December 15, 2020


Sakina Foster, a finance group partner at law firm Haynes and Boone, in Dallas, was recently profiled by D Magazine as an advocate for diversity and equality. See her story at dmagazine.com. Brandon O. Gibson was named chief operating officer for the State of Tennessee by Gov. Bill Lee. She holds a law degree from SMU. Before joining the governor’s office in 2019 as a senior advisor, Gibson served as a Tennessee Court of Appeals judge. Steven Gridley (a.k.a. Leegrid Stevens) developed the new play, A Peregrine Falls, which premiered in New York at the Wild Project theatre. Jason Krieser was named CEO of Aspen Surgical Products, Inc. Shoaib Mithani, patent agent, has joined business and entertainment law firm Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, in the Dallas office. Molly Rhode performed in Rhode’s Roadhouse Rowdies at the Marla Eichman Studio Theater in Elm Grove, Wis. She is the associate artistic director for Northern Sky Theatre in Door County, Wis. Bridget Roosa is an associate professor of dance, director of dance studies and chair of the Department of Theater and Dance at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. She has received the 2020 Vulcan Teaching Excellence Award, which honors faculty members who make difference in classroom teaching, campus leadership, pioneering teaching methodology, creative course development and/or instructional support.


Dr. W. Dave Bell was featured in Fauquier Now, a local news portal covering Fauquier County, Va., where he discussed high points of his 50-year science career. Bell is a systems engineer at Mitre Corp., a not-for-profit organization that manages federally funded research and development centers that support United States government agencies. Britainy Anne Beshear is the First Lady of Kentucky. Her husband, Andy Beshear, was elected as the state’s governor in November. The couple have two children, Will and Lila. J. Scott Drennan joins Hyundai Motor Group as vice president of its urban air mobility division. Ashley McCue joined WorkChaplain as its chief growth officer. The Chattanooga, Tenn.-based company provides contract-based spiritual care and support to businesses. Elaine Ng, a sculptural artist, exhibited her new work Over/Under at the Interloc gallery in Rockland, Maine.


Amianne Bailey was a speaker for Vision Mesquite, where she touted liberation through literacy. She is the librarian at Mesquite (Texas) High School. William D. Gannon joined Transwestern Commercial Services as senior vice president in the firm’s North Texas Occupier Solutions group. Bryan McDearman joined Bank of Jackson Hole, in Jackson, Wyo., as its senior vice president loan officer.


Jonathan Alexis is the owner of TJ’s Seafood Market and Grill, which celebrates 30 years in business. Alexis and his wife Natalie purchased the Dallas eatery in 2009. Eliot Burriss joined the law firm Holland and Knight as a partner in its Dallas office. Anna Agniel Bushlack launched Storiespeak, an enterprise to engage people to write, speak and perform their own stories. After graduating from SMU, she created a solo show, Slow Children Playing, which ran in St. Louis, Chicago and South Bend, Indiana. In 2005, she won the Producer’s Pick of the Fringe at the Cincinnati Fringe and was invited back for encore performances. She also accepted spots at the New York International Fringe Festival and the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival. Lane Conner was appointed to the Parks and Recreation Board for the City of Dallas. He was also recognized by D CEO in the D 500 list for the 500 most influential people in Dallas. Laura S. Hayes joined the Dallas office of Fox Rothschild LLP as a partner in its family law and litigation practice group. Natalia Kobylarz was a keynote speaker at the International Conference on Human Rights and Environmental Protection in Strasbourg, France. She is a senior lawyer at the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights. Gayla McKnight is the academic intervention specialist in the newly opened learning space at Brook Hill School, a Christian-based private school near Tyler, Texas. The school’s new LEAP lounge, which stands for Lower School Learning Enrichment and Academic Potential, helps students achieve additional academic potential and develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. Manuel Ortiz joined NewcrestImage as its vice president of investor relations. He oversees the company’s investment portfolios. Maria Elena Pacheco was named 2020 Elementary Teacher of the Year by the Texas PTA. She teaches kindergarten at Martha Turner Reilly Elementary School in Dallas. Dr. Keith R. Phillips spoke at the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce Federal Reserve Update Luncheon. He is the assistant vice president and senior economist at the San Antonio branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.


Trevor Ashurst (M.S.A. ’05, M.B.A. ’11) joined Houston-based Deep Down, Inc. as vice president of Finance. Deep Down specializes in subsea oil and gas production control equipment and services. Christa Brown-Sanford has joined SMU’s Board of Trustees. She is partner and deputy department chair of Intellectual Property at Baker Botts LLP, in Dallas. She received the Dedman Law Distinguished Alumni Award in 2019. Alex Cherones (M.B.A. ’08) joined Dallas-based Headstorm, a digital product and engineering firm, as partner. Maryann Delea joined The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, as an epidemiologist. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Global Health at the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her Ph.D. in 2018 from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a Master of Public Health from Emory University in 2007.  Brittany Edwards Cobb celebrated her 10-year anniversary as founder and CEO of lifestyle brand Flea Style LLC. Jason Dagelewicz (M.B.A. ’09) and wife Stephanie Shoder Dagelewicz (’05) cofounded Move For Miles to raise funds and awareness for childhood cancer. They started the nonprofit organization after their son Miles was diagnosed with pediatric cancer when he was around 1 year old. Jennifer Rudenick Ecklund joined the new Dallas law firm Thompson Coburn as a partner. She was with Thompson & Knight in Dallas and was a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Tax Division. She is on the boards of directors of the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center and Café Momentum.  Rev. Wendy Lambert was profiled among The Oklahoman newspaper’s coverage of the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. Lambert, who holds a Master’s of Divinity degree from SMU, lost her father in the explosion. See her story at Oklahoman.com. David McRae was elected treasurer for the State of Mississippi. He is the managing partner of his family business, McRae Investments, and a licensed attorney. He is active in civic and charity organizations throughout the community and state. McRae lives in Ridgeland, Miss., with his wife, Katherine (M.F.A. ’06), and their three children. She spent six years working on Hurricane Katrina recovery projects for the Mississippi Development Authority, and is involved with numerous charity and arts organizations. Mikhail Orlov, who founded Weby Corp. shortly after graduating, is launching a new retail concept in September: GRITR SPORTS, a destination specialty place that combines shooting ranges, an event center and a retail store focusing on active sports, hunting, fishing and gear for the pursuit of bucket list adventures. The store will be located in North Richland Hills, Texas. Lacie Thorne became an adjunct instructor at Belmont University’s O’More College of Architecture, Art and Design in Nashville, Tenn. Her professional portfolio includes celebrity brand collaborations with Jennifer Lopez, Nicki Minaj and Adam Levine. Thorne’s art direction and editorial work includes such luxury brands as Van Cleef & Arpels, Gibson Guitars, Christian Dior and more. She holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from SMU.


 Amanda Clark-Rudolph, a freelance writer based in Ocala, Florida, published an essay highlighting how a love of running boosted her writing career. See her story at medium.com/the-ascent. Billy Crockett, an Austin, Texas-based singer-songwriter, hosted a livestream concert in May to promote his new album In Session. The performance benefited COVID-19 relief. Crockett, who also works as the creative director of Blue Rock Studio, in the Texas Hill Country, has recorded 12 albums. Learn more about his work at billycrockett.com. Monika Ehrman was re-elected vice president of education for the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators for a one-year term. She is a professor of law and faculty director of the Oil and Gas, Natural Resources and Energy Center at the University of Oklahoma. Kara D. Grimes joined law firm Summer Schick LLP as a commercial litigator in its Dallas office. Rob Gorham was honored with the America Makes Distinguished Collaborator Award. Gorham is the executive director of Manufacturing Initiatives at the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station. W.A. Landreth III joined the Trinity Bank Board of Directors. He is co-founder/partner of Vaquero Ventures retail development. Bridget Dougherty Melton will be an official audio describers of the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee in August. She will be live describing the visual elements of the convention to delegates and other audience members who are blind or have low vision. Other civic events she has described include the inauguration of Chicago’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot, in May 2019 and the 2018 Women’s March-Chicago. She also has worked as an audio describer in Chicago for live performances, including for the production of Hamilton before it closed in January. Andrea Perez has joined the Dallas office of Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal, LLP as a senior associate specializing in art law, business law and intellectual property. She is also an adjunct lecturer of “International Law and the Arts” at Meadows School of the Arts. She is a board member of Texas Accountants and Lawyers for Artists (TALA), secretary of the Dallas Bar Association Entertainment, Art and Sports Law Section, co-chair of the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers Bolton Ball Committee and a mentor at the Dallas Entrepreneurial Center. Tonya E. Solis-Mosby received the degree of Doctor of Education with a specialization in English as a Second Language from Northcentral University in January 2020. She earned her Master of Bilingual Education from SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development. Robert Surtees married Chelsea Heil in Lake Como, Italy, last fall. Austin Wyker was promoted to shareholder at law firm Munsch Hardt Kopf and Harr in its Dallas office.


Alana K. Ackels (J.D. ’09) has been named to D Magazine’s 2020 “Best Lawyers Under 40 in Dallas” List. She is partner at Dallas law firm Bell Nunnally. Patrick J. Allen joined Preston Hollow Capital as a senior asset manager. He holds an M.B.A. from SMU. Amanda Austin (M.B.A. ’13) was promoted to market president of Bank of Texas in Dallas. She joined the bank in 2006. Desiree Dawn Brown (MSOR’10) was unanimously elected as the Young Republican National Federation (YRNF) national secretary. She has served on the Collin County Young Republicans executive board for the past four years, most recently as organization’s chairwoman for the past two years. Philip Dunlap joined the Houston office of law firm Balch and Bingham as partner. Stephanie White joined the University of West Florida Board of Trustees. She is an attorney specializing in adoption and child-related issues.


Lizzie Corona, a realtor at Greenwood King Properties in Houston, was named Realtor of the Week in May, after receiving five-star ratings on the residential property search website HAR.com. Sally Crocker won first place nationally as a writer of a hard-hitting magazine article on domestic violence from the Ragan Communications 2019 Health Care PR and Marketing Awards competition. The article, “Domestic Violence’s Painful Legacy,” was written for Solutions magazine, a publication of the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC). Crocker has worked as communications manager for the UNTHSC School of Public Health for 10 years. She earned a Master in Liberal Studies degree from SMU. Grant Groher was promoted to vice president at Balance Point Capital, where he has worked for three years. Chris Kang joined Haynes and Boone, LLP as a partner in the firm’s employee benefits and executive compensation practice group in Dallas. Melissa Page Peter, owner and founder of Mi Casita Spanish Immersion Preschool, has opened a third location in Ardmore, Pa. Aaron David Pan was named executive director of the Museum of Texas Tech University, where he also will have a faculty appointment as associate professor of practice. He was executive director of the Don Harrington Discovery Center, an interactive science center and museum in Amarillo, which he had led since 2012. He earned his Ph.D. in geology from SMU.  Barrett Rogers and Sarah Cox were married April 4 at their home in Little Rock, Ark. Liz Healy Silva, after five years as vice president, was recently promoted to senior vice president, people and community at Paragon Healthcare in Dallas.


Kathryn Beal Brown founded the Dallas-based Lone River Beverage Company. The firm offers a hard seltzer product available at grocery and beverage retailers in Texas. Diego Contreras created a short film to help showcase the launch of Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro last fall. He is a film and commercial director at Reset Content in Los Angeles. J. Kent Crocker joined the law firm Carlton Fields as an associate in Miami. Edward Logan is the new CEO of Sport Clips Inc., the franchisor of the Sport Clips Haircuts system. Thomas Morstead, punter with the NFL New Orleans Saints, was featured in the Middle School Rules book series, written by Sean Jensen. Recently, Morstead was ranked among the top players of the decade by Pro Football Focus. Joshua Peterson was named to the Knox.biz 40 Under 40 list. The honor recognizes standout citizens in the Knoxville, Tenn., business community. Peterson is the founding artistic director of Knoxville’s River and Rail Theater Company. Kelly Stephenson Piccardo opened men’s fashion retail store Antlers Clothing Company in Big Sky, Mont. Joshua Aaron Sheppard and Jessica Treanor Murray were married April 18 at the the bride’s parents’ home in Harrison, N.Y. Sheppard is an investment analyst at the New York office of White Oak Global Advisors. Scott Summerall joined the Board of Directors for Community Bank Holdings of Texas, Inc. He is the worldwide content marketing program manager at Texas Instruments.


Katherine Bartush began an orthopedic surgical fellowship last summer at The Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo. Bartush attended medical school at The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, where she graduated Alpha Omega Alpha and received the Charles Rockwood, MD Award for student excellence in orthopedics. Cole Gahagan was promoted to president and CEO of Learfield IMG College. Manuel Ortiz joined hotel investment company NewcrestImage as its vice president of Investor Relations. Ortiz holds an M.B.A. from SMU. Daniel Pearson joined law firm Caldwell Cassady and Curry as a principal in its Dallas office. Benjamin Jewell-Plocher was named education director at Embracing Our Differences, a Sarasota, Florida-based nonprofit focused on art and education. Christine Ricciardi joined The Denver Post as its cannabis industry reporter. She covers marijuana and hemp policy, market trends and entertainment. Emmanuel Sanders joined the NFL San Francisco 49ers as wide receiver after six seasons with the Denver Broncos that included two Pro Bowls and 1,000-yard seasons from 2014-16. Ryan Smith joins the Austin-based software firm Ballogy as its vice president of strategy.