2020 Fall 2020 Features

Rising to the challenge

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

Mustangs meet the pandemic head on

Meeting Growing Needs

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

Making Math Easier

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

President Turner Zooms In

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

Musem Crafternoons

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

Free telehealth counseling

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

Striking the right chord

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.


  • 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.”
2020 Alumni Fall 2020 News

Successful tech leader sees opportunities for real change

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

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

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

2020 Alumni Fall 2020 Features News

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

SMU student carrying protest sign1965–1975

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


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


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


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


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


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