2019 January 2019 News

Judy Woodruff to discuss personal faith in the public square

Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editor of PBS NewsHour, will be the featured guest at the 2019 Bolin Family Public Life Personal Faith Scholarship Luncheon. The event will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Friday, February 8, at the Martha Proctor Mack Grand Ballroom of the Umphrey Lee Student Center on the SMU campus.
Woodruff will be interviewed by Peggy Wehmeyer, former religion correspondent for ABC World News Tonight, on the topic of personal faith in the public square.
Judy Woodruff has covered politics and other news for more than four decades at NBC, CNN and PBS. She is the recent recipient of the Radcliffe Medal, the Poynter Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism, the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism from Arizona State University.
The Public Life Personal Faith series, inaugurated in 2010, is a fundraising and outreach event of Perkins School of Theology in service to the larger community. The lecture provides an opportunity for guests to hear prominent people in the public sphere on topics related to how and why personal faith shapes public life. This luncheon is a major fundraiser for student scholarships.
Read more at SMU Perkins.

Alumni Fall 2010

Transforming Communities, One Woman At A Time

When Brittany Merrill ’06 joined a mission trip to teach in Africa, she never dreamed a 10-minute meeting would change her life.
While in Uganda the summer after her sophomore year at SMU, Merrill briefly met Sarah Kamara, a poor Ugandan mother caring for 24 orphans in her meager home. She was moved by the woman’s selflessness and strength of faith.

Brittany Merrill ’06 and Ugandan women in the Akola Project make handbags.

As Merrill began her junior year, she couldn’t forget Kamara. With support from her family and friends, she founded the Ugandan American Partnership Organization (UAPO). Over the past five years, she has raised more than $2 million, built two orphanages, drilled more than 20 water wells, helped 160 village women earn a living and placed nearly 1,600 Ugandan children on the path toward better lives with steady nutrition, shelter, education and health care.
The University community has played a key role in UAPO’s success – from faculty in journalism and corporate communications and public affairs, who have provided their expertise, to her sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, which sponsors a biannual golf tournament and jewelry trunk shows to benefit the charity, Merrill says.
“As a student you don’t think about what being an alumna will be like, but I can’t imagine another school being as encouraging and helpful as SMU has been.”
Since graduating Merrill has lived on two continents, dividing her time between UAPO’s offices in Jinja, Uganda, and her home base in Atlanta. She says her work has challenged her in ways she never imagined possible and has shaped the way she sees the world.
“Human barriers that we put up can be overcome,” she says. “That’s a lesson I can apply to all of life’s circumstances.”
In 2007 UAPO started the Akola Project for widows in rural villages. To date, 160 women in eastern and northern Uganda have learned to make and sell beaded necklaces. The project has generated more than $200,000 in revenue for the craftswomen.
In January Merrill stepped down as executive director and is now pursuing graduate studies at Fuller Theological School in Pasadena, California. She still serves on the UAPO board of directors as founder and president and continues her development role on a part-time basis.
– Cherri Gann