2020 Alumni November 2020

Honoring Mustangs who go above and beyond

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

2020 Alumni November 2020

Mustangs in the Wild: Meet Harvey Luna ’14

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

2020 Alumni November 2020

John Holiday ’07 stuns judges on ‘The Voice’

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

2020 Alumni November 2020

A candid conversation with Spike Lee

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

2020 Alumni News November 2020

Investing in a culture of collaboration

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

News November 2020

Monitoring program earns SMU’s largest research grant

SMU has received $18 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to continue global observations and research using acoustic and seismic waves to better understand when nuclear tests, large earthquakes and other major events happen. The award for the Seismic-Acoustic Monitoring Program IV is the largest SMU has received for research.

With the award, SMU seismologist Brian Stump and his research team will use a combination of low frequency acoustic waves and seismic waves to help figure out if the occasional burps and shudders that travel through and around the Earth are caused by man-made events like a nuclear explosion test or natural events like earthquakes or volcanic eruptions.
Read more at SMU Research.

News November 2020

Learning to put politics aside

Since appearing in the acclaimed documentary Boys State, sophomore Ben Feinstein ’24 has backed away from the idea of a political career and now aspires to serve his country “in a neutral role.” A double-amputee since the age of 3, Feinstein talks about his political evolution in an article published by the San Antonio Current on August 14.

Described in the political documentary Boys State as a “Reagan-loving arch-conservative,” San Antonio native Ben Feinstein has been on a journey of self-discovery since filming wrapped two years ago.

In Boys State, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, filmmakers follow Feinstein and a group of young men participating in a high school summer leadership program in Austin as they’re tasked with building a mock state legislature from the ground up. This includes campaigning for state representatives, creating party platforms, holding elections and drafting and passing bills.

Read more.

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.