco de la Guardia ’10, for example. After several years working in television production in the Dallas-Fort Worth area following graduation, de la Guardia and his wife made the move to Los Angeles. The transition certainly had complications professionally, since de la Guardia needed to establish new connections in L.A. He contacted professors and asked them to connect him with guest speakers from his classes. “My first work was through Meadows Professor Sean Griffin,” de la Guardia says, explaining that Griffin had brought in a reality show producer to speak to his class. “I remembered that guy when I was coming out here, and called Dr. Griffin to ask, ‘Hey, do you have that guy in your Rolodex?’”
Meadows recently conducted internal research showing that students want to interact with alumni and other potential connections but often don’t know how to initiate contact. Fortunately, de la Guardia was extroverted and unafraid to reach out. He ended up scoring his first gig through that connection from Professor Griffin’s class. “If the online SMU Network had existed when we moved to L.A., I would have been on it, looking for Los Angeles film people from SMU,” he says.
Read more at the Meadows School.

2020 News October 2020

The voice of experience: Law student Kevin Lee advocates for the homeless

The newest law student at SMU’s Dedman School of Law is also the most unlikely.
“Looking back and saying, ‘Wow, I was there, but now I’m here.’ Just imagine where else I can go,’” said 26-year-old Kevin Lee. A few years ago, Lee was homeless.

After losing their house in Pittsburgh in a flood, Lee and his mom spent a year bouncing from shelter to shelter. Soon after, his uncle, who was his biggest role model, was murdered.
But when we first met Lee three years ago, he had far different things on his mind.

“I just knew that I wanted to go to college,” he said. “I knew I wanted to go to law school. That was something I knew I wanted to do.”

Lee says he was captivated by the movie “The Great Debaters,” which takes place at Wiley College in Marshall. So, after losing their home, Lee and his mom left Pittsburgh and headed for Texas, where he planned to pursue his dream of going to college.

“I’ve always told him as a child, ‘Whatever you want to be, you can be,’” said Kevin’s mom, Tamara Williams. “So if that’s what you want to be, that’s what you’re going to be.’”

Read more.

2020 News October 2020

Pioneering esports program launches online

The Cox School of Business and the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development have created a new certificate to teach the business management side of the growing esports industry.
The Esports Business Management Certificate consists of six courses, each lasting six class hours, and combines a mix of self-paced work with weekly online meetings with instructors. SMU PRO is currently accepting students for the program, which starts in spring 2021. Classes include esports ecosystem and business models, fan engagement and sponsorship activation, and business development and revenue strategies. The certificate can potentially be completed from anywhere in the world in as few as six months.
Read more at SMU PRO.

2020 Alumni News October 2020

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Enjoy these quick links to stories, videos and more about the people, programs and events making an impact on the Hilltop.
Watch: Mexico City, Panama and Guatemala chapters kick off Hispanic Heritage Month
Perunapalooza: Scenes from our fave pony’s birthday extravaganza
Bryson DeChambeau ’16 cruises to U.S. Open title with amazing win
Now streaming: SMU Summer Film Productions
Maps for Time Travelers and the geospatial technology revolution
Perkins School to host Leading into Change, November 15–16
SMU community prepares students to research, register and vote
American Educational Research Association honors professor

2020 Alumni June 2020 June 2020 Main News

Connecting the SMU community

#StampedeinPlace hosted by the Black Alumni of SMU on June 24 was an evening of listening, learning and growing together by Mustangs for Mustangs.
If you feel inspired to learn more about the Black Lives Matter movement and the history of social and racial justice issues in the U.S., the collection of resources found here invite deeper conversation.

2020 June 2020 News

‘It’s time to look to the future’

In a letter to the SMU community on April 30, President R. Gerald Turner announced plans to “safely open our University for on-campus teaching, learning and student living for the fall semester.” The unique academic experience that defines SMU will return, along with the “energy our students bring to campus.”
“Clearly, we will work within the boundaries of governmental guidelines as we plan for the beginning of fall classes. Be assured, every phase of our return to campus will launch with the health and safety of our campus population in mind. Your University is committed to managing this process aggressively and efficiently, using data and verifiable research to make good decisions. …”
Read the letter from President Turner.

2020 Alumni June 2020 News

A graduation celebration reaches new heights

Commencement has been postponed, but degrees were conferred on May 16. Our friends at Reunion Tower opened their doors for hundreds of graduates and their families to safely celebrate the day together. We’re so proud of our newest alumni!
See photos of some of our newest alumni.

2020 Alumni June 2020

Find out what’s next for our world changers

The COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t stop our 2020 grads. They shifted to remote classes and continued to learn, create and achieve. Now, these architects of our future are ready for new challenges in corporate careers, public service or graduate school.
Read Here We Go Mustangs.

2020 June 2020

Responding to pandemic-related hardship

How do we help ensure the pandemic doesn’t prevent students from becoming SMU alumni?
Support for the new Presidential Fund for Immediate Needs will provide scholarships to first-year, transfer and current students in need. Help make their dreams come true.
Learn more.

2020 June 2020

Black at SMU: Important conversations and actions

Recent conversations between President Turner and Black student organizations, alumni board, staff and faculty are shaping a blueprint to address systemic racial issues and create a welcoming environment.
On June 12, President Turner sent a letter to the SMU community describing the listening sessions and forthcoming actions:
“This week, I had the honor of participating in a series of Zoom discussions with the leaders of our Black student organizations, alumni board, staff and faculty. Accompanied by Vice President of Student Affairs K.C. Mmeje, Senior Advisor to the President Maria Dixon Hall and our Provost-elect Elizabeth Loboa, I heard firsthand what it means to be Black at SMU. These were not easy stories to tell and they were difficult to hear. Those who participated virtually on calls and by using the #BlackatSMU forum demonstrated courage and love for our University by sharing not just their stories, but also suggestions that will enable our campus to become a true community. For allowing me to hear from you, I am grateful. …”
Read the complete letter.

2020 June 2020

Career advice to help alumni get noticed and keep growing

Ally Van Deuren ’15 of Korn Ferry recently moderated a panel discussion with career volunteers Brandy Mickens ’02 of Equitable Advisors, Ivan Roussev ’12 of EY, Travis Roberts ’19 of Goldman Sachs and Alexis Gambino ’16 of State Farm.
Check out the recording for tips and insights.

2020 Alumni

A new funding lifeline for a free clinic fighting the pandemic

Physician Barbara Stark Baxter can joke now about her resemblance to Sesame Street’s Big Bird. But at the time, donning head-to-toe yellow personal protective equipment for the first time to help a possible COVID-19 patient was no laughing matter.
Baxter, founder and medical director of the Agape Clinic, and her staff weren’t prepared on March 12 when the patient from Hunt County, Texas, arrived at the East Dallas nonprofit. They wasted no time shutting down the clinic and disinfecting the facilities while making arrangements to test the patient the following day. Thanks to planning by Air Force veteran Gary Foster, director of clinical operations, they had the bright-yellow personal protective equipment on hand, and Baxter brought in her own supplies to collect a specimen for testing.
Fortunately, the patient was not infected with the novel coronavirus. However, the situation prompted Baxter and Foster to seek the advice of clinic volunteer Ellen Kitchell, an internal medicine physician specializing in infectious diseases and geographic medicine at UT Southwestern Medical School. Together, they worked out a comprehensive plan to help ensure the safety of Agape Clinic staff and patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For almost 37 years, the Agape Clinic has provided low-cost or no-cost medical, dental and other health services, and depends on donations and volunteers to keep going.
One of those essential volunteers is SMU alumna Mary Ann Scott ’65. When Scott first heard about the nonprofit in 2018, she wanted to help. The Dallas consultant in project management, strategic planning and international communications called Baxter to find out how she could be involved.
It turned out that her involvement could run deep. Baxter, who is a Mustang by marriage to the late David Baxter ’72 and the mother of SMU alumna Sallie Baxter ’17, joined Scott in creating The Agape Always Foundation in 2019. Their goal is to expand services and fortify the financial future of this vital community resource.
The foundation was just getting off the ground when the spread of COVID-19 became a global crisis. Now the clinic is on the front lines. On weekdays, the clinic treats patients with acute and chronic medical conditions and refers anyone with severe COVID-19 symptoms to the appropriate area medical facilities. Mild and post-COVID-19 patients are treated through virtual visits.
“Our aim with The Agape Always Foundation is to ensure the clinic’s health and to continue the services that are critical to the well-being of the patients it serves as well as the entire community,” Scott says.
Scott witnessed the significance of serving those in need while growing up in Brownsville, Tennessee, a small town outside of Memphis. Her father was a country doctor whose patients often paid him in chickens, eggs and spring water. “Everyone in town respected my father for his selfless attitude and desire to treat those who were sick even though they were never able to pay,” she says.
She attended SMU on a full-tuition scholarship, earning bachelor’s and master’s of music degrees in piano performance and music education from Meadows School of the Arts.
“Music drives my thinking and approach to my business endeavors,” she says. “The skills that I acquired in music make it possible for me to be a creative thinker, a great listener, a careful strategist and strategic planner, to come up with problem-solving solutions, to communicate effectively with people of all backgrounds and languages, to bring harmony into the workplace and be a good team player.”
Scott says she is looking toward the future, when the nation emerges from the pandemic and “when we all must find a meaningful purpose – a way to contribute to society, to live a more meaningful life, to be of service.”  That is why The Agape Always Foundation means so much to her, she says. “It is a great place to take the expertise I have acquired in my lifetime and leverage for the good of those in need. It is my chance to spread the good word about lifesaving opportunities of service.”
In addition to financial support, Baxter says the clinic can always use donations of much-needed items such as hand sanitizer, surgical gowns, surgical masks, N95 masks, gloves, eye protection, cleaning supplies and medical-grade disinfectants. They also are collecting nonperishable food items for distribution to patients.
To learn more about The Agape Always Foundation, email Scott at

2020 Alumni June 2020 News

Hacking the health crisis

Hubert Zajicek, M.B.A. ’06, a physician and founder and CEO of the Health Wildcatters incubator in Dallas, helped create the Health Hacking Crisis Network to find quick solutions to problems like the face-mask shortage among healthcare workers.
The group was started as a way to share knowledge and resources on actionable ways to help during this time. The goal is to connect people who are willing to share talents, knowledge and ideas, and/or access to useful equipment in order to solve emergency healthcare issues quickly. Professionals, students and anyone who believes they can contribute is invited to join the converation.
Read more.

2020 May 2020 Main News

Cooking up something good

CRACK. Splash. Oops!
SMU first-year student Sarah Tersigni spoons a tiny piece of eggshell from the four eggs she’s cracked into a glass bowl. She’s making the filling for the lemon squares that she will serve later to fellow students in her residence hall. The Austin native loves to stir things up in the kitchen – she is her family’s designated birthday cake-baker – but she never thought baking would be part of her college routine.
Sarah’s lemon squares are part of a spread served every week to students who live in her Residential Commons, Mary Hay-Peyton-Shuttles. It’s not unusual for more than 100 students to stop by on a Sunday to feast on homemade mac ’n’ cheese, sliders, chocolate Bundt cake, fresh fruit and everyone’s favorite, chocolate chip cookies, prepared by students in Liljana Elverskog’s kitchen. Liljana and her husband, Johan, are SMU professors who live in the Commons as Faculty in Residence. Student residents stream into the couple’s cozy apartment every Sunday night for snacks.
Read more.

2020 May 2020 News

SMU profs and students launch artificial intelligence lab to seek COVID-19 solutions

Computer science, the digital humanities and students eager to make a difference are all in the mix for a high-stakes collaboration tapping brainpower and the gift of time.

What if university computer scientists, biologists and historians collaborated to use modern artificial intelligence and machine learning to examine a massive trove of infectious disease research papers, text mining for abstract patterns, elusive insights and hard-to-spot trends related to COVID-19 and the coronavirus family of viruses?

Imagine the energy such a group could generate if their students, working remotely and cut off from the normal distractions of student life, jumped in to volunteer for the project? Welcome to the nascent SMU Artificial Intelligence Lab.

Read more.

2020 Alumni May 2020

Ray W. Washburne ’84 named to industry group charting recovery

M Crowd Restaurant Group co-founder and co-owner Ray W. Washburne ’84 has been tapped by President Donald Trump to serve on a task force developing a recovery plan for the nation’s food and beverage industry.
The prominent restaurant and real estate investor will join a host of the nation’s business leaders apppointed to the president’s Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups.
Washburne received a bachelor’s degree in history from SMU and serves as CEO and president of Charter Holdings, a Dallas-based investment company involved in real estate, restaurants and diversified financial investments. His M Crowd Restaurant Group includes the Mi Cocina and Katy Trail Ice House chains. He is also president and managing director of Highland Park Village.
He was named to the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board in 2019. From August 2017 to February 2019, he served as the president and chief executive officer of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the United States government’s development finance institution. From 2000 to 2017, he served on the board of directors of Veritex Holdings, Inc. He also has served as an adjunct professor at SMU’s Cox School of Business. He is a member of the American Enterprise Institute, the Council on Foreign Relations and the advisory board for the United States Southern Command.
Read more.

2020 Alumni June 2020 May 2020

Changing course to fight COVID-19

In just 48 hours, Lucy and Andy Rieger ’09 pivoted J. Rieger & Co. – their family distillery in Kansas City, Missouri – from producing whiskey to making hand sanitizer for hospitals, nursing homes and the community.
The distillery is making sanitizer in two-liter bottles by the pallet these days, working to keep up with the requests pouring in. “I’ve been getting about 500 a day.”
Rieger said it started on a much smaller scale with a request from a nursing facility and a small offering to the public, but the demand was huge.
“It felt for a while there like I was playing God,” Rieger said. “People calling, saying, ‘I have nowhere else to turn; can you help us?’”
Read more.

2020 Alumni May 2020

Alumna Ti Martin ’82 adds new chapter to Commander’s Palace legend

Since its doors opened in 1893, Commander’s Palace has been New Orleanians’ go-to for celebratory brunches and festive dinners. The novel coronavirus has now forced the beloved gathering place to temporarily close its doors, but co-proprietor Ti Martin ’82 and her team have found other ways to keep the restaurant’s hospitable spirit alive.
Read more at Southern Living.

2020 Alumni June 2020 May 2020

Necessity is the mother of reinvention

For the Odee Company, co-owned by Steve and Sarah Lodwick Holland ’80, the ability to adapt to shifting demands has kept the business going since 1923. Now the printer is churning out hospital gowns for frontline health workers.
Hospital gowns may not seem like a natural transition for a print shop, but they actually got the idea when a local hospital reached out to them asking if they’re up to the task.
They are now pumping out hospital gowns by the thousands.
Read more.

2020 Alumni June 2020 News

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Enjoy these quick links to stories, videos and more about the people, programs and events making an impact on the Hilltop.

2020 March 2020 Main News

Engineering a drone zone

Imagine the lifesaving potential of groups of drones performing search-and-rescue missions. But there’s a communication problem that needs to be solved first, and SMU faculty and student researchers are on it. They’re transforming an off-campus warehouse into an innovative drone research lab.
See story and video.

2020 March 2020 News

Setting the pace for future athletic achievements

A $5 million commitment from Heather and Ray W. Washburne ’84 and family will enhance the student experience and elevate SMU’s competitiveness by establishing the Washburne Soccer and Track Stadium. Located on Ownby Drive between Ford Stadium and the Binkley Parking Center, the Washburne Soccer and Track Stadium will house SMU’s men’s and women’s soccer teams, along with the track and field and cross-country teams.
“The Washburne family’s gift will enable us to continue to offer the best opportunities, resources and facilities to help our students succeed in all their endeavors,” SMU President R. Gerald Turner said. “The new Washburne Soccer and Track Stadium will not only create a new home for our student-athletes on par with the achievements of their programs, but it also will provide another venue where fans from across our community can come together to support our Mustangs.”
The Washburne Soccer and Track Stadium will stay true to the footprint of the current Westcott Field and the 400-meter outdoor track, which will be updated to meet the new facility’s standards. The new 2,577-capacity stadium will include a structure featuring locker rooms and a team meeting/conference room. In addition to complementing the central campus aesthetic, the stadium will welcome Mustang fans for home events.
Read more at SMU News.

2020 March 2020 News

Renowned geologist to lead new Moody School

James Quick will open the doors to a new era of research and interdisciplinary collaboration as inaugural dean of SMU’s newly created Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies.
SMU announced the creation of the Moody School in November 2019, made possible by a landmark $100 million gift from the Moody Foundation. The investment in graduate-level education is fueling SMU’s move to join the finest universities in the country in its development of research with impact, delivered by top-notch faculty and graduate students.
Quick, a volcanologist of international stature, joined SMU in 2007 as the University’s first Associate Vice President for Research and Dean of Graduate Studies, with the responsibilities of supporting increases in research activity and the number of students graduating with a Ph.D. Since his arrival, research expenditures has increased from $14 million a year to $42 million a year, and annual graduation of Ph.Ds has increased from 45 to more than 70.
Read more at SMU News.

2020 March 2020 News

Honoring organizations changing lives through education

The 2020 Simmons Luminary Award dinner and ceremony on Thursday, March 12 will honors organizations that have shown an extraordinary commitment to improving lives through education. This year’s recipients are: Big Thought, North Texas honoree; Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, regional honoree; and the Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching, national honoree.
More information and registration.

2020 March 2020 News

Meadows at the Meyerson supports scholars program

SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts will present its 27th annual Meadows at the Meyerson concert at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 10 in the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. in Dallas. The event will feature works focused on stories and legends by Sibelius and Rimsky-Korsakov, performed by the critically acclaimed Meadows Symphony Orchestra under the direction of conductor Paul Phillips. Meadows at the Meyerson supports talented Meadows students through the Meadows Scholars Program.
More information and tickets.

2020 March 2020 News

Looking at data differently could predict diabetes earlier

A multidisciplinary team of SMU researchers is working with Parkland Health and Hospital to create a statistical model to predict which patients are at risk for developing diabetes five to 10 years before they exhibit symptoms.
Diabetes and pre-diabetes affect an astonishing 43 percent of the country’s population at a cost of $237 billion in treatment and $90 billion per year in indirect costs such as absenteeism. The U.S. spends more treating diabetes than the entire GDP of Portugal.
The earlier the disease is caught, the more likely treatment costs will be kept down. But testing is expensive and time consuming, so providers need to be wise about who they test. Usually, the patients who receive a diabetes test already have a symptom, meaning the chances of reversal are low and treatment costs are more likely to be high.
Read more.

2020 March 2020 News

A year of surprising science from NASA’s InSight mission to Mars

InSight is the first mission dedicated to looking deep beneath the Martian surface, and SMU’s Matt Siegler is one of the scientists who will ultimately help determine what heat flow probe measurements mean for the composition of the planet’s interior.
A new understanding of Mars is beginning to emerge, thanks to the first year of NASA’s InSight lander mission. Findings described in a set of six papers published recently reveal a planet alive with quakes, dust devils and strange magnetic pulses.
Among Insight’s science tools are a seismometer for detecting quakes, sensors for gauging wind and air pressure, a magnetometer and a heat flow probe designed to take the planet’s temperature.
Read more at SMU Research.

2020 March 2020 News

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Enjoy these quick links to great photos, stories and more about the people, programs and events making an impact on the Hilltop.
Photos: Cox 100 celebration picnic
It’s not too late: TEDxSMU on March 5–6
Former Mustangs prepare for NFL draft
Perkins Summit for Faith and Learning, March 26–28
Laura Wilson to receive Literati Award on March 28
From small-town Texas to Mumbai, India
Clicking away our right to privacy

2020 February 2020 Main News

Reaching for a stronger future

A rare, polio-like condition left Braden Scott paralyzed. Now a team led by Edmond Richer, professor of mechanical engineering in SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering, has developed a robotic arm aiding the eight-year-old Beaumont boy’s recovery.
Read the story and watch the video.

2020 Alumni February 2020 News

SMU-in-Taos Cultural Institute registration opens on February 10

Learn about Los Alamos, awaken your artistic skills and sharpen your culinary chops – you can do it all at SMU’s Taos campus, July 16–19.

Enjoy in-depth, hands-on explorations that broaden your outlook, and build memories and friendships that can last a lifetime. Field trips add a vivid dimension to augment your understanding and bring additional perspective to course content. Also woven into the itinerary are lively receptions, SMU’s Ima Leete Hutchison Concert featuring Meadows School students and free time to enjoy a bit of respite and discover Taos at your own pace.

Registration opens on February 10.

2020 February 2020 News

New law clinic names inaugural director

Tom Leatherbury, one of the country’s leading First Amendment litigators, has been named director of the new First Amendment Clinic in SMU’s Dedman School of Law.

The new clinic will launch in the fall, thanks to a generous gift of $900,000 from the Stanton Foundation. The clinic will focus on First Amendment issues including free speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly and petition. This funding will cover the core operating expenses of the clinic for five years.
Leatherbury, a partner in Vinson & Elkins LLP, will serve as director and adjunct professor, while the law school will appoint a full-time fellow to handle the clinic’s day-to-day administration.
“This is a great fit for my interests both in First Amendment work and in clinical education,” says Leatherbury. “It’s really important to me to train the next generation of lawyers, and in particular, to train them in First Amendment values which are so critical to our democracy.”
In a career spanning more than four decades, Leatherbury has regularly represented traditional and digital publishers, as well as broadcasters, in all aspects of media litigation, including libel, privacy and other torts, reporter’s privilege, newsgathering and access, misappropriation, and breach of contract actions.
In addition to his active First Amendment practice at Vinson & Elkins, Leatherbury also has worked on cases with First Amendment clinics at Yale Law School and at Cornell Law School.
Read the full story.

2020 February 2020 News

Leading the charge for positive change

Politics doesn’t have to be polarizing, says SMU Student Body President Darian Taylor. “The pendulum will move back toward a climate of cooperation, and my generation is the one that will swing it that way,” he told Dallas Morning News columnist Sharon Grigsby.

In a profile published on January 24, Taylor told Grigsby he was hopeful, but not naive, about the state of affairs in Dallas and Washington, D.C. The following is an excerpt from the story:

[Darian] Taylor hasn’t just gotten an education at SMU; he’s broken down walls within the school and between its students and local communities “that don’t have the privilege we have.”

As SMU student president, he’s also often the only African American present in boardrooms with donors and administrators. “I realized how important it is to have my opinion at that table, and how long have we gone without a person of color at this table?” he said.

K.C. Mmeje, vice president for student affairs, says he knew the first time he met Taylor that he would leave an indelible mark on SMU. He ticked off a list of Taylor’s assets — strong sense of character, work ethic, maturity and passion for serving others — then summed it up thusly: “I want to be like him when I grow up.”

Raised in the Houston area, Taylor will graduate in May with a double major in public policy and communications. Regardless of what job he lands next, he intends to make time to replicate his work at SMU by doing community-organizing.

“I don’t just want to live and work in a city. I want to build coalitions of different-minded people who are my age,” he said.

Read the full story.

2020 February 2020 News

‘Boundless Learning, Bountiful Living’ for clergy and laity

Registration is now open for the Perkins Summit for Faith and Learning – formerly the Perkins Theological School for the Laity – which takes place March 26–28 on the SMU campus. With the theme “Boundless Learning, Bountiful Living,” the program offers multiple course options and is open to laity as well as clergy.
Headlining the event is “What’s Ahead for the UMC?” The half-day course will be taught by Will Willimon, professor of the practice of Christian ministry, Duke Divinity School, on on Thursday, March 26. The course will explore how The United Methodist Church arrived at the present moment, what factors led to the 2019 special called General Conference and its aftermath, and what may happen in the upcoming General Conference.
All-day courses on Friday, March 27 and Saturday, March 28 will include these by Perkins faculty:
“How to Read the Bible According to the Early Church Fathers” by James Kang Hoon Lee, associate professor of the history of early Christianity and director, Doctor of Ministry Program
“Truth Telling in a Post-Truth World” by D. Stephen Long, Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics
“The Emperor’s New Clothes: How Mark’s Ironic Passion Story Reveals God’s Reign,” by O. Wesley Allen, Lois Craddock Perkins Professor of Homiletics
“How Do We Solve a Problem Like…Mary?” taught by Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner, professor of pastoral care and pastoral theology
See the full event schedule here.
Online registration closes on March 19.
Read more at the Perkins School.

2020 Alumni February 2020 News

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Enjoy these quick links to great stories and more about the people, programs and events making an impact on the Hilltop.
Photos: SMU Dream Week 2020
See international films through February 27
Hear Monica Lewinsky and Lindy West on March 4
Go-show: A big idea for small-screen storytelling
Excellent Educator: Finding the strengths of kids with dyslexia
Coming up: Tables of Content on March 28

2020 January 2020 News

Engineer, inventor, researcher and leader

Elizabeth Loboa will join SMU as provost and vice president for academic affairs on July 6. As chief academic officer for the University, Loboa will be responsible for the overall quality of teaching, scholarship and research and all aspects of academic life, ranging from admissions and faculty development to supervision of SMU’s eight schools, library system and international programs.
Loboa, a biomedical engineer, is currently vice chancellor for strategic partnerships and dean and Ketchum Professor of the College of Engineering at the University of Missouri. She brings to SMU a distinguished academic record and broad university leadership experience.
“Dr. Loboa is joining SMU at an exciting time, as we launch a new graduate school and strengthen our commitment to both world-changing research and teaching,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Her proven track record in building and supporting partnerships both inside and outside the academy is exactly what we are looking for as SMU reaches out for collaborations that serve both Dallas and our global community.”
Read more at SMU News.

2020 January 2020 News

A torrent of file-sharing unleashes a flood of innovation

In a new study, SMU strategy professors Julian Kolev and Wendy Bradley analyze the link between digital piracy and innovation in software technology firms. Their research finds that large incumbent firms like Microsoft and Adobe Systems increased innovation after disruptions to their business model occurred as a result of file-sharing technology that allowed their products to be more easily copied or pirated.
“If you expect your ideas and innovations to be pirated, you might not feel as motivated and incentivized to invest in those innovations,” Kolev says. “Our research findings see the opposite: there was an increase in innovative activity on a broad spectrum of measures, including research and development spending, patents, copyrights and trademarks.”
Their analysis used intellectual property and the development of improvements in product software to investigate the effects of piracy on innovation.
Read more at the Cox School.

2020 January 2020 News

Focal point: Laura Wilson to receive Literati Award

Friends of the SMU Libraries will celebrate its 50th year and honor photographer and author Laura Wilson with the 11th Literati Award at the annual Tables of Content fundraiser on Saturday, March 28.
Nancy Perot is serving as honorary chair for the event. The proceeds will benefit the annual grants program sponsored by the Friends, which supports the purchase of books, periodicals, electronic resources and other much-needed equipment and materials for all SMU libraries.
Wilson will receive the 11th Literati Award, which honors individuals who have used the written word to advance creativity, conviction, innovation and scholarship and who have had a significant impact on culture and the community through their work. Wilson has published six books: Watt Matthews of Lambshead (Texas State Historical Society, 1989), Hutterites of Montana (Yale University Press, 2000), Avedon at Work (University of Texas Press, 2003), Grit and Glory (Bright Sky Press, 2003), That Day: Pictures in the American West, (Yale University Press, 2015) and From Rodin to Plensa: Modern Sculpture at the Meadows Museum (Scala, 2018).
She is currently working on two projects. Writers, a project documenting 35 writers destined to have a lasting legacy, will become a book and exhibition for the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Making Movies documents directors, cinematographers and actors behind the scenes.
Read more at Friends of the SMU Libraries.

2020 January 2020 News

Good health and happiness go hand in hand

According to a study led by SMU psychologist Nathan Hudson, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that people’s overall sense of happiness is linked to physical health.
As reported by Psychology Today on December 7, 2019, “the question of whether health promotes happiness or vice versa remains a matter of scientific debate. Some findings suggest that people who are healthier just feel better about life; others that some third factor such as personality or genetics causes health and happiness to be related; and still others suggest that people who are happier are healthier because they take better care of themselves.”
The researchers analyzed three years of data for a group of 1,952 participants ranging in age from 17 to 95. They found “it was impossible to separate the dynamic interplay between happiness and health.”
The findings revealed that taking measures to stay healthy, like exercising and getting enough sleep, and focusing on long-term goals can go a long way toward maintaining overall happiness.
Read more at Psychology Today.