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When Hamon Charitable Foundation board member Tom Souers read a Dallas Morning News article last June about an SMU Lyle School of Engineering summer camp for underrepresented students, it proved to be the spark behind a $2 million foundation gift to support expansion of the camps and create engineering scholarships for students who attend them.
The camp opportunities and scholarships are aimed at inspiring students to pursue engineering as a field of study and future career. Middle and high school students attending the Lyle School Hamon Summer Engineering Camps initially will be recruited from the KIPP DFW network of public charter schools, the STEM-focused Young Women’s Preparatory Network, and DISD’s Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy.
Teachers from the participating schools also will be allowed to attend camps to engage with Lyle students and faculty. Students attending the camps who are later accepted into the engineering program at SMU will be eligible to apply for college scholarships through the new Jake L. Hamon Scholars Program.
“We are delighted that the Hamon Charitable Foundation is making these eye-opening camps available to a larger group of students,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “The foundation’s gift helps expand our impact in the community and will help build a brighter future for more young people in Dallas, particularly through the creation of the companion scholarship program.” Read more at SMU News.
The Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development dedicated in March the Olamaie Curtiss Graney Design Lab in Harold Simmons Hall. Olamaie G. Fojtasek and Randall S. Fojtasek ’85, ’90 (center) made a $1 million pledge to SMU, with $500,000 directed to the Design Lab and $500,000 for M.B.A. scholarships in Cox School of Business. Also at the ceremony were (from left) SMU Provost Steve Currall, President R. Gerald Turner and Simmons Interim Dean Paige Ware. Graney, Mrs. Fojtasek’s mother, was a public school teacher in Tennessee and Mississippi. In the lab, education students use technology to develop unit and lesson plans and technology applications to support student learning.
Jorge Baldor ’93 was honored with the 2017 Distinguished Hispanic Alumni Award presented by SMU Hispanic Alumni at the chapter’s annual awards celebration on April 27. SMU Hispanic Alumni also presented undergraduate scholarships to Carlos “Alex” Negrete ’18 and Victor Sanchez ’19. Guest speakers included SMU President R. Gerald Turner and Thomas DiPiero, dean and professor of World Languages and Literatures and English, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.
Baldor, pictured at the top of the page with Elizabeth Zamora ’12 (left),chair of SMU Hispanic Alumni, andCynthia Villanueva ’00, past chair, graduated from SMU with a bachelor’s degree in history. He is co-founder of ResidentCheck, a national tenant background screening service.
An award-winning leader in business and civic affairs, Baldor was named Outstanding Latino Advocate in 2016 by D CEO magazine. He also has been recognized for his support of the Innocence Project and was named an “Amigo de Centroamerica” by Fundación Esquipulas, a nonprofit organization led by Vinicio Cerezo, the former president of Guatamala.
In 2015 Baldor co-founded the Latino Center for Leadership Development (Latino CLD), which strives to develop the next generation of leaders driven by thoughts, values and experiences that will improve the Latino community. Earlier this year, Latino CLD and SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies awarded nine research grants to support meaningful research geared to promoting a stronger understanding of the Latino community and creating a dialogue about key societal issues.
He serves on the executive board of SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and as a commissioner-at-large on the City of Dallas’ Cultural Affairs Commission. He also serves on the boards of the Cisneros Center for New Americans, the World Affairs Council and the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce.
SMU Hispanic Alumni also honored scholarship recipients Carlos “Alex” Negrete ’18 of Carrollton, Texas, a business administration major in the Cox School of Business, and Cox finance major Victor Sanchez ’19 of San Antonio, Texas.
Strong academic records, writing ability and an active love of journalism translated into scholarships recently for Meadows students Jacquelyn Elias and Hannah Ellisen.
Jacquelyn, a junior pursuing degrees in journalism, creative computing and computer science, was one of seven students to win the prestigious Founders’ scholarship from the Headliners Foundation of Texas; Hannah, a junior pursuing journalism and public relations & strategic communication degrees, was the sole winner of the foundation’s Texas Associated Press Broadcasters scholarship award. Read more at Meadows School of the Arts.
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 createdfor 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.
By Kevin Richardson
Growing up in Kansas, Jennifer Burr Altabef dreamed of going away to college as her older siblings had. She had met several SMU graduates, and had set her heart on attending the University.
But when she was 15, Altabef’s father called her into his office to impart some difficult news that might have shattered that dream permanently. He told her he had lost his job and would be unable to pay for her education after she graduated from high school.
Determined to earn enough money to pay for college, Altabef worked minimum-wage jobs throughout most of her high school career. She ultimately applied and earned acceptance to SMU, but with a little more than $3,000 saved, the Hilltop seemed out of reach.
Then, she received a letter from SMU informing her that she would receive scholarship support that would make her education possible.
Altabef was overwhelmed.
“I almost couldn’t believe that people who didn’t even know me had made it possible for me to attend SMU,” she says about the donors who created her scholarships. “It was life-changing. I was determined to do well because I didn’t want to let them down.”
Fascinated by the Watergate scandal and the role played by reporters, Altabef studied journalism and earned her bachelor’s degree from Meadows School of the Arts in 1978. She eventually decided to pursue a legal career and credits her Meadows professors with teaching her to write, a skill she has relied on throughout her professional life.
“The ability to write well is one of the most important and useful skills a person can have,” she says. “I am so lucky for the rigorous training that I received from my journalism professors. It’s helped me in everything I have ever done.”
When Altabef applied to law schools, she badly wanted to stay in Dallas and knew the SMU Dedman School of Law would offer the best path into the Dallas legal community. The University of Kansas offered a full scholarship that might have taken her back to Kansas. But once again, SMU scholarship support — combined with loans — helped her achieve her dream.
After Altabef graduated from Dedman School of Law in 1981, she began what became a distinguished career in labor and employment law and litigation. She never forgot what had helped enable her achieve so much success.
“Every morning that I went to the office, I was aware that someone whom I did not know had made it possible for me to stay in Dallas, made it possible for me to practice law, and made it possible for me to have the life I chose,” Altabef says.
Altabef became involved with SMU as a volunteer after a former dean of the Meadows School asked her to lunch. He told her about the exciting educational experiences students were having at Meadows and throughout SMU. Memories of her own experiences on the Hilltop and what she heard about today’s SMU inspired her to serve her alma mater.
Altabef has served as a member of the SMU Libraries Executive Board and the Meadows School of the Arts Executive Board, on which she is slated to serve as the next chair. “I feel grateful to SMU for essentially giving me my life,” she says. “So I jumped at the opportunity to be involved.”
In her work on behalf of the Meadows School, Altabef has developed a strong connection with the Meadows Scholars Program, which raises annual and endowed resources to bring top-caliber students in the arts and communications to SMU.
“The simple truth is that scholarships change lives,” Altabef says. “I know that because scholarships changed my life. For that reason, it is also true that people who receive scholarships are the people who most want to give them.”