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2024 Alumni Spring/Summer 2024

Planning a trip?

If you’re planning to take a trip to cheer on the Mustangs while on the road, take some pointers from a few of our graduates in our new ACC cities. 

San Francisco, CA

As a proud SMU alum and with my wife being a Berkeley alum, we’re intimately familiar with the excitement of college rivalries. We’ve curated a list of some of our favorite spots in San Francisco for SMU ponies and Cal bears to enjoy during game week. For brunch or coffee, head to Café Reveille or Red Bay Coffee. For happy hour, we love a Mano. And for dinner, our favorites include La Mar and KAIYO

–Elie Nabushosi ’19 and Allison Nabushosi 

Hadley Doyle ’23

Louisville, KY

When I visit friends in Louisville, some of my favorite spots are the Omni Louisville Hotel for a cocktail, Haraz Coffee for some caffeine and Volare for great Italian food. I also recommend Eggs Over Frankfort for breakfast and the 21C art gallery for some contemporary art. 

–Laurie Ann Ross, Director of Development for SMU Libraries, SMU-in-Taos and Academic Affairs 

Knut Ahlander ’21, ’23

Durham, NC

I recommend going to get coffee at Cocoa Cinnamon or Joe Van Gogh with small bites from Monuts or Isaac’s Bagels, which are all near the campus. For dinner, there are several different places to go like Juju, Rose’s Noodles or Nikos. The Sarah P. Duke Gardens are relaxing and peaceful to walk through. 

–Brooke Sullivan ’18 

Charlottesville, VA

I attended UVA for my MBA, and I highly recommend a visit to Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards, which has the best view in town. Also, for those Mustang fans who frequent Shug’s, I recommend Bodo’s Bagels located across the street from “Grounds” (UVA speak for “campus”). Grab a bagel and coffee and walk around campus including the famous “Lawn” where you’ll see the precursor to Dallas Hall. 

–Stephen Reiff ’10, Alumni Board Member 

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Alumni

The Mustangs have arrived

It’s a new era in SMU Athletics. This July, the Mustangs will officially join the Atlantic Coast Conference, meaning a whole new lineup of competitors and host cities. 

After beginning the season against Nevada in Reno on August 24, SMU football will host the home opener against Houston Christian University on August 31, followed by BYU on September 6 and the “Battle for the Iron Skillet” against TCU on September 21. 

Then, the eight-game slate of ACC competitors begins with Family Weekend on September 28 versus Florida State. 

During the month of October, the Mustangs hit the road, first in Louisville on October 5; then, against Stanford on October 19; and Duke on October 26. 

For our first ACC Homecoming, SMU will host Pittsburgh on November 2 before a rematch with Boston College on November 16. 

Finally, one last away game takes the team to Virginia on November 23 before closing out the season at home against Cal on November 30. 

Though times and televised information may not be out yet, it’s never too early to start thinking about season tickets to support the Mustangs at Ford Stadium – especially with the new Weber End Zone Complex ready to welcome fans. 

Stay up to date with all your favorite SMU sports and watch for more schedules to be announced at smumustangs.com


The ACC is a highly competitive league with a commitment to comprehensive excellence across all sports. … Our programs are competing at a national level and affiliation with other like-minded programs will push us to even greater heights 


Director of Athletics Rick Hart 
Lucrezia Napoletano ’26

In anticipation of our transition to the ACC, our goal is to reach 3,500 members in the Mustang Club by May 31 – a new department record.Can you help us? Show our student-athletes that you support them by making a gift of any size to any athletic program. 

Donations help our 484 student-athletes succeed in the classroom and in competition. Your support will assist in a variety of ways, including team operations, travel, recruiting, nutrition, academic support and more. Mustang Club members can be alumni, fans, coaches and friends who want to support our 17 sport programs. 

Visit smu.edu/joinmustangclub for more. 

Categories
2024 Alumni Spring/Summer 2024

Enterprising alumni

Todd Andrews ’96

In the last three years, the booming athleisure company Tasc (stylized lowercase “tasc”) has doubled in size and expanded its footprint to include a new storefront on Lovers Lane in Dallas, Texas. CEO and co-founder Todd Andrews ’96 has grown the company to 55 employees and almost $100 million in annual revenue.

Yet the company is still having Christmas parties at his mom’s house. 

Even the company name, Tasc, is grounded in the family: T for Todd; A for his dad, Al; S for his brother, Scott; and C for his mom, Cindy. Al Andrews, the beloved patriarch of the family who passed away last summer, was the company’s forerunner who got his start in the apparel industry while attending law school in New Orleans. 

“He came down to Tulane on a basketball scholarship in the early ’60s, graduated, went to law school, passed the bar, but was renting an apartment from a family that had the largest U.S.-based tie manufacturer,” says Andrews. “And so that’s how he started his career. He didn’t practice law; he got into the apparel business, for better or worse.” 

It was for the better. When Andrews graduated from SMU in 1996, he moved back to New Orleans to interview for jobs in a range of industries, but when he walked into his dad’s office to see what new industry ideas he had up his sleeve, Andrews never looked back. 

Andrews says the influence of his father’s passion is why Tasc has been so successful: “That spirit is what we’ve kept going forward in our company.” 

“Our dream was always to build a brand,” he adds. 

Tasc now sells products wholesale in all 50 states, has established partnerships with the PGA Tour and the U.S. Open, and is looking at long-term storefront growth with four locations now open across the South and a fifth location coming to Atlanta, Georgia, in 2024.

Brittany Cobb ’04

Over the past 15 years, Brittany Cobb ’04 has built a brand celebrated for many things. 

“Somebody told me curiosity and consistency are the key to success,” she says. “I now know how true that is.” 

In 2009, a then 27-year-old Cobb was launching a new business: The Dallas Flea, a quarterly pop-up shopping event featuring various vendors. 

Figure it out she did, and in 2015, she rebranded to Flea Style, a name the California native chose because she says, “it embodied the brand’s love for flea markets.” 

Cobb, now 41, is slated to open two new sets of doors: one in Prosper, Texas, and one in Nashville, Tennessee. In September 2023, Cobb’s Hat Bar, which offers customers a hands-on experience to create their own hat, opened inside the Omni Louisville Hotel in Kentucky. Cobb also owns Wide Brim, a specialty boutique inside Hotel Drover in Fort Worth, Texas. 

She credits her journalism degree for her marketing ideas, communication skills and ability to stay curious. Cobb embraces the “bevy of perspective, knowledge and new ideas” she has gained. 

One thing, though, has remained steadfast: a coping tactic she inherited from her father. 

“Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I go back to my dad’s favorite saying: ‘Inch by inch, everything is a cinch.’ I still tell myself this mantra daily,” she says. 

Brooks Thostenson ’09

After spending summer 2009 at SMU-in-Taos, Brooks Thostenson ’09 fell in love with the town. After reconnecting with lifelong friend Kyle Hawari in Taos after college, the duo decided to explore northern New Mexico — but they struggled to find nutrition bars that didn’t contain bad ingredients. So, Taos Bakes was born. 

“We choose to build our products from the ground up with taste, texture, mouthfeel, moisture content and nutrition equally balanced,” he says. “While it is much more expensive to be picky about the quality and overall nutrition of ingredients, it is an ethic we’ve always held. Additionally, we do not outsource our manufacturing, meaning that every product is made in house in northern New Mexico.” 

Though neither went to business school, their college experiences prepared them to get their company off the ground. 

“I chose a markets and culture degree because the course selections seemed like a better fit for my overall interests,” he says. 

Perhaps of equal importance is the friendship between Thostenson and Hawari, which plays a part in the company’s prosperity. 

“The best part about owning a business with a lifelong friend is that we already knew how each other worked,” he says. 

One challenge they had to learn as they went along was the importance of delineation of roles and responsibilities and clarity on each other’s work-life balance philosophies. 

“If you can do this, you will have a much higher chance of protecting the friendship and, ultimately, business,” he adds. 

Wim Bens ’00

Alum left big-brand advertising firm to pursue his garage hobby – and Lakewood Brewery is serving up sips all across Texas. 

Originally an advertising major at SMU and an advertising professional at Tracy-Locke, Wim Bens ’00 took a chance on his “garage hobby” in 2011 and channeled his marketing expertise to take the North Texas craft beer scene to the next level. 

When his homebrewing operation turned into winning national brewing competitions, Bens left his advertising job to start Lakewood Brewing Company. The business has since grown from three to 25 employees, and the craft brewing scene in North Texas has grown with it. 

Having found success, Bens is giving back to his alma mater by setting aside $1 from every sale of the Pony Pils, Lakewood’s special 4.5% American lager, to fund scholarships for SMU students. 

Inspired by his time at SMU, Bens hopes future SMU students will benefit from the same outstanding educational opportunities he received and that helped him succeed in the brewing business. 

“We really want to inspire the next generation of brewers,” he says. “Whether you’re going into food science, engineering or logistics – those are things we think are important to really have an educated next generation of brewers.” 

Bens, who designed the Pony Pils can himself, glows with pride: “It’s not just an homage. Pony Pils is a beer for SMU things – for Mustang fans, for Mustang alumni or any Mustang over the age of 21.” 

He hopes to begin awarding scholarships next year. 

Categories
2024 Alumni Spring/Summer 2024

A born connector

Everyone thinks Rogers Healy ’03 is a real estate guy – for good reason: In the 23 years since Healy became a licensed real estate agent while studying at SMU, he’s launched and grown an independent real estate company into one of the largest in the country. Today, Rogers Healy and Associates Real Estate has over 500 agents and reached over $1 billion in sales transactions in 2022. 

But if you ask Healy, his strength isn’t real estate – it’s his ability to connect with people. “Everyone’s got a superpower, and mine is giving people confidence,” he says. “So that means I’ve got a decent eye for seeking talent.” 

Which is why Healy knows he’s found his true calling with the new venture capitalism firm he launched in September 2022: Morrison Seger Venture Capital Partners. 

Healy first got a taste of venture capitalism thanks to SMU. A few years after he graduated, SMU put together a group of alumni and partnered them with undergrad students to provide mentorship. Healy was partnered with Kevin Lavelle ’08. They became close friends and years later, Lavelle approached Healy about an idea he had to make a men’s dress shirt out of dry-fit material. Healy loved the idea and became the first seed investor for the business, Mizzen+Main. 


SMU builds winners, and if you can get access to the winners, if you can find a way to build relationships, then by proxy, you’re going to win, too. 

Rogers Healy ’03

“I fell in love with connecting the dots,” Healy says. “Finance really is about who you know and who knows you. If you can earn their trust and help them create revenue, then that’s really the qualification.” 

Healy quietly invested in more than 100 startups since 2011, but his decision to launch his own venture capital fund came after a serendipitous evening. 

About seven or eight months before launching Morrison Seger, Healy’s wife, Abby, who was pregnant with their first child, gently told him one evening that he was bringing home too much negativity. At dinner with his high school friends that night, one of them mentioned another friend started a company called Winwood Collins, after Steve Winwood and Phil Collins. Winwood Collins was never a real company, but it inspired Healy. He declared he was going to launch Morrison Seger, in honor of two of his favorite musicians, Van Morrison and Bob Seger. 

At that moment, Healy didn’t know what Morrison Seger was going to be – he added Venture Capital Partners to the name later – but he knew it was the next step in his career. Since launching the fund, Healy has essentially retired himself from a role in real estate to focus on venture capitalism full time. 

“It felt natural, which is really not my story with real estate,” he says. “It was like God telling me I’ve got to really bet on myself differently.” 

Since Morrison Seger launched, the company has raised over $30 million and invested in over 25 companies, including Siempre Tequila, G.O.A.T. Fuel and Tiff’s Treats. 

Just like his reason for launching his real estate business – “I just wanted to be proud of the people I was surrounded by versus just being around people who were making money” – Healy’s focus with Morrison Seger is all about partnering with great people that the fund can add value to. 

But Healy takes it a step further and aims to build connections between his startups by introducing the founders to each other and getting them in the same room with the investors. He says this creates a more interactive experience and brings dimension through everyone’s personality. 

Healy’s ability to connect people stems back to SMU. 

“SMU gives you so much access to people,” Healy says. “SMU builds winners, and if you can get access to the winners, if you can find a way to build relationships, then by proxy, you’re going to win, too.” 

Healy gives SMU a lot of credit for his success. With his mom being an alumna, Healy knew from a young age that he wanted to attend SMU. When he was a high school freshman, he went to the SMU admissions office every week and told them he probably wasn’t going to have the best grades or test scores, but if given the chance, he thought SMU would change his life and help him change the lives of others. 

“SMU is the first place that I think really gave me the chance and just said ‘I believe in you,’” Healy says. “I think it gave me the ability to hone in on being a leader and appreciating the potential about people that others can’t really see – because SMU did that to me.” 

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2024 Alumni Spring/Summer 2024

Grads in the garden

When Mary Brinegar ’69 stepped into the role of president and CEO of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden in 1996, the arboretum was in dire straits. In its 12 years, the 66-acre garden had gone through four presidents and was struggling. 

But Brinegar’s background in fundraising for organizations like The Dallas Opera, The Science Place and KERA-TV was exactly what the arboretum needed. Despite no background or knowledge of horticulture, Brinegar kept the Dallas Arboretum operating in the black for nearly three decades and oversaw improvements worth more than $100 million, turning it into one of the most popular public gardens in the nation. 

One of the most notable improvements involved SMU: the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden. The arboretum partnered with the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development to create exhibits that meet the state and national curriculum standards for children K–6. That collaboration benefitted the arboretum in more ways than one. 

“I could take that to different foundations and corporations, and more money came from it because you have a source evaluating the work you’re doing at the highest standards,” Brinegar says. 

After 27 years, Brinegar stepped down last fall. A special committee chose fellow SMU alumna Sabina Carr ’89 as her replacement. 

Brinegar is impressed with Carr’s track record with previous gardens, particularly her role in marketing at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. 

“If you can get people through the gate, you can maintain relevance with the community,” she says. “There has to be a reason for people to cross the city and say, ‘I want to pay to see this.’” 

Brinegar hopes that everyone will give Carr all the support to take the Arboretum to the next level, and she’s confident Carr can make that happen. 

“That’s what I would want more than anything from the time I spent there,” Brinegar says, “that it will be in better shape in the future.” 

Mary Brinegar really built a world-class botanical garden, basically from nothing. Now my job is to magnify the excellence she’s left here.

Sabina Carr ’89 

Sabina Carr didn’t intend to end up in horticulture. 

After graduating from SMU in 1989, she had a successful career in marketing for companies like Condé Nast in New York City. 

But when her husband’s career relocated them to Atlanta, Georgia, she felt a little lost. So, her mother offered some advice: Take two organizations she felt close to and volunteer. Carr always loved nature, thanks to the time she spent as a child on her family’s 40 acres in New Jersey, so she volunteered at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. 

As fate would have it, the garden soon hired a new director, who brought on Carr to lead marketing. Together, they quintupled every metric over 15 years, turning Atlanta into one of the top 10 gardens in the U.S. 

But Carr had a gut feeling she’d return to Texas one day. That came in 2019, when the San Antonio Botanical Garden hired her to be its new CEO. She spent four years doubling metrics, including visitation, household memberships and the annual operating budget. 

When the Dallas Arboretum approached her about becoming Brinegar’s successor, it was an opportunity she couldn’t refuse. Carr says the arboretum has been “the garden of my dreams” since she first visited it in 2002. 

Carr’s passion for public gardens stems from their ability to build communities and connect people with nature. One of her favorite moments of this happened to be on her last day at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Just as she was leaving, she saw a Muslim woman on top of the green roof above the gift shop on her prayer rug, performing the Salah. 

“I said, ‘Good. My job is done. I can go now.’ That she feels that comfortable to do her prayers at sunset in a place that brings joy and happiness and love to so many people, that just filled my heart.” 

Now Carr’s sights are building upon the legacy that Brinegar has left. 

“[Brinegar] really built a world-class botanical garden, basically from nothing,” Carr says. “Now my job is to magnify the excellence she’s left here. I’m so humbled to follow in her footsteps.” 

Categories
2023 Alumni Fall/Winter 2023

Normalizing kindness one coffee cup at a time

If you walk out of a La La Land Kind Cafe satiated by the bet coffee of your life, the cafe’s founder and CEO will say, “That’s an utter failure.”

Certainly, Francois Reihani, the 27-year-old entrepreneurial visionary behind the café chain – with 11 stores spanning Texas and California – wants customers to enjoy their sip of choice. However, it’s kindness over coffee that he and his dedicated team aim to brew from the heart.

“We really truly believe [that] when you do the right thing with the right intention, magic happens,” Reihani says.

When Reihani arrived in Dallas in 2016 to study business at SMU after transferring from the University of Southern California, he says he was “focused on building something – I saw opportunity.”

Reihani co-founded a poké restaurant in West Village, and while the business found success, he realized something was missing.

“The human connection is so important,” he says. “And at the end of the day, all we were doing was serving raw fish.” Reihani’s guiding question became:“How do you normalize kindness?”

His answer: La La Land Kind Café, a café committed to, in addition to spreading kindness, hiring and mentoring foster youth. The first location opened in 2019 in a 100-yearold house on Bell Avenue in Dallas.

“From the moment we opened, the people proved the concept,” he says.

In four years, the café’s growth has exploded, now boasting 11 locations, including Houston and Los Angeles, with plans for more on the way.

Notably, the spike in stores occurred during a global pandemic and, perhaps even more impressive, all that growth has been achieved without the company ever paying for a single ad.

A worthwhile investment

In June 2023, La La Land Kind Café announced it had received a $20 million investment from two SMU graduates: John Phelan ’86, cofounder and chairman of Rugger Management LLC, and Andy Teller ’86, a private investor.

The path to such a significant investment – which is expected to yield expanded operations and new locations throughout the United States – all began, ironically, with a cup of coffee. In 2022, Teller began receiving frequent notifications on his phone showing that his daughter, Cameron Teller ’21, ’22, was a devoted La La Land customer; he was clued in by her credit card transactions linked to his phone. Curious to see what could be so special to warrant his daughter’s repeat business, Teller visited the location on West Lovers Lane in Dallas. As he was leaving, he received a call from his son, Preston Teller ’21 – who was friends with Reihani when both attended SMU.

When Teller casually mentioned where he was, Preston informed him Reihani was the man behind the café chain. This led to Andy Teller and Reihani being engrossed in a three-hour conversation.

“Andy was so passionate about our mission,” Reihani recalls.

Prioritizing what matters

Given La La Land’s surge of success, Reihani says he has fielded many investment offers, including amounts higher than the $20 million investment now in place.

“This business has never been focused on the numbers,” he says. “We didn’t want big venture capitalists to come in with their normal tactics. … We never wanted to be controlled, being told what to do away with this and do away with that. Those offers were rejected immediately.”

Teller introduced Reihani to Phelan, and the three engaged for several months, threaded by the “cool bond,” as Reihani calls it, stemming from the Mustang connection.

“La La Land Kind Cafe is raising the standard of what we should expect from companies,” Phelan said in a statement. “A business can give back, care about the community and serve high-quality products while being profitable.”

The café chain also weaves in another passion of Reihani’s: the nonprofit he founded in 2016, the We Are One Project, whose mission is to provide the right tools for businesses to come together and employ foster youth. With La La, which funds the nonprofit, he is able to fully realize his vision to empower youth and young adults who have aged out of the foster care system and provide them job training and employment, and especially, a kind community to feel secure.

“We’re building to make something special – not building to sell,” Reihani says. “It’s about how we, as a brand, can deepen human connection.”

Categories
2023 Alumni Fall/Winter 2023

Achieving their goals

SMU ALUMS AND TWIN BROTHERS ESTEBAN AND MANUEL MARIEL HAVE INTRODUCED DALLAS TO A NEW SPORT.

Getting Americans to refer to soccer as “futbol” may never happen in this lifetime, much to the dismay of fans of the world’s most popular sport.

The lesser-known futsal (or small-sided soccer) may be just unique enough, however, to get called by its proper name.

Futbol and futsal share many similarities, but the main difference has to do with team size, and also the location and equipment. Futsal teams feature four players and a goalie, whereas futbol requires 10 players and a goalie. Athletes compete on a hard court versus grass or turf, and the smaller ball used in futsal has more density than futbol’s sphere.

“Futsal is like playing basketball with your feet,” says Manuel Mariel ’09.

Together with his twin brother, Esteban Mariel ’09, Manuel Mariel came up with the idea to open City Futsal after their father, Federico, said they could use the sport as a training tool for youth development. They had already been leading soccer sessions to train kids, but without dedicated futsal courts in the region, the brothers transitioned their program’s focus and turned to area gyms to host.

Demand forced the brothers to find a permanent location, which eventually turned into three. The first two were indoor, and the most recent at Dallas Farmers Market is entirely outdoors. That turned out to be a saving grace for the family business during the pandemic when they had to close their indoor facilities. The outdoor farmers market location thrived because people could play futsal in a safer way.

“As a small business, you are used to having to pivot. The pandemic was a restart for us; we saw it as an opportunity to reallocate resources and move toward a different direction,” says Mariel.

To find creative solutions to their problems, Mariel took inspiration from his time at SMU.

The rigorous schedule of being a student-athlete and working at the same time he was attending school turned out to really help in making this concept a success.

“It was tough,” he says. “It’s not your typical college experience, but it does prepare you to work within teams, understand that there is a process in everything, and find out where you are the most valuable.”

City Futsal started as a family idea, and it continues in that tradition. Mariel is also joined by his sister, Ximena, and younger brother, Felipe, in addition to his twin brother and dad.

The Mariel family now has their sights set on opening two new facilities: in The Colony, Texas, this fall and in Richardson, Texas, at Dallas International School in early 2024.

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2022 Alumni News September 2022 Main

Family Weekend: Fry the Frogs pep rally and more!

Come join the stampede at the Fry the Frogs pep rally including a special football announcement Friday, September 23, at 6:30 p.m. on Doak Walker Plaza. The exciting event will fire up our spirit before we cheer on the Mustangs against TCU Saturday, September 24, in Ford Stadium. Game time will be announced later, but plan to attend the tailgate at the SMU Alumni tent near Clements Hall before it starts. Pony Up!
After the Friday pep rally, attendees receive free admission to these great matches: SMU men’s soccer vs. Florida International University at 7 p.m. at Washburne Soccer and Track Stadium and SMU volleyball vs. University of South Florida at 7 p.m. in Moody Coliseum.
Find a schedule of events and more Family Weekend information here.

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2022 Alumni News September 2022

Great things are happening on the Hilltop

We’re excited for what the new year holds, but it will only be possible with the support of dedicated Mustang donors. We hope you’ll be inspired to support our students, faculty and campus with your gift today.

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2022 Alumni News September 2022

Recognizing extraordinary alumni achievement

Homecoming festivities start Thursday, October 20, when we celebrate our Distinguished Alumni Award honorees A. Shonn Evans Brown ’95, ’98; John Cartwright Phelan ’86; and Thear Sy Suzuki ’96; and Emerging Leader Award recipient Emily K. Graham ’07.
DAA recipient C.J. “Don” Donnally ’67, ’68, who passed away in May, will be honored posthumously.
SMU President R. Gerald Turner and the SMU Alumni Board will host the event recognizing extraordinary achievement, outstanding character and good citizenship. The celebration at Armstrong Fieldhouse will open with a reception at 6 p.m. that will be followed by a dinner and awards presentation at 7 p.m.
Read more.

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2022 Alumni News September 2022

Homecoming and Reunion Weekend: October 20–23

Come back to where it all began to reconnect with classmates and SMU. With loads of events, there’s something for everyone. Be sure to stop in at the SMU Alumni tent near Clements Hall. Check out the schedule and make your plans now.
Here are some of the highlights:
Thursday, October 20
Distinguished Alumni Awards
6 p.m. Reception
7 p.m. Dinner and presentation
Armstrong Fieldhouse
Registration and information
Friday, October 21

  • Enjoy tours of campus landmarks and new additions, and visit the George W. Bush Presidential Center and the Meadows Museum.
  • Undergraduate reunion parties at various locations. More information.

Saturday, October 22
The parade, fun on the Boulevard and the SMU vs. Cincinnati football game are just a few of the exciting activities.
Read more.

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2022 Alumni News September 2022

Continuing the legacy of empowerment

Latino Alumni of SMU will host a celebration of the academic achievements of their 2022 scholarship recipients Thursday, September 15, at 6 p.m. at the Meadows Museum. Register by September 9.

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2022 Alumni News September 2022

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Check out these quick links to great stories and photos featuring the people, programs, events and more making news on the Hilltop.

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2022 Alumni August 2022 Main News

A great new year starts with you

With new students heading to classes soon, exciting faculty research underway, and progress made on new and improved structures all over the campus, this school year promises to be bigger and better than ever. That’s because of the generous support of Mustangs like you.
Visit the Hilltop this fall to see how your gifts ignite our University’s success today and for years to come.
Give now.

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2022 Alumni August 2022

Drumming up support for the Mustang Band

Meet Diamond M Club President Kellie Prinz Johnson ’96, whose connection to the Hilltop seems to grow stronger each year. In fact, she named her son after her best band friend and her favorite SMU professor, and she’s now a proud SMU parent.

What do you do for work?

I am the director of operations at Retro Studios, which is a video game developer and subsidiary of Nintendo. Some of the games we’ve made are the Metroid Prime series, Donkey Kong Country Returns and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. I manage everything that is not involved with making the games or IT. I’ve been there for 19 years.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Basically, driving up and down I-35 coming to SMU events. *Laughs.* I’m also an avid baseball fan, so when SMU isn’t having sporting activities, I fill the void with Major League Baseball. I just got back from Chicago where I saw the Cubs, my favorite team, play five games in four days. But I love going to SMU games; I have season tickets to football and men’s and women’s basketball so I’m here as often as possible.

What is your favorite Diamond M Club memory?

My favorite memory is how I get to do cool things, meet people and represent the club. A few years ago, at Pigskin Revue, we gave Paul Layne ‘76, who is SMU’s superfan, a beanie and he was really honored by that, so it was special for me to be the one to give him something the Mustang Band doesn’t take lightly or give to many who were not in the band.

Read more.

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2022 Alumni August 2022 News

Working, growing and ‘just trying things’

In a July 3 interview with ESPN staff writer Harry Lyles, Jr., former SMU football safety Ra Kazadi ’22 talks about how the loosening of name, image and likeness (NIL) restrictions on college athletes and the financial freedom it generated gave him the wings to explore and grow as an artist.

EXCERPT:
SMU safety Ra’Sun Kazadi is a unique talent among college football players.
You might see that he’s appeared in 10 games over the past two seasons and registered two tackles and say that’s a stretch, but it’s not. Ra – as he’s often referred to by his teammates, friends and family – has talents that go beyond the football field.
He’s a gifted artist, and last July 1 – with the loosening of restrictions on college athletes making money through their name, image and likeness – Kazadi’s world as an artist opened up considerably.
“I’m able to do more of the work that I want to do because of NIL,” he said. “I can sell my pieces for more, and therefore, I don’t have to do, like, 100 pieces a month.
“It’s funny because it’s been less about money now. It’s been more about just working and growing, and just trying things.”
Kazadi sold his work before NIL restrictions were lifted, but couldn’t put his name on it, have shows or promote his art on his Instagram or website.
“It was just basically relying on people to know that I was an artist and then doing stuff for super cheap,” Kazadi said. Because of these limitations, he said he wasn’t able to sell pieces for much – $30 for a sketch, and maybe around $100 for a painting if he was lucky.
“It wasn’t at the scale, even close to what it was now,” he said.
Kazadi said he’s able to get higher prices for his work now because people know it is his and he’s able to promote it. The greater financial freedom has given him more time to experiment with his art and continue to improve at his craft.
Read the full story.

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2022 Alumni August 2022 News

Active duty and military veterans are allies for the Cox School

During the 2021–22 academic year, 69 Cox School of Business graduate students were currently active duty in, or veterans of, the U.S. Armed Forces. Cox Today magazine profiled a cross-section of the students about what they would like all of us to know about their time in military service. Here’s a sampling of their responses:

Corbin C. Anderson

Former Captain, Aviation Officer and UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter Pilot in the U.S. Army
Full-time two-year MBA in finance
Anticipated graduation in 2023
Originally from Westlake, Texas
“I had the honor of serving with amazing leaders, soldiers and aviators who came from all different walks of life. Those individuals I served with helped mold me to become a successful officer and junior leader in the Army. People are the Army’s most important asset. I was blessed to serve with leaders of character who were incredibly smart, tough and diverse, and who had the ability to solve incredibly complex and time-sensitive problems. I will forever be grateful for the individuals with whom I had the privilege to serve and who continue to serve our country.”

Destiny Perez

Former E-6 Aircraft Maintenance Technician and Instructor for the Air Education and Training Command in the U.S. Air Force
M.A./MBA in arts management and arts entrepreneurship
Anticipated graduation in 2023
Originally from San Marcos, Texas
“Military service afforded me time to figure out who I was and what I wanted in life. A mentor once asked, ‘If you could only do one thing the rest of your life and you never got paid for it, yet you’d still be happy, what would that be?’ Thanks to that question, I changed my undergraduate degree to focus on my passion for dance. Later in my service, as an instructor, I learned I love teaching as much as I love learning. If I could share one thing with you, it’s to ask yourself the same question. Find your passion.”

Drewnard “D” Woods

Current Combat Airlifter, E6 rank, in the U.S. Air Force Reserve
Professional MBA (PMBA) in real estate/finance
Anticipated graduation in 2023
Originally from Chicago, Illinois
“Coming from the South Side of Chicago, it’s a war zone in itself. I chose to join the Air Force because I knew it would challenge me mentally and would propel me forward in other ways, such as being able to pursue a career in business, to look sharp, give attention to detail and be willing to show up early even if that means waiting around a bit. I’ve gained other great attributes, too. Most importantly, I knew I was joining something that I would be proud of the rest of my life, and that maybe one day, I would be able to tell my story to encourage others to join the ranks of the world’s greatest Air Force.”
Read the full story.

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2022 Alumni August 2022 Spring 2022

Celebrating the Mustang mystique

Curtis has been a creative director for more than 25 years with Wieden+Kennedy, a global agency headquartered in Portland, Oregon. He’s a legend in the field with three Emmy wins for best commercial, and seven Emmy nominations to his credit. In Advertising Age’s 20th anniversary edition of Creativity Magazine, Curtis was named one of the 50 most influential creative leaders of the past 20 years.


His wide-ranging portfolio for Nike, ESPN and other high-profile brands includes an acclaimed commercial featuring Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons fighting over a Coke. In 2010, Adweek named It’s Mine the Super Bowl spot of the decade.


The SMU collaboration took flight during a conversation with SMU Vice President for Development and External Affairs Brad E. Cheves.


“Brad and I were talking about all the amazing individuals who have come through SMU over the years. It’s an impressive list,” Curtis says. “We both thought it would be something interesting to – in a broadcast spot – remind folks of.”


After getting the greenlight, Curtis and his production team faced the challenge of tracking down archival video and images. They worked with Laura Graham ’16, director of photography and video in SMU Marketing and Communications, to locate assets and secure licensing approvals. Curtis supplied his expertise to the project at no charge.


The commercial encapsulates the breadth and achievements of our Mustang family and the reputation for excellence that draws the best and brightest to the Hilltop. (Play the video above to see for yourself.)


It was a labor of love for Mustangs with star power like Academy Award-winner Kathy Bates ’69, whose distinctive voice provides the narration, and fan favorite Brian Baumgartner ’95, who submitted his own video when the cost of licensing footage of him as Kevin in The Office TV series was prohibitive.


Other notable alumni featured include NFL star and sports commentator “Dandy” Don Meredith ’60, real estate titan Trammel Crow ’39 and Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe Herd ’11.


Also shown are Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on campus in 1966 and former U.S. Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and the late George H.W. Bush on campus in 2013 to celebrate the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center with former President Bush.


The ad ends with an intriguing question for the future Mustangs viewing it: What will you do?


The commercial premiered during the TCU game September 25, 2021, where SMU retained the Iron Skillet with a 42–34 win.


“Maybe the spot helped us beat the Horned Frogs, who knows,” Curtis says. “What I do know is it reminds us that we’re all a part of something pretty special around here. That’s inspiring, and worth celebrating.”
– From SMU Magazine, spring 2022

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2022 Alumni August 2022 News

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Check out these quick links to great stories featuring the people, programs, events and more making news on the Hilltop.

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2022 Alumni July 2022 News

Striking a chord with crowds honoring WWII heroes

The Mustang Band represented the U.S. as thousands turned out for D-Day commemoration ceremonies in Normandy, France, in June. The trip was more than two years in the making because of the pandemic and brought history alive for the young musicians.
Read more:

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2022 Alumni July 2022 Main News

Southern California kickoff supercharges SMU Ignited

On June 13, SMU Ignited: Boldly Shaping Tomorrow lit up SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, at the kickoff of our $1.5 billion campaign for impact in Southern California. More than 200 impassioned Mustangs from across the region gathered to celebrate the campaign empowering outstanding students, enriching teaching and research, and enhancing our campus and community.
Read more.

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2022 Alumni July 2022

Head out with your herd to discover Dallas

If you’re from Dallas, or never left after graduation, then you’re never at a loss for things to do or ways to reconnect with classmates and create impromptu mini reunions at any time of the year.
The warm summer weather presents the perfect time to meet up and head out with your fellow Mustangs and reminisce about how falling in love with SMU meant falling in love with all things Dallas too. Whether it’s hiking or biking, aquariums or botanical gardens, museums or art galleries there’s something for everyone on this list of things to do with your herd this summer!
Read more.

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2022 Alumni July 2022 News

Tapping into SMU’s innovation ecosystem

Our alumni leaders, founders, innovators and creators are ready to guide startup-minded students aiming to transform their bold ideas into businesses.
Some students arrive on the Hilltop with a plan in mind. Others find that spark in a class, through a research project or even in a casual conversation over coffee.
When they decide to bring their vision to life, students can find step-by-step support. Across the campus, a multitude of experiential, academic and research resources provide a framework for entrepreneurial endeavors, while funding from grants and competitions get them off the ground.
Our alumni have blazed new paths in tech, business and just about every other sector of the economy. As mentors, they provide guidance, share expertise, generate opportunities and cheer on students finding new ways to make an impact on the world.
Read more.

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2022 Alumni July 2022 News

SMU alumna crowned first Asian American Miss Texas

Congratulations to history-making SMU alumna Averie Bishop ’19, ’22, the first Asian American Miss Texas.


She currently serves on the Mayor’s Anti-Hate Advisory Council. It was established last year by Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson to advise the city and police on ways to increase tolerance and understanding and engage the private sector and communities in discouraging hate and encouraging diversity.


Bishop received a B.A. in human rights in 2019 and graduated from Dedman School of Law in May. While she was an undergraduate, Bishop and her mother establish the Tulong Foundation in 2015. The nonprofit organization serves an area of the Philippines where Marevi Bishop grew up. The foundation supports children’s education and efforts to develop sustainable farming and clean drinking water. As an SMU Human Rights Fellow in 2018–19, she spent the summer in the Philippines building water wells in rural communities.


On the Hilltop, Bishop displayed her vocal talent as Cinderella in Into the Woods, the student musical presented during Family Weekend in 2017.


Bishop will now start preparing for the Miss America pageant, which will take place in Connecticut in December. She is active on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, offering a candid look at her life as a law student and beauty pageant contestant.


Read more:

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2022 Alumni July 2022 News

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Check out these quick links to great stories featuring the people, programs, events and more making news on the Hilltop.

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Alumni June 2022 News

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Check out these quick links to photos, stories and videos about the people, programs, events and more making news on the Hilltop.

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2022 Alumni May 2022 Main News

Future-focused change

SMU celebrated the future of the Cox School of Business and its role as a driver of Dallas innovation, breaking ground May 6 on a $140 million renovation and expansion project. As part of the SMU Ignited: Boldly Shaping Tomorrow campaign, more than 50 donors have already invested more than $100 million toward the facilities designed to train students for a collaborative and technologically integrated world.
SMU is blazing a trail into the next era of business education. We have undertaken a two-year, $140 million renovation and expansion project to provide the facilities needed to train students for an ever-more collaborative and technologically integrated world. Enter our virtual experience to experience the new classrooms and collaborative spaces in our future facilities.
Read more.

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2022 Alumni May 2022 News

Mustangs in the wild: Sameer Paroo ’01 rides again

“What SMU allows you to do is feel very empowered to create new experiences,” says Sameer Paroo ’01. The former Homecoming king candidate finds new ways to engage and connect with fellow Mustangs as chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Alumni of SMU.
Paroo is an “M” Award-winning, Toronto-born Mustang who grew up in Orlando and completed high school in Plano, Texas. The avid basketball fan has visited approximately 33 countries since finishing graduate school and has worked in both Nairobi, Kenya, and Vancouver, Canada. In fall 2000, as an SMU senior, he represented the Program Council as a Homecoming king candidate in the annual parade. Twenty-one years later, he had the opportunity to ride in the parade again, but this time as chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Alumni of SMU.
Read more.

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2022 Alumni May 2022 News

Applause for our newest alumni

Meet two outstanding Mustangs: At 19, Haley Taylor Schlitz is the youngest law school graduate in SMU history. At 85, Marillyn Burton Seeberger is making history of her own by receiving a bachelor’s degree and aiming for a new career as a screenwriter.

Read about recent graduates.

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Alumni April 2022 News

Celebrating 24 hours of record-breaking generosity

What can we do in one day? That question was answered by 3,497 Mustang households giving more than $8 million to over 175 causes on SMU Giving Day. Thank you for changing the lives of students, creating new opportunities and shaping a brighter future on the Hilltop and beyond.
Read more.

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2022 Alumni April 2022 News

Theatre alum’s persistence pays off

If Dylan Guerra ’16 had given up after failing to win playwriting fellowships in New York, he would not be where he is today: authoring a screenplay for a well-known production company and co-writing season three of The Other Two, the HBO satire that hilariously spoofs showbiz and celebrity.
“Perseverance is a massive part of it,” says Guerra by phone during a lunch break from The Other Two writers’ room in New York. “I applied to everything more than once.”
It took three tries to become a member of the prestigious Youngblood group of playwrights at Ensemble Studio Theatre and two each for residencies at Ars Nova and Page 73.
“In about a six-to-eight-month period, I got into three of the highest-profile playwriting fellowships in New York, and that put my name on a bunch of lists,” he says. “I also had a solo show, and there was this organic interest in my work.”
Read more.

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2022 Alumni April 2022 News

Changing the narrative on natural hair

Startup founder Mona El-Gharby ’21 won seed funding from SMU’s Big iDeas program three years in a row as a student. D Magazine writes about El-Gharby, founder of CURLē, “a customized haircare company that’s making curls luxurious,” and her entrepreneurial journey in the March 2022 issue.
EXCERPT:
“Take a single strand of your hair and roll it between your fingers with your eyes closed.”
Can you feel it? Is it thin or thick? Is it straight or curly? Odds are, if it’s straight, you’ve never had to think about this before.
But CURLē founder Mona El-Gharby has.
The Egyptian American Dallas native says her classmates used to bully her growing up over her natural hair texture. Her parents had raised her to be confident and elegant, but it was hard to feel that way about her curly hair. Like many other women, she felt her hair wasn’t “professional” or fit European beauty ideals.
And when her peers teased her, El-Gharby didn’t have any celebrities or television characters to point to and say, “these people have beautiful hair, they’re doing great things, they’re representing me.”
Read more.

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2022 Alumni April 2022 News

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

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2022 Alumni March 2022 News

Reaching a significant milestone

Thanks to the generosity of the Mustang community, SMU Ignited has garnered more than $800 million in donations, more than halfway toward our $1.5 billion goal. Learn how you can be part of this extraordinary drive to make a positive difference in the world around us.
Rest of story

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2022 Alumni March 2022 News

Compelling authors booked for Dallas Literary Festival

SMU’s Dallas Literary Festival is back March 12–22. This annual celebration of writers and literature will feature more than 100 acclaimed national and local authors as well as special events across the city. Authors representing relevant and diverse voices will converge at a series of in-person events on the SMU campus, at Fair Park’s African American Museum and at other locations throughout Dallas.
SMU football great and NFL Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson ’84 will deliver the keynote conversation at noon Saturday, March 19, in Dallas Hall. After a prolific and often contentious career, Dickerson is telling his side of the story in his new book, Watch My Smoke. Capping the day will be the Friends of the SMU Libraries Tables of Content fundraiser, featuring the presentation of the 2022 Literati Award to culinary historian Adrian Miller, author of Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue. Tickets are required, and proceeds from the event benefit the Friends annual grants program.
2020 Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones, author of The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story and recipient of the 2021 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work–Nonfiction, will close the festival at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 22, at SMU.
The festival’s theme, resilience, was chosen when organizers expected to be looking back at how the country survived the turbulence of 2020 and 2021, says Sanderia Faye Smith, Dallas Literary Festival executive director, SMU creative writing faculty member and author of the award-winning novel, Mourner’s Bench.
“As the festival date approaches, we realize we’re going to need even more resilience to stay the course and not give up,” Smith says. “As Toni Morrison says, ‘During hard times, writers should not remain silent and readers should read, heal, gain knowledge and escape within the pages of a book.’”
While related events begin March 12, the first official festival event is Friday, March 18, featuring National Book Award finalist David Treuer and scholar, poet and author DeMaris Hill. Treuer’s The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee is a new narrative that demonstrates how Native Americans have maintained their culture and civilization through dark years. Hill’s Breath Better Spent: Living Black Girlhood is a narrative in verse that takes a personal and historical look at the experience of Black girlhood. Treuer and Hill will speak at 7 p.m. at SMU’s McCord Auditorium in Dallas Hall.
Two full days of author panel discussions, readings and interviews follow, March 19 and 20, with national award winners, memoirists, scholars, romance writers, poets, historical fiction writers and authors of gems you might not have heard of yet, but soon will.
Unless otherwise noted, events are free and open to the public.
Among the highlights:
Saturday, March 19, Dallas Hall, SMU

  • Novelist Nathan Harris, author of The Sweetness of Water, Oprah’s June 2021 Book Club pick.
  • Joaquin Zihuatenejo, National Poetry Slam finalist and Grand Slam Spoken Word champion.
  • W. Bruce Cameron, author of the New York Times bestselling triology, A Dog’s Purpose, A Dog’s Way Home and A Dog’s Courage.
  • Long-form narrative writer Catherine Prendergast, author of The Gilded Edge, named by Artnet as one of top 20 books about art in 2021.

Sunday, March 20, African American Museum, Fair Park

  • Dawnie Walton, author of The Final Revival of Opal and Nev, which was a 2021 Good Morning America Buzz Pick and named one of the best books of 2021 by Barack Obama, The Washington Post and NPR.
  • Elisa Dusapin, author of Winter in Sokcho, 2021 National Book Award winner for translated literature.
  • Scholar and commentator Jelani Cobb, author of The Matter of Black Lives: Writing from The New Yorker.
  • Culinary historian Adrian Miller, author of Black Smoke.
  • Daniel Black, author of Don’t Cry for Me, February 2022 Book of the Month selection.

Additional related events include:

  • Saturday, March 12: South Dallas Cultural Center will present a women’s poetry workshop.
  • Tuesday, March 15–Tuesday, March 22: Dallas Public Library will host a series of in-person and online events supporting the Dallas Literary Festival, including craft and story-making projects, readings, a Shakespeare Adventure Walk and writing workshops.
  • Monday, March 21: SMU’s Tate Lecture Series will present biographer Walter Isaacson. Tickets required.

Find more information at Dallas Literary Festival.

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2022 Alumni March 2022 News

Breaking out on her own

From a very early age, Lacey A. Horn ’04, ’05 knew she wanted to use her talents on behalf of her tribe. The former treasurer of the Cherokee Nation now serves as a strategy and financial consultant to tribal leaders as CEO of Native Advisory and heads Horn CPA, a niche cryptocurrency consultancy.
Rest of story

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2022 Alumni February 2022 Main News

Expanding Gerald J. Ford Stadium

A $50 million commitment from the Garry Weber Foundation, established by former Mustang football letterman Garry A. Weber ’58, is the largest gift in the history of SMU Athletics and supports a $100 million drive for a new 192,500-square-foot Garry Weber End Zone Complex at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
The Garry Weber Foundation’s gift continues an exciting new era for Mustang football and SMU as part of the University’s recently announced $1.5 billion campaign, SMU Ignited: Boldly Shaping Tomorrow. With the drive, SMU Athletics will reach a new milestone, having invested $250 million to develop and enhance championship-caliber athletic facilities across campus.
The new Garry Weber End Zone Complex will anchor Ford Stadium’s south bowl that will connect the stadium’s existing east and west gate entries. The three levels of the new complex will increase the functionality, efficiency and overall experience of Mustang football for student-athletes and fans, as well as inspire interest and investments in athletics across SMU’s campus.
Read more.

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2022 Alumni February 2022 News

Making a big splash for swimming and diving

This spring, SMU will break ground on the Holt Hickman Outdoor Pool, the newest addition to the Robson & Lindley Aquatics Center made possible by lead gifts from the Robson, Hickman and Lindley families. Once completed, the project will establish the Robson & Lindley Aquatics Center as the only U.S. university facility with both indoor and outdoor Olympic pools.
The Holt Hickman Outdoor Pool will include an eight-lane, 50-meter-by-25-yard outdoor pool, 1- and 3-meter diving boards and a 20-by-40-foot instructional pool for lessons and rehab/therapy. Other amenities feature a locker room facility – accessible from both the indoor and outdoor pools – including an indoor dryland training area, which will specifically benefit the SMU diving program. Exterior showers and a decorative overhang to provide shade will complete the project.
This outdoor pool addition will be a hub of community engagement and help SMU attract local and national swimming and water polo events to SMU and the city of Dallas.
Read more.

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2022 Alumni February 2022 News

Preserving the histories of our communities of color

So far, 124 Mustangs who lived it have been interviewed for Black History at SMU, part of the Voices of SMU oral history project. Voices of SMU is among hundreds of projects, causes and organizations you can support on SMU Giving Day March 22.
Voices of SMU is a collaboration between students, alumni and entities across campus to diversify the SMU Archives’ holdings. With Voices of SMU, undergraduate research assistants conduct oral history interviews with SMU alumni from underrepresented groups. The oral histories are made available online in the SMU Libraries Digital Collections.
The interviews document not only the history of the University, but Texas as well, including the desegregation of higher education, the experiences of African American and Latinx University students, and Black and Brown student activism in Texas. They speak to growing up in Dallas’ Little Mexico; post-World War II African American community-building in places such as Hamilton Park, Dallas; studying as an undocumented student; organizing as minority seminarians and student activists; and shaping Texas’s churches, social ministries, and business communities upon graduation.
Read more.

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Alumni February 2022 News

From dino drawings to STEM ambassador

Her dinosaur drawings earned Myria Perez ’18 a volunteer position at the Houston Museum of Natural Science when she was just 12. Flash-forward to high school, and her passion for dinosaurs again made a big impression – this time on renowned vertebrate paleontologist Louis Jacobs, now professor emeritus of Earth Sciences and president of the Institute for the Study of Earth and Man at SMU.
Jacobs became her mentor while she earned bachelor’s degrees in geology and anthropology from SMU. Along the way, she helped prepare fossils that Jacobs and his team had uncovered in Angola. They were exhibited in Sea Monsters Unearthed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where she now works in the Deep Time FossilLab as a fossil preparator.
Perez aims to inspire more young women to enter STEM fields as one of 125 AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors.
Read more.

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2022 Alumni February 2022 News

Serial entrepreneur’s winning ways

Neha Husein ’19 launched the Just Drive app as an SMU student. Recently she captured the top prize in the WEDallas inaugural pitch competition for ZStash, an innovative platform promoting sustainability by helping wholesalers and boutique owners destash inventory.

Husein’s latest venture, ZStash, is a free website and mobile app designed for wholesalers and boutique owners to buy, sell and destash inventory on an all-in-one, secure platform. Prior to creating Zstash, Husein founded Just Drive, an app that rewards undistracted driving that she created after she was rear-ended by a driver who was texting.

For her triumph, Husein was awarded a $1,500 microgrant from Capital One.

WEDallas is a partnership between the DEC Network and Capital One.

Read more.

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2022 Alumni February 2022 News

Mustang support makes dreams come true

Sienna Dugan ’20 came to SMU wanting to make an impact in global health care. Through Engaged Learning and other projects supported each year by Mustangs on SMU Giving Day, she gained experience that helped her dream come true. Today she helps run a free medical and dental clinic in Honduras. Join with thousands of other Mustangs to support the projects, causes and organizations you care about on SMU Giving Day March 22.
More details about our 24-hour giving challenge will be coming soon.
In the meantime, learn more about SMU Engaged Learning.

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2022 Alumni February 2022 News

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Enjoy these quick links to some of the great stories, photos and more featuring the people, programs and events making news on the Hilltop.

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2022 Alumni January 2022 News

Kelvin Beachum, Jr. ’10, ’12 honored as Arizona Cardinal’s Walter Peyton Man of the Year

SMU alumnus Kelvin Beachum ’10, ’12 is a decade into his NFL career, including the last two seasons with the Cardinals. But in those 10 years, Beachum has never failed to put into motion his parents’ lessons of giving back. He was named the Cardinals’ Walter Payton Man of the Year and is now among 32 players vying to become the NFL’s Man of the Year. But such an honor is merely a detail in a life built on such service.
The oldest of four siblings in Mexia, Texas, Beachum grew up in a family hovering around the national poverty level.
His father, Kelvin Beachum, Sr., worked on cars for a living. His mother, Culetta, worked for Mexia State School in Limestone County.
The family didn’t have a lot of money, but Kelvin Jr. never knew their situation since his parents shielded him from that reality. More importantly, Beachum’s parents – even if they had to struggle financially – made sure their children understood the importance of helping others.
Read more at Arizona Cardinals.

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2022 Alumni January 2022 News

Entrepreneurial brothers go ‘all in’

After a decade of working for others in the world of aviation, SMU alumni and brothers Stuart Edenfield ’07 and Curtis Edenfield ’09 founded Thrive Aviation. Read the story of how they got their jet charter company off the ground and why family matters.
Read more at SMU Alumni.

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2022 Alumni January 2022 News

Today’s support sparks tomorrow’s innovations

Mustangs never back down from a challenge. That’s why we’re joining together to address the Hilltop’s immediate needs while continuing to ignite the future. Your annual support will make a world of difference.
Make your gift now.

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2021 Alumni December 2021 Main News

Graduate education for a better world

On Friday, December 3, 2021, SMU broke ground on the new Frances Anne Moody Hall, named for Frances Anne Moody-Dalberg ’92, SMU trustee and executive director of the Moody Foundation. Moody Hall will house SMU’s eighth degree-granting school, the Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies. Backed by a $100 million gift from the Moody Foundation – the largest gift in SMU’s history – the Moody School began operations in fall 2020. This gift is already transforming graduate education at SMU.
The expansion of research at SMU – a strategic priority that fuels the University’s steady ascent toward achieving Carnegie R1 status – gained momentum with the Moody gift. This bold investment supports SMU’s research mission by attracting outstanding graduate students – the workforce behind groundbreaking discoveries that bolster the University’s doctoral and research ecosystem. New positions that will help SMU graduate students win nationally recognized external fellowships, thrive in their programs and launch successful careers have been filled with extraordinary faculty and staff. The combination of SMU’s strengths in supercomputing and data science, the University’s growing externally funded research and the outstanding graduate education provided through the Moody School drives impactful ideas on the Hilltop and beyond.
Read more at SMU Ignited.

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2021 Alumni December 2021

Gift ideas filled with Mustang flair

Check out products with purpose, fun-loving foods, interesting books and other creative gifts from our talented alumni.

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2021 Alumni December 2021 News

Applications for alumni boards are due by January 31

Volunteers with drive, school spirit and fresh ideas are needed to champion our SMU alumni.
Apply yourself or nominate a fellow Mustang for the following boards:

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2021 Alumni December 2021 News

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Here’s a look at some of the people, programs, events and more making news on the Hilltop and beyond.

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Alumni News November 2021 Main

Celebrating brave and bold Mustangs

Since 2010, SMU has awarded more than $3 million in scholarships to current and former military service members. There are currently 36 undergraduates and 131 graduate military veterans utilizing the GI Bill at SMU. Support for these brave men and women has been growing over the last several years. These scholarships, in combination with the GI Bill education benefit and SMU’s participation in the tuition matching Yellow Ribbon program, help cover up to 100% of tuition expenses.
Read more at SMU Alumni.

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Alumni News November 2021

Connecting the next generation

Katy A. and Kyle D. Miller ’01 commit $5 million to Cox School of Business expansion and renovation. The Millers’ generous investment will establish the Katy and Kyle Miller Courtyard, part of the future Cox School renovation and expansion project.The new Katy and Kyle Miller Courtyard, an oasis along Bishop Boulevard, will be a place for students, faculty, staff, visitors and corporate partners to gather for lunch, study sessions, discussions and formal events. Enhanced landscaping and seating areas highlight the surrounding historic facades and provide shaded sanctuary. The space features four building entries and a stunning view into the new Commons to the east.
Read more at SMU Ignited.

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2021 Alumni News November 2021

Blazing a new path in Houston

Pony ears, campaign swag and Mustang spirit were out in full force October 30 when SMU Ignited and Mustang football traveled to Houston, home to more than 8,000 alumni and nearly 600 current students.
See photos from the Houston event.

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Alumni News November 2021

The magic begins this month

That’s right, a new season of Mustang basketball begins in Moody Coliseum next Tuesday. The men’s team opens against McNeese, and the women’s team – under new head coach Toyelle Wilson – hosts Missouri-Kansas City.
Get season ticket information here.

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Alumni News November 2021

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

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2021 Alumni News October 2021

Fostering enterprising spirit

A gift from Kim and William (Bill) Shaddock ’74 will establish Shaddock Hall as part of the building renovation project of the Cox School of Business. The $6 million contribution will foster educational excellence through dedicated spaces for learning, research and collaboration.
“Through this gift, Bill Shaddock and his family are helping to nurture business education and an enterprising spirit in future generations of SMU and Cox School students,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Additions like Shaddock Hall will help the Cox School of Business grow in prominence and national rankings.”
A vital new addition to the Cox School’s building renovation project, Kim and William C. Shaddock Hall will promote strong partnerships and industry research to meet the needs of an ever-evolving business landscape. Providing students with unique learning and networking opportunities, Shaddock Hall will strengthen the Cox School’s position as a leading institution for business education and leadership in North Texas.
Read more at SMU Ignited.

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2021 Alumni News

First-generation student scholarship honors Buddy Gray

The family of a beloved SMU professor has established the Dr. Henry L. Gray Endowed Scholarship in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences to celebrate his SMU legacy and his love for students. The scholarship will be awarded on a need or merit basis to first-generation students interested in majoring in mathematics, statistics or the sciences.
Pictured above, from left, are Robert Gray ’87; Henry L. “Buddy” Gray and his wife, Rebecca “Becky” Gray; Scott Gray ’90; and Kelly Gray Doughty ’96. Gray’s children provided $75,000 as the foundation for the scholarship fund, which now totals more than $100,000. It has the potential to help even more students with additional support from former students and friends who wish to honor Gray’s memory.
Gray was a beloved SMU professor, who served as the Frensley Endowed Chair of Mathematical Sciences in Dedman College from 1973 until his retirement in 2006. During his time in Dedman College, he also served as associate dean, 1980–1988; dean ad interim, 1988–89; and dean of Dedman College and vice provost, 1989–1991.
The new scholarship is not the first time Gray’s family has honored his love of teaching and research at SMU. In 2016, Scott Gray and his partner, Duane Minix, on behalf of all Gray’s children, surprised their parents by establishing the Henry L. and Rebecca A. Gray Endowed Chair in Statistical Sciences with a $1.5 million planned gift.
Gray passed away July 24, 2020, and was preceded in death by his wife.
Read more and contribute to the scholarship endowment by searching for “Dr. Henry L. Gray Endowed Scholarship” or “Buddy Gray.”

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2021 Alumni News September 2021 Main

Homecoming 2021: Thursday, September 30–Sunday, October 3

“Perfect Pairs” is the perfect theme for this year’s celebration of Mustang spirit and pride. The festivities begin on Thursday with the Distinguished Alumni Awards. Friday evening is all about undergraduate reunions. On Saturday, enjoy your favorite Homecoming traditions and the SMU-South Florida football game in Ford Stadium (game time to be announced). Throughout the weekend, a nightly light show on campus will commemorate the launch of SMU’s new campaign. See you on the Hilltop!
See the schedule of events.

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2021 Alumni News September 2021

A new era of engagement

The gift of $3 million from Linda P. Custard ’60, ’99 and William A. Custard ’57 is the largest personal contribution in the history of the Meadows Museum. With matching funds of $3 million from The Meadows Foundation, it will establish the Custard Institute for Spanish Art and Culture at the Meadows Museum.
These generous gifts from longtime SMU supporters will launch an exciting new endeavor at the Meadows Museum through the establishment of the Custard Institute for Spanish Art and Culture. Dedicated to the study of the material culture and heritage of Spain, the institute builds on the museum’s excellence in the field of Spanish studies established over more than 50 years. The Custard Institute represents a major stride towards the Meadows’ core mission to be “the leading center in the United States for exhibition, research and education in the arts and culture of Spain.”
“This commitment marks an exciting new chapter at SMU,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “The Custard Institute for Spanish Art and Culture at the Meadows Museum illustrates the critical role that institutions like museums play in the study of art and culture and their lasting impact on the world. Through their gift, the Custards and The Meadows Foundation will foster profound partnerships and inspire meaningful scholarship that reaches far beyond SMU’s campus.”
Read more.

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2021 Alumni News September 2021

Sparking student success

A $1 million gift from the Hegi Family – Fred ’66 and Jan Hegi ’66 and their sons and daughters-in-law, Peter and Amy ’96 and Brian and Elisabeth (Libby) – will equip students to navigate today’s fast-changing work environment and find lifelong career success through the renovation and expansion of SMU’s Hegi Family Career Development Center. The Hegis’ generous commitment will modernize conference rooms and the lobby of the center, as well as fund the addition of two new career counselors to equip students with skills that position them for professional success.
“The Hegi name is synonymous with student achievement on campus,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Jan, Fred and their family’s support continues to positively impact countless students during the most crucial point in their lives – their first steps toward a rewarding career. With this new gift, the Hegi Center will be able to provide even more relevant experiential learning and professional development opportunities for Mustangs to gain skills that will situate them for a productive and rewarding future.”

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2021 Alumni September 2021

Things to do and places to go in Dallas

Whether you’re coming back to the Hilltop for Homecoming or you haven’t been out on the town in a while, you’ll enjoy this quick guide to some of Dallas’ best bets written by SMU alumna Meredith Carey ’15, the travel bookings editor at Conde Nast Traveler and host of the Women Who Travel podcast.
Check out the guide.

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2021 Alumni News September 2021

A Little Less Lonely , thanks to students and alums

SMU theatre students and alumni helped create the new Public Works Dallas film, A Little Less Lonely, now streaming for free at DallasTheaterCenter.org.
Developed through remote meetings and rehearsals and filmed outdoors, A Little Less Lonely was made through a collaboration of the Dallas Theater Center, SMU Meadows School of the Arts, SMU initiative Ignite/Arts Dallas, Bachman Lake Together, Jubilee Park & Community Center and the City of Dallas Park & Recreation Department.
Public Works Dallas affords SMU graduate and undergraduate students paid work in their chosen fields and a chance to develop professional networks, notes Clyde Valentín, director of Ignite/Arts Dallas.
“This is an opportunity to really experience best practices with respect to community-engaged work,” Valentín says. “They are experiencing a professional hiring process, which is part of what they need to learn.”
Read more.

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2021 Alumni News September 2021

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Check out these links to great stories, photos and more about the people, programs and events making news on the Hilltop.

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2021 Alumni August 2021 Main News

Mustangs’ ‘goodwill’ at work in the community

A shared commitment to making a positive impact has drawn the SMU community and Goodwill Industries of Dallas together for almost a century. The challenges created by the pandemic sparked new opportunities for that bond to grow stronger.
Under the leadership of SMU alumnus Tim Heis ’01, president and CEO, Goodwill Dallas is expanding its presence and finding innovative ways to augment its mission of “changing lives, one job at a time.”
Over five generations, SMU community leaders have helped advance that goal. Alumni David B. Miller ’72, ’73; Bill Vanderstraaten ’82; Donald Berg ’70, ’77; R. Brooks Cullum, Jr. ’70; Roland K. Robinson ’72; Jim Johnston ’70, ’71; Stephen Sands ’70; Matt Hildreth ’88; Frank Mihalopoulos ’77; Ronald J. Case ’54 and Charles M. Solomon ’61 each served as chair of the board of directors and left an indelible mark on the organization, Heis says.
Through the years, a host of alumni have served on the board, including Pat Bolin ’73, C. Fred Ball, Jr. ’66, Ray Hunt ’65, Harriet E. Miers ’67, ’70 and Jeanne L. Phillips ’76. An active Mustang contingent is currently involved on the board, including alumni Tucker Bridwell ’73, ’74; Wood Brookshire ’05; Pete Chilian ’97; Ward A. Kampf ’85; Craig Keeland ’76; Andrew Levy ’89; Peter Lodwick ’77, ’80; Kris Lowe ’04; John C. McGowan ’03; Douglas C. Nash ’04; Kyle Miller ’01; Kirk Rimer ’89; Mark Sloan ’90; and Brooke Holman West ’96; as well as Matthew B. Myers, dean of SMU’s Cox School of Business.

Building careers, one internship at a time

With companies shifting to remote operations and cutting back on expenses, many summer internships melted away in 2020. In response, Dean Myers and Jason Rife, senior assistant dean of the Cox Career Management Center and Graduate Admissions, reached out to alumni. Heis answered the call.
“We had just reopened our operations in early May after a six-week closure,” Heis says. He and the nonprofit’s board of directors used that time to reflect on the future. A key principle of their plan to move forward was identifying ways to “emerge stronger.”
“We saw an opportunity for SMU students to help, and we recruited and hired five interns to work on our most strategic projects,” Heis says.
A first step was growing Goodwill Dallas’ footprint “to dramatically increase the number of lives we could impact,” Heis says. Although the nonprofit serves eight North Texas counties, it had physical operations in only three.
Heis enlisted Jimmy Tran ’03 to lead the store footprint and real estate expansion strategy. Tran had recently left CBRE, where he headed corporate strategy and mergers and acquisitions, to focus on his own enterprises, including Oaklawn Group, a real estate investment firm he founded in 2007. As BBA students, Tran and Heis were Hunt Leadership Scholars and studied abroad in Australia and Southeast Asia together. After SMU, they went their separate ways before meeting again while each pursued an MBA from Harvard Business School and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School.
Over eight weeks in summer 2020, Tran and SMU intern Gabriela Barcelos ’21 analyzed which of Goodwill’s stores performed best and why, then identified 12 target submarkets where new stores and career centers could be successful.
Barcelos says Tran’s feedback, coaching and mentoring were invaluable. Opportunities to apply concepts learned in the classroom to a real-world project also stood out for her. “It is amazing to see our work come to fruition,” she says. Barcelos received a BBA in accounting in May and is now pursuing her MSA with a tax concentration at Cox School. In summer 2021, she was a tax intern at EY.
Based upon their recommendations, a new Goodwill store opened in Plano June 17. More than a dozen SMU alumni, including board members, friends and employees of the organization turned out to celebrate. Among them was Kate Cox ’21. As an intern she created real-time reports and analytics that Heis describes as “a game-changer.” She also completed a pricing benchmark study.
“I spent the summer working closely with the Goodwill Dallas leadership team to help the organization gain deep data insights into the organization. Along the way, I developed a love for the organization’s culture and began to see an opportunity to make an impact in the community,” Cox says.
She turned down another job offer to become the organization’s first vice president of information technology and business analytics after receiving her full-time MBA in May.
Other summer 2020 projects and SMU interns included: store operations, Alison Sheehan ’21, BBA in marketing, who is now an analyst with Goldman Sachs; telecom and internet sourcing and optimization, Richard Albert ’21, full-time MBA in management and strategy and entrepreneurship; and financial planning and agility, Samantha Stevenson ’22, SMU Dedman School of Law student who previously worked as a senior accountant for EY.
Goodwill Dallas continued its internship program in summer 2021. Full-time MBA student Daniela Garcia Maltos ’22 worked with Kate Cox to help the organization’s business intelligence dashboards and applications move to the next level.
Creating a path for people to reach their full potential is not only at the heart of SMU’s academic charge, but it’s also what Goodwill has been doing in Dallas since 1923 through its donated goods retail operation and workforce development programs. SMU alumni and student interns are helping Goodwill expand possibilities for thousands of people, Heis says.
“SMU has provided each of us with the tools and resources to make a difference in the world, and Goodwill is a benefactor of these combined talents in action,,” he says. “It has been fulfilling to work together to provide more opportunity for people with barriers to employment.”

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2021 Alumni August 2021 News

Alzheimer’s research gets personal

A team of SMU biological scientists has confirmed that P-glycoprotein (P-gp) has the ability to remove a toxin from the brain that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The finding could lead to new treatments for the disease that affects nearly 6 million Americans. It was that hope that motivated lead researchers James W. McCormick ’17 and Lauren Ammerman ’21 to pursue the research as SMU graduate students after they both lost a grandmother to the disease while at SMU.
In the Alzheimer’s brain, abnormal levels of amyloid-β proteins clump together to form plaques that collect between neurons and can disrupt cell function. This is believed to be one of the key factors that triggers memory loss, confusion and other common symptoms from Alzheimer’s disease.
“We were able to demonstrate both computationally and experimentally that P-gp, a critical toxin pump in the body, is able to transport this amyloid-β protein,” said John Wise, associate professor in the SMU Department of Biological Sciences and co-author of the study published in PLOS ONE.
Read more at SMU Research.

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2021 Alumni August 2021 News

Stoking fires of change

Photojournalist Stuart Palley ’11 has become famous for stunning wildfire photos like the one above. SMU’s Chris Roos looks at wildfires through a research lens. Ultimately, their perspectives are the same: Wildfires are getting worse, and there’s an urgent need to adopt coexistence strategies.

Read the story.

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2021 Alumni July 2021 Main News

Thinking big: A new model for college and career readiness prepares to launch

The Dallas ISD’s new West Dallas STEM School recently received expanded support from the Toyota USA Foundation and education champion Carter Creech ’60 through SMU. The new public school is scheduled to open in the fall.
The new Pre K-8 STEM school is set to open this August beginning with students in the 7th and 8th grades. The West Dallas STEM School, a Dallas Independent School District Transformation and Innovation School, is the result of more than three years of collaboration between the school district, the Toyota USA Foundation, SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development and the West Dallas community.
“We strongly believe that all children should have equal access to opportunities and a pathway to great careers,” said Sean Suggs, director, Toyota USA Foundation and group vice president, Toyota Social Innovation. “Together with the community, we have worked on everything from building design, teacher development, curriculum and before and after-school care. This extends also to addressing broader community needs, including access to transportation.”
To further support the school, business leader Carter Creech ’60, an SMU alumnus with a passion for education philanthropy, has pledged an additional $3.5 million, following his initial gift of $1.5 million to the project. Creech’s contribution will go toward a new middle school career and college readiness pilot program at the school, as well as efforts to replicate the West Dallas STEM school.
Read more at Simmons School.

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2021 Alumni July 2021

Coming soon: Mustang football and Boulevarding!

Fall will be here before you know it, so get your football season tickets now. With Boulevarding back in full swing, the alumni tent will return for home games. Plans for away-game tailgates are in the works, including SMU at TCU in Fort Worth September 25.
Read more at SMU Athletics.

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Alumni July 2021

Building a stronger network for all alumni

“Never stop learning and improving” is Kristin W. Henderson’s motto. In her new role as SMU Alumni Board chair, Henderson aims to improve communication, expand connections and fortify alumni relationships.
Whether continuing to set world records with her U.S. Masters Swimming relay team or honing her public speaking skills, Henderson always strives for growth.
She is passionate about SMU and the differences it can make in the lives of others. She sees the value for alumni, students and the community. Working in collaboration with Young Alumni Board Chair Stephen Reiff, Black Alumni of SMU Chair Malcolm McGuire ’14 and Hispanic Alumni of SMU Chair Rumaldo Robles ’17, Henderson is leading the charge to champion shared priorities. The board chairs will work closely together to increase alumni engagement opportunities and lift up each other’s unique board initiatives, such as scholarships and mentorships for underrepresented populations.
Read more at SMU Alumni.

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2021 Alumni July 2021 News

We can’t wait to meet our newest Mustangs

College life awaits the SMU Class of 2025, and it all begins at Summer Send-Off Parties. SMU is hosting hometown events across the country to welcome incoming first-year students into the Mustang family.
As students connect with classmates who hail from nearby, alumni and SMU staff will be on hand to answer questions about life as a Mustang and living on the Hilltop. This is a fun and casual community event that brings incoming students, returning students, new families and alumni together. All alumni are invited to join us in welcoming the newest members to our Mustang family.
Find in-person and virtual events.

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2021 Alumni July 2021

All the right moves for the future

Caeli Blake ’21 learned from a young age the importance of investing in herself. She credits her family, especially her mom, a professional singer and a former professor at Howard University, for instilling in her the drive and fortitude necessary for her to pursue a professional career in dance.
Blake was initially on the path to a double major in dance and advertising, but later decided to switch from advertising to education. “I made the switch, one, because of time, but then I took pedagogy at SMU and realized that I really enjoyed teaching dance. I liked what comes out of seeing what you can do as a teacher and having students.
“My goal with my education degree is to finish my dance career, moving audiences all over the world. Then I would love to teach at a performing high school and eventually become the Dance Division chair at SMU!”
Read more at Meadows School.

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2021 Alumni July 2021 News

Celebrating business leadership and service

The SMU Cox School of Business honored four alumni at its annual Distinguished Alumni and Outstanding Young Alumni Awards Luncheon May 7. Distinguished Alumni Awards honorees included Brad Brookshire ’76 and R. Andrew Clyde ’85. The 2021 Outstanding Young Alumni honors went to Lizzy Bentley ’12 and Elizabeth Wattley’15.
Brookshire is chairman and CEO of Brookshire Grocery Co., which operates more than 180 stores under the Brookshire’s, Super 1 Foods, Fresh by Brookshire’s and Spring Market banners. He is a longtime member of the SMU Board of Trustees, a member of the Cox Executive Board and stays active with a number of SMU initiatives and committees.
Clyde, a member of the Cox Executive Board, has served as president and CEO of Murphy USA since its spinoff as a public company in 2013.
Bentley is founder of CITY Boots, the realization of her lifelong passion for cowboy boots.
Wattley is the executive director of Forest Forward, a nonprofit organization fighting the effects of systemic racism in Dallas through neighborhood revitalization.
Pictured above, left to right, are Brad Brookshire ’76, Elizabeth Wattley ’17, Lizzy Bentley ’12 and R. Andrew Clyde ’85.
Read more at Cox School.

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2021 Alumni July 2021 News

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Enjoy these quick links to great stories and videos about some of the people, programs and events making news on the Hilltop.

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2021 Alumni June 2021 Main

Lauding Mustangs’ leadership, innovation and community spirit

We’re excited to announce the 2021 recipients of the highest honor SMU bestows on its alumni:
SMU Distinguished Alumni Award
Liz Martin Armstrong ’82 and Bill Armstrong ’82
Claire Babineaux-Fontenot ’92
Barbara M. Golden Lynn ’76
SMU Emerging Leader Award
Bryson DeChambeau ’16
The extraordinary achievements, outstanding character and community leadership of these alumni make us all proud to be Mustangs. We hope you will join us Thursday, September 30 for a ceremony and dinner in their honor to launch Homecoming festivities.
Learn more at SMU Alumni.

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2021 Alumni June 2021 News

Game. Set. Match.

A $4 million gift from Mark ’87 and Jennifer Styslinger ’86 and the Altec/Styslinger Foundation will shape and sustain future tennis champions in the newly named Styslinger/Altec Tennis Complex. This gift is in addition to a long history of support for the SMU tennis programs and complex.Since its opening in 2015, the 45,000-square-foot complex has quickly become recognized as a premier facility for tennis competition and training; it earned the 2019 USTA Facility Award, which was awarded during the 2019 U.S. Open.
“Jennifer and I met at SMU, and we were thrilled to have the chance to support a place that has been so important in our lives,” said Mark Styslinger, senior vice president of sales and service for Altec Inc., a manufacturing company founded in 1929 by his grandfather, Lee J. Styslinger, Sr. “Tennis was fundamental in shaping who I am, and I know this complex has already begun providing opportunities for other young student-athletes to achieve their goals as well, and will continue doing so in the future.”
Read more at SMU News.

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2021 Alumni June 2021 News

Thank you, George Killebrew ’85!

For the last two years, George Killebrew ’85 has been a voice for all alumni. As SMU Alumni Board chair, he led the charge to bring the SMU Alumni Board to prominence and give all alumni voices a conduit to University leadership. His responsibilities included serving as the alumni trustee to the SMU Board of Trustees and on the standing committees for Academic Affairs, Simmons School of Education and Human Development, Development and External Affairs and Legal Affairs.
Perhaps his favorite part of being board chair was the opportunity to speak during Commencement to each graduating class. “This weekend, you’re about to join something extraordinary,” he said at the May 2018 ceremony. “The SMU alumni community is 130,000 strong and spans the entire globe. So no matter where you go, you’ll always have family.”

Tenure highlights

In early 2020, when fears surrounding the coronavirus kept people at home, George rallied the board. He kept them connected with hybrid in-person and virtual meetings. Members worked together to hold a safe and fun Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony during the traditional Homecoming Weekend.
Official @SMUAlumniNetwork Instagram and Facebook accounts were launched. Social media and monthly newsletters highlighted the creative ways alumni and the entire Mustang community came together. Unprecedented times saw an unprecedented response as gifts poured in to support urgent needs in the SMU community.
Alumni Cary Pierce ’91 and Jack O’Neil ’90 of the band Jackopierce kicked off a new series of virtual events for alumni, by alumni, aptly titled Stampede in Place. Other alumni leveraged their unique talents and resources as well in a wide range of ways, from converting existing businesses to accommodate the demand for much needed personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer, to distributing donated personal hygiene essentials and food. Alumni gave new meaning to the term Mustang Strong.
SMU Giving Day 2021 was record-breaking. More undergraduate alumni participated than ever before, by raising awareness about the 24-hour fundraising blitz, making donations and sponsoring matching gifts. And despite having fewer students attending class on campus at the time, more students than ever before donated to Giving Day causes. More than 8,000 gifts comprised more than $2.5 million raised for 216 SMU causes in one day.

George had his sights set on elevating the board from the beginning. And, despite unprecedented times, he successfully led the charge to champion a more connected, invested and informed Mustang alumni community. His term as chair kicked off a new era in SMU alumni engagement. We are so grateful.
– Astria Smith, senior executive director for Annual Giving and Alumni Relations

A little more about George

The Honolulu native has been fiercely committed to the Mustang family since his graduation more than 35 years ago. He started as a young alumni volunteer advocate, and, since then, has volunteered on the Tate Board, Athletic Forum Board, reunion committees and in numerous other capacities. During his board tenure, George also dutifully served on SMU’s Pony Power leadership committee, where he helped advance giving for the University’s current-use needs.
George and his wife live in Dallas with their two sons. He is a collector of sports cards and sports memorabilia and enjoys running, golfing, horse racing and cooking. He is an avid Mustang sports fan and attends as many home athletic events as he can.
Currently: Commissioner, Major League Rugby
Previously: Executive vice president, Dallas Mavericks

The next chapter

Last month, George completed his two-year term as chair and will move into an ex officio capacity for one year. On May 14, during the last Alumni Board meeting of 2020–2021, George ceremoniously passed the gavel to Alumni Board Chair-elect Kristin W. Henderson ’82. Her official term started June 1 and will continue through May 31, 2023.
“You have represented alumni well,” says Brad E. Cheves, vice president for Development and External Affairs at SMU, expressing his gratitude to George. “Whether it was during outdoor Commencement ceremonies in 100-plus degree temperatures, at Baccalaureates, at student ring ceremonies – and everything in between.”
Visit SMU Alumni to learn more about our alumni community.

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2021 Alumni June 2021 News

‘Believe in yourself … to unlock your own power’

Watch Whitney Wolfe Herd ’11, founder and CEO of Bumble, delivering the address at May Commencement, and enjoy photos of golden moments as the classes of 1970 and 1971 gathered at graduation and for their 50-year reunion.

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2021 Alumni June 2021

Meet some of our newest young alums

Our newest graduates navigated uncharted waters during three school terms shaped by the pandemic, but they never let that sink their big dreams or cloud their optimism about the future.
Read more: Here we go, Mustangs!

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2021 Alumni June 2021 News

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Check out more great stories and videos about the people, projects and events making news on the Hilltop.

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2021 Alumni May 2021 Main News

106th Commencement Weekend May 14–15

SMU’s 106th Commencement Weekend will celebrate our 2,706 graduates as well as our 50-year reunion classes, 1970 and 1971. Alumna Whitney Wolfe Herd ’11, founder and CEO of Bumble Inc., the youngest woman to take a company public in the U.S., will be the featured speaker at the All-University Commencement Convocation May 15 in Ford Stadium. Congratulations, Mustangs!
Watch live on May 15.

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2021 Alumni May 2021 News

Energizing business education

A $15 million gift from Sharoll and Bryan S. Sheffield ’01 to SMU’s Edwin L. Cox School of Business will empower future entrepreneurs by creating new technology-equipped collaborative spaces.
Their generous commitment will establish Bryan S. Sheffield Hall, part of the future Cox School renovation and expansion project, which will provide students with innovative learning environments, enabling Mustangs to develop critical skills that are vital to success in today’s evolving workplace.
Located on the southwest corner of the renovated business school quad, Sheffield Hall will feature Collegiate Georgian style construction with up-to-date classrooms designed for collaboration and data-focused problem-solving. Sheffield Hall will serve as the new hub for Cox School’s Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program, including BBA admissions, academic advising and student records. In addition, it will house classroom space on the lower level and faculty offices on the second floor.
Read more at SMU News.

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2021 Alumni May 2021 News

Picturing stories of strength and courage

A stunning portrait of alumna and SMU parent Thear Sy Suzuki ’96 (center) by former President George W. Bush is among six of his original oil paintings gracing the cover Out of Many, One – Portraits of America’s Immigrants.
Suzuki, a principal and global client service partner with Ernst and Young, survived the killing fields of Cambodia as a child before she and her family were sponsored for immigration by a U.S. relief organization. Suzuki became a U.S. citizen in 1992 and is among the 43 immigrants painted by the 43rd President of the United States for his newest bestseller. Her vibrant likeness appears along with such famous faces as Mavericks’ legend Dirk Nowitzki, baseball star Albert Pujols and golfer Annika Sörenstam; foreign policy experts Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger; and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. All are celebrated in the book – and accompanying exhibition at the Bush Presidential Center –  described as “a powerful new collection of stories and oil paintings highlight the inspiring journeys of America’s immigrants and the contributions they make to the life and prosperity of our nation.”
Read more at the Bush Presidential Center.

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2021 Alumni May 2021 News

Shattering records for participation and generosity

More than 5,200 of you gave a record $2.5 million – up 81% over 2019 – to champion 216 causes you care about on Giving Day. Once again you’ve proven that Mustangs together are a force for good every day.
Learn more about Giving Day.

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2021 Alumni May 2021 News

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

You can never have too much of a good thing, right? Here are even more great videos and stories about the people, projects and events making us proud to be Mustangs.

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2021 Alumni April 2021 News

New gifts champion SMU Human Rights

Gifts totaling $650,000 from two couples with profound personal connections to the SMU Human Rights Program provide crucial resources for the renowned initiative, one of only seven of its kind in the United States. Through hands-on training and research, community internships and life-changing trips, the Program empowers students to become changemakers.
J.D. Dell, managing director and partner at Big Path Capital, a leading investment bank for impact companies and private equity funds, and Ann Marie Dell, who is currently enrolled in an SMU doctorate program, are pleased to announce a $500,000 commitment toward the endowment of the Human Rights Program in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.
Ann is in her final semester of coursework for the Doctor of Liberal Studies degree in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. Her concentration and research focus is in the area of Human Rights and Holocaust Studies under Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin.
The Dells’ initial $250,000 gift will establish the Ann and J.D. Dell Endowment Fund for Human Rights. The Dells have set aside another $250,000 to be used as a matching gift to encourage other contributions. For every $2 that others donate to the program, the Dells’ endowment fund will match $1.
“My wife, Ann, was, and continues to be, the driving force in our family’s interest in the study of human rights and the important role SMU’s Human Rights program plays in educating and creating young, servant leaders who are willing to take on and solve some of our society’s and the world’s most important and pressing human issues,” Dell said. “Simply put, we believe in the Human Right’s Program’s mantra: ‘There is no such thing as a lesser person,’ and fully support the Program’s teaching, mentorship, travel and enrichment opportunities which advance its mission.”
The SMU Human Rights Program empowers its students to become change-making leaders who understand, promote and defend human rights. The program is one of only seven college and university human rights programs in the U.S., and the only one in the South. From its inception in 2006, the program has grown to well over 200 students, majoring and minoring in human rights.
“We are grateful for the generosity of Ann and J.D. Dell, who are longtime friends and supporters of SMU,” said SMU Vice President for Development and External Affairs Brad Cheves. “We are thrilled at the prospect of attracting more commitments thanks to the Dells’ matching gift offer.”
The Dells were moved, in part, to make their gift after participating in the Program’s annual Holocaust study tour of memorials and Nazi death camps in Poland.
Trey Velvin ’86, ’91, ’17 and Dee Velvin ’87, ’92 were similarly inspired. Trey graduated from SMU’s Master of Liberal Studies program with a focus on Human Rights in 2017, and participated in Human Rights Program learning experiences in Vietnam, Cambodia and the southern U.S.
The Velvins have committed $150,000 toward the endowment. The gift expands their long-standing advocacy for people and communities in need as well as their previous support for SMU Human Rights.
Both the Dells and the Velvins serve on the host committee for the Triumph of the Spirit Award Celebration, which will be held Thursday, November 18 in Dallas. The biennial event recognizes individuals and organizations for outstanding human rights activism and raises funds for the SMU Program. Find registration details and more information here.
Read more about SMU Human Rights.

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2021 Alumni April 2021 News

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Enjoy these stories and videos about some of the people, projects and events making news on the Hilltop.

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2021 Alumni March 2021 News

A virtual celebration of vital writing

SMU’s Dallas Literary Festival returns March 26–27 with Zoom sessions featuring the diverse voices of more than 100 powerhouse writers. See the schedule and register for events.

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2021 Alumni March 2021 News

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

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2021 Alumni February 2021

Luck of the draw

When they first met as SMU roommates, Jaime Noble Gassmann ’02 (on the left in the photo above) and Beth McKeon ’02 weren’t sure they would be close friends. Flash forward to 2020, and they’re revolutionizing the startup ecosystem together.
Beth is the co-founder and CEO of Fluent, a Denver-based data technology company that developed the Fluency Score, which works like a FICO score for startups. Jaime serves as the company’s COO.
Since graduation, their paths have diverged for long periods but intersected at crucial points. The connection that took root in their campus home has kept them close through the years. That’s something they didn’t always see coming.
Read more.

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2021 Alumni February 2021 News

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Check out these links to stories, photos and more about the latest people, projects and events making news on the Hilltop.

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Alumni Fall 2020 News

Speaking up for change

In the wake of nationwide protests, Black students and alumni called for meaningful action to address issues of inequity and bias.
By Catherine Womack ’08
People around the United States and the world reacted to multiple videos of aggressions against Black people at the hands of police officers. In Dallas, as in nearly every other major city in the U.S., citizens took to the streets to protest the deaths and injuries.
“I felt like I had to do something. It’s too important,” SMU junior Tyne Dickson ’22 told The Daily Campus reporter Michelle Aslam, explaining her choice to join a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Dallas in late May. Dickson was just one of many SMU students, faculty and alumni who joined protests in Dallas. On June 3, SMU Head Football Coach Sonny Dykes, along with dozens of SMU players and staffers, attended a protest outside Dallas City Hall, listening and handing out water to those were voicing their outrage against police brutality.
“You have to do what your heart compels you to do and what it tells you is right,” Dykes told The Dallas Morning News.
SMU students and staff also focused atten-tion on issues of inequality, discrimination and racial prejudice on campus. Dickson started a GoFundMe page called “SMUBlackLivesMatter.” She plans to use the money raised through the site to produce Black Lives Matter apparel for students to wear on campus. It’s just one way, she says, students can publicly support the Black community on campus this fall.#BlackatSMUSMU students joined Black Lives Matter protests for racial justice in Dallas.Just like the larger Black Lives Matter movement, the hashtag #BlackatSMU saw a resurgence this summer. Since its inception in 2015, the hashtag has helped bring to light problems of racism on campus and amplify the voices and stories of Black SMU students and alumni.
When the #BlackatSMU hashtag initially went viral, the negative experiences shared sparked SMU President R. Gerald Turner to respond to students’ concerns and demands by initiating the creation of the Cultural Intelligence Initiative (CIQ@SMU). The program was launched to infuse the principles of cultural intelligence into every aspect of SMU’s campus life, provide sensitivity training for faculty and staff and do more to recruit minority students.
This year’s resurgence of #BlackatSMU reveals there is still much work to be done to intensify and finish the work started in 2015 and have a University community in which equality and inclusion are demonstrated in all aspects of campus life.
Black alumni stand shoulder to shoulder with students
On June 9, Anga Sanders ’70, D’Marquis Allen ’16 and the Black Alumni of SMU Board published an open letter to Black SMU students in The Daily Campus. “We hear you. We feel you. We are with you,” they wrote, standing in solidarity with students who posted their stories using the #BlackatSMU hashtag or protested against police violence.
Placing today’s protests in historical context, they reminded current Black students that they are continuing the work of generations of SMU minority students who have pushed the University to become a more inclusive, welcoming and equitable space. They urged SMU leadership to provide accountability, calling for a robust response to Black students’ experiences and demands.
Excerpt from alumni letter to Black SMU students:

“Being a Black college student at a Predom-inately White Institution, or PWI, presents a particular set of challenges, and this is no less true at SMU. When you are not in the majority, when your history and culture dominate neither experiences nor activities, the simple tasks of daily living require greater expenditures of physical and emotional energy. It’s exhausting. It sometimes seems overwhelming. But you are not alone.

“We can say this with confidence because of the rich history of mobilizing that precedes your current station. In 1969, and on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement, 33 members of SMU’s Black League of Afro-American College Students (BLAACS) sat in on President Willis Tate’s office to protest the lack of academic diversity and (to call for) the improvement of working conditions for Black employees. In 2015, ABS (the Association of Black Students) helped launch the #BlackAtSMU movement to call attention to long-standing racial insensitivities across SMU’s campus while incidents of police brutality increased nationwide. And at multiple points in between, Black students have raised their voices to seek equality and fair treatment at SMU.

“Today, you all are calling the University to accountability by advancing the #BlackAtSMU movement during a global pandemic and in the midst of national protests in response to the unjust killings of Black people by law enforcement officials and civilians. Though the times have changed, we are uniquely united by similar sets of circum-stances that we most certainly will overcome.

“As present members of ABS, you are playing an active role in honoring the legacy of Black students who came before you. More importantly, though, you are extending a tradition of resistance that will live beyond your time on the Hilltop. While doing so, it is important to express your feelings freely. Share your stories in both cathartic and instructive ways. Listen to the experiences of others, learn how they dealt with them, and internalize the fact that just as they belonged, you too belong at SMU. Though this journey might not always be what you anticipated, you have the power to effectuate change proactively and strategically for yourselves and future generations. The skills and resilience that you are developing now will serve you well throughout your life.”

Read the complete letter.
Through a series of online discussions, President R. Gerald Turner listened to and learned from leaders of Black student organizations, the Black Alumni of SMU Board, staff and faculty. In June, he outlined his early takeaways from these sessions in a letter to the SMU community.
Excerpt from SMU President’s letter to the SMU community:

“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.

“This will be a journey during which we will continue to listen. And there will be action. Next week, we will meet with Black graduate student leaders to ensure that no voice or experience is left unheard. We recognize that there are other members of the Mustang family who want to be part of this process, so I know we will be holding more listening sessions. In the meantime, please continue to use the #BlackatSMU forum to make sure we hear from you and learn of your desire to participate. As we progress, we also plan additional meetings with each of these groups to ensure we stay on the right track to address this systemic issue.

“These important conversations and the themes that are emerging from them are just the beginning. But one thing is very clear: Our Black students, staff and faculty need more allies and advocates on campus to create an environment where they feel they belong. We must affirm that the lives and experiences of our Black students, faculty, staff and alumni matter. Black lives Matter, and Black Mustang Lives Matter.”

Read the complete letter.

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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.

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Alumni Fall 2020 News

NeAndre Broussard ’11 uses style to change the cultural narrative about Black men

A photo of one of Broussard’s suited-up flash mobs went viral a year ago. For the SMU alum, his suits are about looking good, of course, but in the long run, they’re really about saving lives.
By Kathy Wise
D Magazine

Two years ago, after seeing yet another news story about police brutality against a Black man, NeAndre Broussard had had enough. He founded his Instagram page, Black Menswear, to counter negative media portrayals with images of Black men dressed in colorful, impeccably tailored suits. The proof of his concept was evident at our photo shoot in The Shag Room at the Virgin Hotels Dallas. Passersby kept stopping to comment on how good he looked, and it was clear that they figured he must be someone of import. That’s Broussard’s hope: to change reality by changing perception. In this case, with a double-breasted windowpane suit from his new BM & Company suit line.
Broussard first went viral a year ago in February, with a photo he had staged in Deep Ellum of a stylishly suited flash mob fronted by an unsmiling 6-year-old boy. The men are slightly blurred in the background. The boy is in sharp focus in the center of the frame, wearing a tiny turquoise suit with a pink carnation tucked in the lapel. He looks into the camera and holds up a single fist, exposing a starched French cuff.
Common, Diddy, Reggie Bush, Tracee Ellis Ross — even the online celebrity news site The Shade Room — all started sharing the photo. But it wasn’t planned, at least not the inclusion of the boy, Harper. A friend of a friend’s wife, who was visiting from Chicago, asked to bring him to the shoot at the last minute. Broussard had staged similar flash mobs before, but the emphasis had always been on the grown-ups.
Tired of police brutality against men who were presumed to be aggressive solely because of the color of their skin, the SMU graduate and insurance businessman created his Instagram account, Black Menswear, to change the narrative. He started gathering large groups of Black men in suits, sometimes organized around a color theme. For the first shoot in Dallas, 20 men showed up. Then 75. Then 100. When he would travel to Philadelphia or D.C. or Chicago for work, he would put up a post and hundreds would show up in those cities, too.
On the day of the Deep Ellum shoot, Dallas photographer Santos Paris spotted Harper and asked him to stand in front of the group. “I told him to raise his fist,” Broussard says. “But how he took it, that was all him. As we like to say, he ate that shot. It was lunch.”
The reason the image was so impactful, Broussard believes, is because Harper was the only child. “You have 99 men behind him, to where it’s like a support system,” he says. “It spoke to so much more than just a picture of a young boy wearing a suit. It was, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ It was, ‘We all got your back.’ It was, ‘You can do whatever you want because we stand behind you.’ That one, it took Black Menswear to the next level.”
Now, Broussard speaks to kids of all ages, talking to them about the importance of appearance. He advises them on what to wear to a job interview, how to tie a necktie, and how to press a shirt or suit themselves if they can’t afford to go to a dry cleaner.
He has flash mobs planned in 12 cities this year, and at each one he’ll host a networking roundtable beforehand that he calls Dapper Conversations. Through these events, his goal is to impact 1,500 additional lives and to create a nonprofit suit bank to which his flash mob participants can donate.
In March, he launched a suit line called BM & Company. The suits are made to measure, allowing for a custom fit at an affordable price. His spring line includes six options, three solid and three windowpane, all of which have functioning buttons and are made of 100 percent European wool.
“Suits are longevity,” Broussard says. “People are always going to be wearing suits. You go look at pictures from the 1920s, and you look at a picture from 2020. One thing that’s consistent? Suits.”
For Broussard, the clothing is really a means to an end. The suits are about looking good, but in the long run, they are about saving lives. “At the end of the day, for me, it’s not about the dollars,” he says. “It’s about the impact.”
Originally published in D Magazine in April 2020. Photos by Elizabeth Lavin and Kendal Lanier.

TOP 5 SUITING TIPS

  • Get it tailored. “If I’m not in a position to buy that expensive suit but I still have the urge to buy one, I go for off the rack and take it right to my tailor. Make it your suit.”
  • Follow the button rule. “Your bottom button is never, ever, ever buttoned. You stand up, you button the top button. You sit down, you unbutton your jacket.”
  • Have a go-to power suit. “It’s like your superhero costume. Some people have lucky underwear, or athletes have lucky socks. I’ve got lucky suits. I know I look good, so the mental battle is already done.”
  • Use your accessories. “For those who like color but are nervous about wearing a colored suit, let your accessories be that voice. Wear your conservative suit, but then use your tie, pocket square, watch, or belt to be your voice.”
  • Invest in the shoes. “I may get a suit for an affordable cost. But the shoes? That’s something that I’m going to invest in because I walk. You might wear the same shoes with four different suits, so you want a shoe that you don’t have to go and buy a new pair in six months because you wore it out.”
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

1915

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.)

1916–1918

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.

1918

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.

1920

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

1932–1934

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.

1936

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.

1936–1938

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

1938–1939

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.

1940–1945

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.

1944–1953

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

1946–1948

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.

1950

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

1957

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

1961–1969

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

1967–1972

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

1971–1974

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.

1975–1979

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.

1975–1991

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.

1986–1994

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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.
BY CHERYL HALL ’73
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.
MAGICAL  MOMENT
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.”
PATH  TO  BIG  RICH
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.”
LIKE  FATHER,  LIKE  SON
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.
MUTUAL  ADMIRATION
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.”

Categories
Alumni Features News Spring 2020

Pastor Richie Butler ’93 creates opportunities for crucial conversations about race

Pastor Richie Butler ’93 remembers a particularly heated discussion during a town hall shortly after a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, on a street in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9, 2014. The conversation grew fiery among the many members of the community in attendance to speak with the leadership of the Dallas Police Department, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office and the Dallas County Sheriff’’s Office.
“I noticed every negative emotion and energy – division, anger, mistrust, frustration, hate,” and many in attendance felt that justice would not be served, he says.
But out of that meeting, Butler says, came a calling from God: to serve as an activist in Dallas race relations, to unite factions on both sides of a fractious issue and to build bridges among people of all colors. That’s where Project Unity was born.
Through Project Unity, Butler has galvanized the community around the idea that conversations, not confrontations, will create and sustain relationships among diverse groups. And he has brought the topic to a place where many avoid discussing the issues of politics and religion altogether – the dining table – as well as to a place where differences are put aside during the heat of athletic competition – the basketball court.
“What unites us is greater than what divides us,” Butler says.
This year, Butler took on a new post that positions him to build on the social movement he started. He left his pulpit at St. Paul United Methodist Church, which was founded in 1865 by enslaved people in Dallas, to become pastor of St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church, long considered a seat for social change in Texas. “This is a historical church, but we also want to make history here,” Butler says.
What unites us is greater than what divides us.
Project Unity has developed various events aimed at helping heal race relationships between law enforcement and Dallas citizens. One of the earliest, “Together We Ball,” is an annual day of family activities for the community culminating in a basketball game between pastors, police officers and community leaders held each August at the P.C. Cobb Stadium in Dallas. The event draws more than 1,500 participants.
“Together We Learn” is a partnership among the Dallas Police Department, the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas, Dallas ISD, the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department and others to provide opportunities for teens to interact with law enforcement. Several hundred high school students have lunched with officers and received instructions on how to handle traffic or pedestrian stops.
However, Butler knew he needed broader engagement from the community after five police officers were ambushed and gunned down at a peaceful rally in downtown Dallas in July 2016. The gunman, killed in a standoff with police, was an Army Reserve Afghan War veteran who was angry over police shootings of black citizens and stated that he wanted to kill white people, particularly police officers.
After multiple conversations with faith and community leaders across the city, Butler called for a Year of Unity in 2017. In partnership with white Dallas attorney Rob Crain, then-incoming Dallas Bar Association president, the pair engaged leaders statewide and from organizations, businesses and faith institutions, with former President George W. Bush serving as honorary chair.
Richie Butler: It's hard to demonize 'other' when you have a relationship with them.
Year of Unity rolled out more events with “Together We Heal,” a day of activities at the American Airlines Center that honored the fallen officers. A Year of Unity Choir was created with more than 100 diverse voices, and the group performed at the 2017 State Fair of Texas and at a benefit for Hurricane Harvey victims.
The signature event from Year of Unity, one that is close to Butler’s heart, is “Together We Dine.” The project is a series of safe conversations about race over dinner. At tables of six to eight diners and a facilitator, they answer questions about race while others at the table listen. After everyone answers the question, the table opens for discussion.
Highland Park United Methodist Church hosted a “Together We Dine” in December 2019. The event has been held by design several times at the church, in majority white and affluent University Park, to send a message, Butler says, because it is an area where people of color perceive they are not welcome.
Dozens of members from the church have participated in “Together We Dine,” which has provided “enlightening experiences for our congregation,” says the Rev. Paul Rasmussen ’04, HPUMC senior pastor and a member of SMU’s Board of Trustees. “Sharing a meal and being in conversation with people from different parts of Dallas, who had different experiences growing up around race and discrimination, was powerful. It reminded me that the more we understand what someone else has lived through, the greater the possibility for connection and relationship, even if opinions differ.”
Some of the diners have continued to participate in small, diverse groups around the topic after dining together to learn more “about the realities of racism in our community in a setting that allows for openness and honesty,” Rasmussen says. Others have taken “Together We Dine” back to their places of employment, where there were racial tensions that aren’t discussed openly.
Butler hopes that individuals at “Together We Dine,” who come from across racial, economic and social spectrums, experience an epiphanic moment when hearing stories of encounters with racism, just as he did.
Richie Butler: Activism is in my blood.
Butler was raised by a single mother in a low-income area of East Austin. He attended a Baptist church and excelled in athletics, which led to a scholarship to play football at SMU in 1989, when the football program was being revived after a two-year ban because of sanctions (known as the “death penalty) imposed by the NCAA for recruiting violations. He was recruited out of high school to play defensive back by the late SMU alumnus and pro football great Forrest Gregg ’55, whom Butler still considers a mentor.
“He was good man who modeled hard work, discipline and focus, and didn’t allow us to settle for second-rate,” Butler recalls. “Even though the odds were stacked against us (the team went 2-9 in 1989), win, lose or draw, we were to fight, to give our best effort and not back down.”
Other mentors for the double major in psychology and religious studies included Clarence Glover, who taught the course “Black and White”; history Professor Kenneth Hamilton; law Professor C. Paul Rogers III, who has served as the SMU faculty athletics representative since 1987; and religious studies Associate Professor Richard Cogley. He also interned with then-Congressman Martin Frost (D-Texas) in Washington, D.C. “I found people who saw potential and took an interest in my development,” Butler says. “They encouraged me to push forward, to be all that God wants me to be.”
As an undergraduate, Butler knew he had a calling to preach.
Butler says his SMU experience helped shape who he is today. “I learned how to think critically and reflect on the information I was receiving, rather than just memorize and regurgitate facts. At SMU I was exposed to a world different from my working-class upbringing in East Austin.”
While a member of the football team, Butler reached out to other student-athletes around the Southwest Conference (of which SMU was a member at the time) to launch initiatives to help improve opportunities for them, and he lobbied the SMU Student Senate to create a seat for a student-athlete representative. “Activism is in my blood, and SMU helps foster that by directing students’ energies in a productive way toward improving the community,” he says.
Butler continues that activism today, and gives back to his alma mater by serving on the SMU Board of Trustees and Dedman College Executive Board, as well as on the Communities Foundation of Texas board of trustees, the Dallas Assembly and the Real Estate Executive Council. He has received numerous awards for his efforts on behalf of racial reconciliation, including SMU’s Emerging Leader Award in 2008; the 2018 Silver Anniversary Mustang Award; the Dallas Bar Association 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Justice Award; Dallas Business Journal’s 2018 Minority Business Leader honoree; and the 2019 Juanita Craft Humanitarian Awards Visionary recipient, among others.
Richie Butler and Dallas civic leaders and police.
While at SMU, Butler established lifelong relationships and networks among his classmates, including his wife, whom he met as a freshman. Neisha Strambler-Butler ’93, vice president of compensation and benefits at American Airlines, serves on the advisory board of directors for Project Unity. Butler credits her with keeping him balanced.
“God brings people into our lives for a reason. She recognizes my calling and cares deeply about social ills in society and how to make them right. She’s a brilliant woman, and I leverage her knowledge and experience with American Airlines for social good. We are partners in ministry together,” he says.
Former classmate Paige Dawson ’94, founder and president of MPD Ventures in Dallas, provides marketing and communications pro bono for Project Unity. She and Butler met while living across from each other in Shuttles Hall. When she read in the newspaper about Butler’s work with Project Unity, she reached out to reconnect.
“A great community builder and fundraiser, Richie has that rare ability to get people to say yes, so naturally my firm joined on to support the mission and raise awareness,” Dawson says. She also has served as a host for several “Together We Dine” tables. “At every one there has been some poignant statement or example from a minority attendee that has literally left me stunned at what people still experience.”
Butler knew he had a calling to preach as an undergraduate, even preaching on occasion while in school. He earned his Master of Theological Studies from Harvard in 1996. When he moved back to Dallas in 1998, he put together his first real estate development deal in South Dallas called Unity Estates, a planned community of 285 single-family homes sponsored by the 70-member African-American Pastors’ Coalition.
Solutions will have to come from the people.
Today, he chooses to go by “pastor” rather than the traditional “reverend” because the invocation of the shepherd brings him joy and affirmation, he says. “There’s a greater level of responsibility that goes along with being someone’s pastor.
He contends that solutions to issues of racism will have to come from the people, not the politicians. And he takes comfort in the knowledge that he is making a difference for his two children and their generation through his efforts to bring diverse groups together.
Charlene Edwards ’95, another classmate of Butler’s, holds out that hope for transformative relationships, as well. She became involved with Project Unity in 2017 when he was seeking program and event planning support to launch the Year of Unity, because she was compelled by Butler’s vision to bridge the divide between Dallas citizens and law enforcement.
Early on, she observed at “Together We Ball” events the “camaraderie among the different groups as they came together,” she says. “People’s lives, perceptions and actions are changed. They think before they say something that might be offen- sive, learn to become more compassion-ate about others.”
Adds Butler: “It’s hard to demonize the ‘other’ when you have a relationship with them, when you see them as a human being.”

Categories
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

Categories
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.

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2020 Alumni News October 2020

Passion drives this community bridge-builder

Passionate.
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.

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Alumni News October 2020

Fueling the future of business

A $15 million gift from Gina L. and Tucker S. Bridwell ’73, ’74 to SMU’s Cox School of Business will generate transformational economic research and cutting-edge business education for generations to come through the creation of the new Bridwell Institute for Economic Freedom. The research institute will examine and promote free enterprise in markets around the globe. This generous gift builds on the Bridwells’ legacy of support for SMU and promises to elevate the Cox School’s already outstanding global reputation.

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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.

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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

Categories
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.

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2020 Alumni June 2020 News

A graduation celebration reaches new heights