Accomplished alumni and outstanding students were honored at the fifth annual Black Excellence Ball on February 27 as part of SMU’s observance of Black History Month. Black Alumni of SMU joined the Association of Black Students (ABS) to present the festive evening that included recognition of the 2016 Black History Makers and Black Alumni Scholarship recipients as well as the ABS Legacy Award honorees.
2016 History Makers
Jennifer M. Jones ’93, ’99 has been shaping world changers for more than 30 years. “Her name is synonymous with SMU,” said Deah Mitchell ’13 in her introduction of the campus leader.
Known to almost everyone at the University as “JJ”, she joined the staff in 1985 and has served in a wide range of roles. After 16 years with Residence Life and Student Housing, JJ continued to have a major impact on the student experience as the director of multicultural student affairs and later as the assistance dean of Student Life/director of Student Activities and Multicultural Student Affairs.
Now, as the executive director of Student Life, she supports and advises the Student Association and coordinates the social event registration process through her office. She also supervises the directors of the Women & LGBT Center, family and parent programs and the associate dean over the Caring Community Connections program.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1993 and a master of liberal arts degree in 1999 from SMU. A member of Zeta Phi Beta sorority, she has served as National Pan-Hellenic Council president. She travels around the U.S. speaking to Greek councils and other student organizations about student leadership responsibilities and related issues.
At Inside SMU last year, she shared the story of her fight against breast cancer and credited the unbridled support shown by students with keeping her going through the rough patches. “It was affirmed to me that we have the best students in the world,” she said. “That’s why I’ve been here so long.”
Jamal Story ’99 could not make it to the awards ceremony to accept the 2016 Chairman’s Award. The globetrotting dancer/choreographer was on the West Coast for a performance.
Since earning bachelor’s degrees in dance and communications arts/TV and radio from Meadows School of the Arts, he has worked on stage and as a dance captain for two historic black Broadway shows, The Color Purple and Motown: The Musical, and toured with Madonna and Cher. But his impressive résumé doesn’t end there. He also has served as an ad interim professor of dance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and worked with such acclaimed companies as Complexions, Lula Washington Dance Theatre and Donald Byrd/theGroup.
He sits on the board of Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and co-chairs its national dancers committee.
The premiere of The Parts They Left Out, a new aerial piece he created for the Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s annual Cultural Awareness series in February, garnered rave reviews. While he was working in Dallas, he took time off to teach a workshop for SMU dance students.
2016 Black Alumni Scholarship Recipients
Naomi Samuel ’19, a first-year finance major and English minor from Garland, Texas, is a BBA scholar in the Cox School of Business. Beyond the classroom, she is involved with Sisters Supporting Sisters, a student organization designed to uplift black women on campus, and serves on the Student Senate Diversity Committee.
Mariah Williams ’17, a junior biology and Spanish major from Chicago, Illinois, serves as the community service chair for the Association of Black Students and is an active contributor to ABC programming efforts throughout the academic year. She also serves as secretary for the Voices of Inspiration Gospel Choir. After SMU, Mariah plans to pursue a career in medicine as a pediatric neurologist.
Stacy Tubonemi ’16, a senior finance major from Liberia, serves as the public relations chair for the African Student Association and has been invaluable in strengthening and sustaining the bond between that organization and the ABS. After graduation, Stacy aspires to return to Liberia and use her business degree to promote entrepreneurship.
Association of Black Students Legacy Awards
- David S. Huntley ’80, AT&T chief compliance officer, who become SMU’s first black student body president (1978-79) after a successful write-in campaign his sophomore year.
- Jennifer M. “JJ” Jones ’93, ’99
- Anga Sanders ’70, a member of the “SMU 33” whose activism drew attention to the need for diversity among faculty and in the curriculum and called for improved working conditions for black employees of the University.
- Jerry LeVias ’68, football legend and the first black player in the Southwest Conference to receive an athletic scholarship, was unable to attend.
- Gabrielle Faulkner ’17, a finance major with a fashion media minor from Dallas, has been active in many campus organizations, including Student Senate and Alternative Breaks, and has served as a career development ambassador. Her career goal is to be the CEO of a major fashion brand.
- Darien Flowers ’18, a management science major with a minor in sociology, works at El Centro Community College/Bill J. Priest Institute for Economic Development as a department assistant/adjunct faculty teaching GED, workplace preparation, career exploration and planning, and other continuing education courses. He is president of the Upsilon Mu Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
- Marcus McNeil ’19, an offensive lineman for the Mustangs from San Antonio, is a member of ABS and has been a member of the Youth and College Division of the NAACP for the past five y ears. In his free time he works with such community organizations as The Boys and Girls Club of San Antonio and Black Lives Matter of San Antonio.
- Briana A. Rollins ’18, a biology major with a minor in sociology from Houston, serves as vice president of Sisters Supporting Sisters. She is the student coordinator of CONNECT Leadership Development Institute, which assists first-year and transfer student of color through peer mentoring and friendship. While at SMU, she has raised more than $40,000 to support campus life and student needs. She plans to attend medical school and pursue a career in neonatal medicine.