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 

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. 

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.” 

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.”