2017 Alumni News October 2017

Reaching the funding finish line

Former SMU swimmer Joseph M. “Jody” Grant ’60, and his wife, Sheila Peterson Grant, are providing SMU Athletics with a $1.5 million gift to help fund the University’s new Robson & Lindley Aquatics Center. With their gift, they have created the Sheila and Jody Grant Challenge, encouraging other donors to donate the remaining $1.5 million to complete the $22 million funding goal.
The 42,000-square-foot facility, soon to be home to the University’s internationally recognized men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams, will be dedicated Friday, November 3, during SMU Homecoming.
“As community business and philanthropic leaders, Jody and Sheila Grant know the importance of reaching the finish line and completing worthy goals,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Their generosity is inspirational and helps get us closer to completing funding for the Robson & Lindley Aquatics Center and providing a place where our student athletes can continue the championship legacy of SMU swimming and diving.”
The Aquatics Center features an indoor Olympic-sized pool, which can be configured for eight 50-meter competition lanes or twenty-two 25-yard lanes. Its platform diving well boasts a 10-meter diving tower with five springboards and seating for 800 spectators is on the mezzanine level.
Jody Grant attended SMU on a swimming scholarship, earning four individual Southwest Conference swimming championships and was twice named to the All America team.
“SMU’s swimming program has been near and dear to my heart since Coach Red Barr recruited me many years ago to swim for the Mustangs,” said Dr. Grant. “I am honored to support this new facility, which will be home for the swimming program that was so meaningful to me.”

The Grants met as students at SMU and have been SMU supporters since 1979. They have provided support to the SMU Fund, the Tate Lecture Series, the J. Erik Jonsson Ethics award, the Distinguished Alumni Award, Meadows School of the Arts, Dedman College, and Cox School of Business.
“With the challenge grant, we hope to inspire the community to join us in reaching the goal for the fundraising of the Aquatics Center. We like to participate in opportunities that provide benefits for as many people as possible, profoundly enhancing their lives,” said Sheila Grant.
Read more at SMU News.
2017 Alumni News September 2017

When the Galápagos Islands become a science classroom

This summer, Teaching and Learning faculty members Diego Román, Ph.D., and Dara Rossi, Ph.D., invited Dallas Arboretum educators Dustin Miller and Marisol Rodriguez to help train 125 Ecuadoran teachers in the Galápagos Islands.
Román and Rossi participate in a four-year professional development program initiated by The Galápagos Conservancy and Ecuador’s Ministry of Education. They also advise The Dallas Arboretum Education Department, which focuses on life and earth science and trains 500 teachers annually. So having Miller and Rodriguez teach with them in the Galapagos was a plus. The team also included Greses Perez, a Simmons alumna, and current student Heny Agredo.
Read more at Simmons.

2017 Alumni June 2017

SMU alumnus Mark Lau ’06: Finding a perfect fit at Nike

By Karen Shoholm
“I met Michael Jordan during the first week of my internship,” says Mark Lau ’06. “Right then I knew that Nike was the place I wanted to work. Eleven years later, I haven’t looked back.”

Mark Lau ’06, global director of Nike’s EKIN Experience, sports some favorite kicks outside the Nike store in Portland, Oregon. “There’s no such thing as a typical day at Nike, and that’s why I love it,” he says.

Lau, who graduated with degrees in marketing from the Cox School of Business and in advertising design from Meadows School of the Arts, works at Nike’s World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. As global director of the company’s EKIN Experience – named in 1981 for the Nike reps who “had to know the product backwards and forwards,” according to Nike – Lau leads the team responsible for curating Nike’s stories and delivering inspiration and innovation to athletes around the world through a grassroots approach.
“My internship played a huge part in getting a full-time job at Nike,” he says.
Lau also credits his SMU Abroad experiences studying in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Suzhou, China. “I believe that some of the best learning experiences take place outside the classroom. The study abroad programs provided the opportunity to interact with students from around the world and experience global cultures.”
Adapting to different kinds of people and cultures was good training for what Lau does at Nike. “There is no such thing as a typical day at Nike, and that’s why I love it. We are a consumer-driven company, and the consumer moves fast. We learn, adapt and evolve quickly to keep up with today’s fast-paced environment,” he says.
“We call Nike’s World Headquarters a campus because it is designed like a university and fosters an environment of learning and sharing. Our maxim, ‘Be a sponge,’ inspires us to constantly soak up and share information.”
From the SMU campus, Lau is grateful for what he learned in his marketing classes, especially those taught by Judy Foxman, senior lecturer of marketing at the Cox School. Lau says she made learning fun. “She merged the classroom with the real world, providing valuable insights and experiences.”
Foxman calls Lau “a fabulous student whose marketing and communication skills were enhanced in my Honors Marketing Practicum class. When you are relating academics to a real-world project, a company knows that you will be able to hit the ground running. You earn more than a marketing degree; you acquire a level of confidence and professionalism.”
Lau serves as the co-president of SMU’s Portland alumni chapter and helps organize events for fellow Mustangs who live in the area.
He adds that SMU’s location in Dallas gave him an ideal launch pad for getting to Nike and Portland. “Dallas is strategically located so it is attractive to companies. Whether you want to work for a big company or a small company – or start your own – Dallas and SMU can provide those opportunities.”


SMU alumni honored by Cox School of Business


Olympic Medalists Michael Carter ’83 And Daughter Michelle Carter Served As Parade Grand Marshals

Olympic medalists Michael Carter ’83 and his daughter, Michelle Carter, served as grand marshals of the 2016 Homecoming Parade on Saturday, November 5.
Olympic medalists Michael Carter ’83 and his daughter, Michelle Carter, served as grand marshals of the 2016 Homecoming Parade on Saturday, November 5.

Olympic medalists Michael Carter ’83 and his daughter, Michelle Carter, led the 2016 Homecoming Parade as grand marshals.
Michael won the silver medal in the shot put in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, and 32 years later, Michelle made history by winning the gold medal in the shot put in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
A Dallas native, Michael played football for the Mustangs in 1981 and 1982. He took first place in shot put and helped SMU win the NCAA Men’s Indoor National Championship in 1983, the Mustangs’ first national title in 29 years, a feat proudly touted in the 1983 Rotunda yearbook.
He went on to play in the National Football League, spending his entire career with the San Francisco 49ers, 1984-1992. He is the only athlete to have won a silver Olympic medal and a Super Bowl XIX ring within a 12-month period. He won a total of three Super Bowl rings with the 49ers and was a three-time Pro Bowl selection.
Michelle is the first U.S. woman to win Olympic gold in the shot put. She also competed for Team USA in the Beijing and London Olympics.



SMU Needs Your Time, Talent And Energy. Volunteer Today!

Alumni, parents and friends of SMU have extraordinary opportunities to shape the life of the University as volunteers. Whether it’s sharing professional expertise, hosting a gathering for area Mustangs or encouraging prospective students to enroll, SMU volunteers not only energize connections across campus but also extend the University’s legacy of success. Here are some ways to become involved no matter where you live.

SeRVe (Student Recruitment Volunteers)

SeRVe volunteers assist with the University’s recruitment efforts in their local areas. These alumni volunteers represent SMU at local college fairs, correspond with prospective and admitted students, and attend events for prospective and admitted students. In 2015-16, 85 alumni covered 71 college fairs in 60 cities, 21 states and three countries. Nearly 200 of these Student Recruitment Volunteers also contacted 1,528 admitted students and encouraged them to enroll at SMU.
Dana Cassell ’03 of Raleigh, North Carolina and Ali Morgan ’92 of White Plains, New York enjoy sharing their perspectives on the Hilltop with prospective students in their regions.
Dana “fell in love with advertising” at SMU, earning a bachelor’s degree in the field from Meadows School of the Arts. She credits professors who taught her “how to solve business problems and challenges through creativity and strategic thinking” with helping her achieve success as the owner 37 South Consulting, a brand strategy and digital marketing firm. She represented her alma mater at the Raleigh National College Fair in Raleigh in March.

No matter where they live, alumni can support SMU as volunteers.
Whether they host a gathering for area Mustangs or share insights and information with prospective students, alumni volunteers serve as the SMU’s ambassadors around the globe.

“I spoke about the benefits of going to a private university, the diversity of degree programs offered, the study abroad opportunities and the value of being located in a city like Dallas,” she explains. “The families and I talked about how the depth of the collegiate experience at SMU strengthens character, expands horizons and delivers an incredible education.
“Most of the representatives from other universities were staff and not necessarily alumni,” she adds. “It was such an authentic platform for me to be able to talk from my own personal experience and share my SMU story.”
Ali also found his career passion at SMU, a fact he’s anxious to share with future Mustangs. He grew up in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, where he was an athlete, scholar and actor. A teacher encouraged him to consider SMU – Ali’s paternal grandparents and other family members lived in Dallas – so he made an audition tape and was accepted as a theatre major. He plunged into campus life and was active in Multicultural Student Affairs and a host of other student activities. He also continued to sharpen his skills on the intramural fields.
In the theatre department, the more classes he took, the more enamored he became of teaching.
“There wasn’t a formal theatre education program, but I was able to piece one together,” he says. “I ended up student teaching at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, where I directed a piece. It was a really awesome experience.”
Today all the interests he honed as an undergraduate converge in his position at Rye Country Day School, an independent K-12 school in Rye, New York, about an hour away from New York City. He serves as as the director of diversity and inclusion, teaches drama and coaches middle-school tennis.
When he makes calls to prospective students from New York and Connecticut, Ali is quick to point out that he discovered “the best of both worlds – theatre and education” at SMU.

SMU Connection

SMU Connection volunteers have the opportunity to provide career mentorship or advice for alumni or students and to participate in a job-shadowing externship program over winter break and in May. In 2015-16, more than 100 students were matched with alumni for externships.
Tricia Linderman ’91, executive vice president of recruiting and corporate communications at Texas Capital Bank, shared her time and expertise with psychology major Lauren Gonzalez ’16 as a volunteer with the SMU Connection externship program over winter break. An externship can help students discover job options they may not have considered, Tricia says.
“Initially, Lauren thought about going to law school, but had recently decided to pursue a role in human resources. I told her that employment law is a fascinating area where she could combine both her passions.”
For consultant Matt Samler ’04, who hosted business major Taylor Press ’18, the volunteer experience allowed him “to give back to SMU in a more personal way and help a student in the process.” Matt serves as vice president of site selection and location economics for JLL, a commercial real estate services and investment management firm. He believes the externship program is “a great way for students to expand their professional network, which will help lead to employment opportunities when they graduate.”
Spending a day on the job can be revelatory as students consider career possibilities, says Sandy Speegle Nobles ’75, director of education at the Momentous Institute, which provides educational and therapeutic services for children and families. She was shadowed by psychology and sociology major Melissa Kraft ’19.
“Knowing how we are building and repairing social and emotional health in children growing up in poverty was a good fit for what she is passionate about studying at SMU,” Sandy says. “She was able to walk away with an understanding of what we do at the intersection of education and mental health.”

Chapter Leadership and Activities

With active SMU Chapters across the globe, there are plenty of ways to connect with Mustangs in your city. Chapter leaders commit to planning and hosting at least two events per year with the support of the SMU Office of Alumni Engagement.
Laurie-Leigh Nix White ’07, senior vice president with BVA Group, a nationally recognized litigation, valuation and financial advisory firm, has served as chair of the Houston chapter since 2011.
“SMU gave me the connections I needed to land a great job, and when I moved to help start the firm’s Houston office, getting involved with the alumni chapter helped me build out a network. I’ve really enjoyed having the opportunity to meet and get to know so many great people.”
Megan ’06 and Karl Dunkelman ’05 joined the Orlando, Florida chapter when they relocated from Dallas. Megan, a public relations consultant who has worked with professional golfer Annika Sörenstam and other high-profile clients, hails from the Orlando area. Karl is a senior digital producer and production manager for Lightmaker, a global digital agency that develops websites and apps. They’ve served as chapter co-chairs since 2012.
“We loved our time at school and felt a really strong connection to SMU,” Karl says. “When we moved to Orlando, we wanted to get involved in the community and meet more people who shared that passion.”
The Mustang bond is strong, regardless of class year, he says. “Some of our older alumni aren’t able to make it back to Dallas very often, so we enjoy letting them know what’s new, and it’s interesting to hear their stories. It’s mind-blowing how much has changed and how SMU just gets better and better.”


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2016 Alumni Spring 2016

Cox School Of Business Honors Five SMU Alumni

Al Niemi, Dean of the Cox School of Business; Bryan Sheffield, BBA ’01 and 2016 SMU Cox Outstanding Young Alumnus; John Santa Maria Otazua, BBA ’79 , MBA ’81 and 2016 SMU Cox Distinguished Alumnus; Michael Merriman, BBA ’79 and 2016 SMU Cox Distinguished Alumnus; Jason Signor, MBA ’04 and 2016 SMU Cox Outstanding Young Alumnus; Billie Ida Williamson, BBA ’74 and 2016 SMU Cox Distinguished Alumna; and R. Gerald Turner, SMU President.
SMU’s Cox School of Business honored five alumni May 13. Pictured at the awards luncheon are (from left) Dean Al Niemi, Bryan Sheffield ’01, John Anthony Santa Maria Otazua ’79 , ’81, Michael Merriman ’79, Jason Signor ’04, Billie Ida Williamson ’74 and SMU President R. Gerald Turner.

The SMU Cox School of Business honored five alumni at the school’s annual Distinguished Alumni and Outstanding Young Alumni Awards Luncheon on May 13.
2016 Distinguished Alumni Honorees
Michael Merriman, BBA’79, is Chief Executive Officer of Financial Holding Corporation — FHC — a privately held financial services holding company in Kansas City, Missouri. In addition to serving on other corporate and civic boards, he is a member of the SMU Cox Executive Board. Mr. Merriman’s wife, Ellen, and their four children — Jack, Margaux, Edward and Mattie — are all SMU alumni.
John Anthony Santa Maria Otazua, BBA ’79 and MBA ’81, is the CEO of Coca-Cola FEMSA, the largest public bottler of Coca-Cola products in the world, encompassing franchise territories in 10 countries across Latin America and Asia, with over 100,000 associates operating 63 bottling plants and 327 distribution centers globally. He serves on other corporate boards and helps represent Mexico on the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Advisory Council. He and his family live in Mexico City.
Billie Ida Williamson, BBA ’74, served as a senior assurance partner and the Americas’ inclusiveness officer of Ernst & Young LLP until her retirement in 2011. She began her career at Ernst & Young in 1974 in the assurance practice. Ten years later, she became one of the firm’s first women partners. After 19 years with EY, she left to become chief financial officer of AMX Corp., led that company’s successful IPO, and became senior vice president of finance of Marriott International, Inc. In 1998, she rejoined Ernst & Young in its Center for Strategic Transactions and became a senior client-serving partner. Ms. Williamson serves on multiple corporate boards, is active on civic boards and is a member of the Cox Executive Board. Before earning a BBA in accounting in 1974, with highest honors, Ms. Williamson was SMU’s student body treasurer and Homecoming queen. She was honored by SMU with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2015.
2016 Outstanding Young Alumni Honorees
Bryan Sheffield, BBA ’01, founded Parsley Energy in 2008 and serves as chairman, president and CEO. He led the company’s growth from a two-person contract operator to a publicly-traded company with more than 200 employees and more than 800 operated wells. In May 2014, he directed Parsley’s initial public offering — the second largest E&P IPO ever — after which the company has established a track record of drilling some of the basin’s most productive wells. Last fall, he presented SMU Cox with a gift to honor his father. The new Scott Sheffield Energy Investment lab bears the name of Bryan’s dad, the chairman and CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources.
Jason Signor, MBA ’04, is a partner and CEO of Caddis Healthcare Real Estate. He began his career designing hospitals in Nashville, Tennessee, then chose to pursue graduate school at SMU Cox, where he served as president of his MBA class. In graduate school, he co-founded the still thriving Real Estate Club at Cox with a fellow graduate student who would eventually become his business partner at Caddis. Modern Healthcare magazine named Caddis the ninth largest healthcare developer in the U.S. this year.
SMU Cox Distinguished Alumni must hold an undergraduate or graduate degree from SMU, a position of distinction in the business community; demonstrate outstanding career success, be active civic leaders and community partners, and be involved with SMU and the Cox School through activities and contributions. Those recognized as SMU Cox Outstanding Young Alumni must meet the same criteria, but can be no more than 40 years of age at the time of the awards luncheon. Nominations for either honor may be sent to Kevin Knox, assistant dean of external relations and executive director of the SMU Cox Alumni Association, at

2016 Alumni Spring 2016

SMU Alumna Michelle Merrill ’06, ’12 Receives Solti Foundation Award

Michelle Merrill ’06, ’12, assistant conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, is among 11 recipients of 2016 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Awards for young conductors with promising careers.

Michelle Merrill ’06, ’12, assistant conductor, Detroit Symphony
Michelle Merrill ’06, ’12, assistant conductor, Detroit Symphony

“The mission of the Solti Foundation U.S. is to identify, support and promote emerging young American conductors as they launch their classical careers,” says Penny Van Horn, U.S. board chair. “We nurture relationships with all our recipients, tracking their progress and offering support when it is merited. We also provide continuing support not only in the form of grants but in valuable access to mentors, door opening introductions and opera residencies.”
Merrill is in her second season as assistant conductor and Phillip and Lauren Fisher Community Ambassador of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. She was recently named one of Hour Detroit Magazine’s “3 Cultural Organization Leaders to Watch” and made her classical subscription debut with the Detroit Symphony in April 2016.
Recent and upcoming engagements include the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, Toledo Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, Symphoria (Syracuse), Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera, Boise Philharmonic, Orlando Philharmonic, New Music Detroit, St. Augustine Music Festival and Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, where she formerly served as assistant conductor.
In March 2014, Merrill stepped in on short notice with the Meadows Symphony Orchestra for its performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 4, named a Top 10 Classical Performances of 2014 by The Dallas Morning News. In 2013, she was awarded the prestigious Ansbacher Conducting Fellowship by members of the Vienna Philharmonic and the American Austrian Foundation. A strong advocate of new music, she recently collaborated with composer Gabriela Lena Frank and soprano Jessica Rivera on Frank’s La Centinela y la Paloma (The Keeper and the Dove), as a part of numerous community programs related to the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
A Dallas native, Merrill studied conducting at SMU with Paul C. Phillips, professor of music, Martha Raley Peak Endowed Centennial Chair and director of orchestral activities in Meadows School of the Arts. She earned bachelor’s degrees in music education and saxophone performance in 2006 and master’s degrees in orchestral conducting and music education in 2012.
The Solti Foundation U.S. was established in honor of Sir Georg Solti, internationally renowned orchestral and operatic conductor, by his family following his death in 1997. Over the past 12 years, the foundation has granted 46 career assistance awards to “young, exceptionally talented American musicians at the start of their professional careers,” according to Valerie Solti, honorary board chair.


SMU Alumni Connect With Alternative Breaks, March 6-12

SMU alumni gave a helping hadn to student volunteers participating in the University’s Alternative Breaks (AB) program, March 6-12. Over spring break, eight teams of nine students and a faculty/staff advisor fanned out across the globe to supply hands-on service to established nonprofits that are aiding those in need and improving their communities.

Students volunteers serve with nonprofits in the United States and abroad over spring break through SMU's Alternative Breaks program. Last year, this group of students helped a New York City organization prepare meals for delivery to seriously ill people. SMU alumni are invited to
Student volunteers serve with nonprofits in the United States and abroad over spring break through SMU’s Alternative Breaks program. Last year, this group of students helped a New York City organization prepare meals for delivery to seriously ill people. Mustang alumni are invited to connect with SMU teams visiting their cities over spring break, March 6-12.

Teams worked in several cities with active SMU Alumni chapters, including Atlanta, New Orleans, New York City, St. Louis and Taos, as well as the greater Philadelphia area.
Through the SMU Connection program, the Office of Alumni Engagement collaborates with Alternative Breaks and other partners across campus to provide opportunities for alumni to connect with current students.
Here are some ways Mustangs assisted the AB teams:

  • Supply meals or snacks/desserts. Students are on a tight budget, so evening meals and treats are greatly appreciated.
  • Serve as a “city consultant” by offering insider tips on fun freebies, things to do and places to go on the cheap, and other information about your area.
  • Share your expertise as a guest speaker, if you have professional or volunteer experience related to the AB service project in your city.

Alternative Breaks projects in the chapter cities included:
Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta Community Food Bank operates a product rescue center, grocery, mobile pantry and community garden.
Kimberton, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia area)
Camphill Village is a dynamic farming, gardening and handcrafting intentional community that includes adults with developmental disabilities.
New Orleans, Louisiana
St. Bernard Project engages youth in rebuilding distressed and foreclosed homes to stabilize neighborhoods still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
New York City, New York
God’s Love We Deliver delivers nourishing meals to those with cancer, HIV/AIDS and other serious illnesses.
St. Louis, Missouri
Saint Louis Crisis Nursery provides help and a safe haven for abused and neglected children.
Taos, New Mexico
Roots and Wings Community School fosters academic excellence by connecting its diverse student population with the unique agricultural, linguistic and cultural heritage of Northern New Mexico.
If you know how you would like to get involved, or you need more information, email the Office of Alumni Engagement at



Jennifer Burr Altabef ’78, ’81: ‘Scholarships changed my life’

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.

Jennifer Burr Altabef (left) with Meadows Scholar Gabrielle Bear ’17 at a luncheon honoring donors of student scholarships and support as part of SMU's centennial commemoration on November 17.
Jennifer Burr Altabef (left) with Meadows Scholar Gabrielle Bear ’17 at a luncheon on November 17 honoring donors of student scholarships and support as part of SMU’s centennial commemoration.

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.”


Will Wallace ’89 Follows His Heart To Hollywood

Almost two decades ago, SMU alumnus Will Wallace’s career took a sharp turn from practicing law to making movies. After landing a one-line role in a major motion picture, the attorney was hooked on acting. Today Wallace, a 1989 graduate of SMU, is a Hollywood veteran, with more than 50 films and television programs to his credit.

Will Wallace '89 (left) with actors Glen Powell (center) and Bill Paxton on the set of Red Wing.
Will Wallace ’89 (left) with actors Glen Powell (center) and Bill Paxton on the set of Red Wing.

His most recent release is the movie Red Wing. He produced and directed the love story adapted from the French novella François le Champi by Georges Sand. Transported to present-day, small-town Texas, Red Wing follows the journey of a troubled boy into manhood. It stars a host of well-known actors, including Luke Perry, Bill Paxton and Frances Fisher. Wallace also has an on-screen role.
Red Wing is a new take on a love story with a twist to boot,” he says.
While filming near Dallas, he welcomed several Mustang visitors: “My old friend Dave Blewett ’89, stopped by, and Joel Pechauer, an ’88 grad, came to the set. His young daughter, Porter, makes an appearance in the film.”
Red Wing has been released by Warner Bros. Digital and is currently available “On Demand” in more than 100 million homes through most major cable and satellite providers, including Dish Network, Time Warner Cable, AT&T Uverse and Verizon. It also can be streamed or downloaded through multiple sources, including Amazon, Google Play, Hulu and iTunes.
Wallace is now working on a new movie with a timely theme, human trafficking. It is also set in Texas.
In addition to his work on films, he is an acting teacher. He and wife Sara, a casting director, operate the Will Wallace Acting Company in Los Angeles. They provide training for actors at all levels in areas such as improvisation and on-camera technique.
“Almost all Red Wing cast members are acting students of mine,” he says. “It is fun to be part of their journey.”
Fellow Mustang Dave Blewett '89 (right) visited Will Wallace '89 on the Red Wing set.
Fellow Mustang Dave Blewett ’89 (right) visited Will Wallace ’89 on the Red Wing set.

Surprisingly, Wallace was not interested in acting while a University student. “I really enjoyed math, and here I am an artist,” Wallace jokes.
At SMU, where he was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, his favorite classes were all math-based, including accounting and statistics. He served as president of Alpha Kappa Psi and received a B.B.A. in the Cox School of Business.
He went on to earn a J.D. from Mississippi College School of Law and an LL.M. from the University of the Pacific.
In the late 1990s, while practicing law in Spain, the urge to make a change hit.
“I was in Barcelona, sitting at my office desk, wondering why I was doing something I didn’t enjoy,” he recalls. “I decided to take a job with a firm in Dallas and just take a stab at acting. I was able to convince an agency to represent me, and they were able to get me an audition for a small part in the sequel to Terms of Endearment called The Evening Star. It was only one line, acting opposite Shirley MacLaine, but I got the part and was hooked.”
Fast-forward to the present day, and the father of four young sons boasts an impressive film résumé that includes 25 producing and nine directing credits.
Wallace says his SMU education was “immensely helpful” while carving out a successful career in a competitive industry.
“Having a business background helps with owning an acting school in Hollywood,” he says. “SMU also prepared me for law school and graduate law which, in turn, now proves incredibly helpful for contract work as a film producer and director.”
He offers this advice to SMU students: “It might sound cliché, but follow your heart. I was late in my career when I chose to truly follow my heart.”
– By Leah Johnson ’15


Brooks McCorcle ’82: Catching Up With A Fast-moving Innovator

AT&T executive Brooks McCorcle ’82 specializes in “breaking glass,” and in the spring, she invited a group from SMU to join her.
“‘Breaking glass’ is looking at new and different ways to do things,” says McCorcle, president of Emerging Business Markets, a startup within AT&T that is responsible for identifying and rapidly launching innovative solutions to drive value and growth in AT&T Business Solutions.

Brooks McCorcle ’82

Approximately 30 students and several members of the SMU leadership team and alumni joined McCorcle for a “Hack-a-Pitch” and “Barnstorm”– sobriquets that capture the lightning pace and freewheeling spirit of the brainstorming event.
Emerging Business Markets, co-located at the AT&T Foundry® innovation center, in Plano served as the setting for the collaborative exercise centered on finding new opportunities for the company to work with SMU to improve and enhance the campus experience. The group first broke into small teams to exchange ideas and formulate proposals. They later regrouped for a pitch session.
“We set up a little bit of framework, then let them go after it,” McCorcle explains. “I was really impressed by the students’ creativity and their poise and confidence when they presented their ideas to the group.”
>See video of SMU students participating in the Hack-a-Pitch learning experience
As a result, AT&T prepared a proposal of 30 ideas generated from the session that were shared with SMU leadership. They touch on many aspects of student life including the application process, on-campus living and job recruitment.
McCorcle recently followed up with University leaders to discuss possible next steps, including potential app development.
The unbounded intellectual workout that McCorcle facilitated is the type of activity she would have relished as an SMU student. She earned a B.B.A. in the Cox School of Business and explored other interests through minors in economics and women’s studies in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.
While she enjoyed “great relationships with many of my professors,” McCorcle says Ann Early stands out in her memory. Early taught for many years and was instrumental in introducing the study of women to the SMU curriculum in the 1960s. She directed SMU’s Women’s Studies Program when McCorcle was a student. Today, the Ann Early Award is given each year to a Women’s and Gender Studies minor in recognition of academic achievement in the minor and service to the program.
“She was not only brilliant, thoughtful and courageous as she forged new ground in academia, but she was an incredibly authentic person,” McCorcle says. “She pushed you to your limits and truly wanted to know and understand your point of view. From her I learned how to articulate your viewpoint as a headline supported by proof points. I still do that today.
“She made a huge impact on me, showing me what the possibilities for women were. I have modeled many of my leadership characteristics on her,” she adds. “I try to be as authentic and inspiring as she was, to welcome a diversity of views, to be an advocate. And, I invite my team to my home. I learned that from her. She invited her students to her home, and it was such a meaningful way to show that she cared about us as people. It really forged a relationship of trust.”
McCorcle honed leadership skills through various roles with student organizations. A member of Pi Beta Phi sorority, she served as Panhellenic rush chair. As a member of the Program Council, she welcomed such luminaries as actor Vincent Price to the Hilltop. She also participated on the student judiciary committee.
For her contributions to the SMU community, she received the “M” Award, the University’s highest commendation for students, faculty, staff and administrators.
McCorcle went on to earn an M.B.A. from the Olin Business School at Washington University.
Over her 24-year tenure with AT&T and its predecessor companies, she has held positions in Mergers & Acquisitions and Finance, and executive positions in Consumer Marketing, Customer Care and Sales.
She has earned numerous professional awards. In 2012, she was listed among the “Top 30 Women in Finance” by Treasury & Risk magazine and was named the “#1 Investor Relations Professional in the Telecom Industry” by Institutional Investor magazine for 2011. The Dallas Business Journal recently honored her in the 2014 “Women in Business” awards program that recognizes outstanding local women business leaders who not only are making a difference in their industries, but also in their communities.
For her work in the community with Friends of the Dallas Public Library and other organizations, she received the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
While discussing her accomplishments, McCorcle circles back to SMU.
“SMU does a great job of preparing you to succeed out of the gate,” she says. “You leave with the academic foundation and confidence you need to be successful in your first job. And the valuable lessons you take with you and apply immediately are those you will use and refine over the course of your career.”
– Patricia Ward


Meet Clint Carmichael ’10: Chicago Alumni Chapter President

Clint Carmichael '10, president of the SMU Alumni Chapter in Chicago
Clint Carmichael ’10, president of the SMU Alumni Chapter in Chicago

Clint Carmichael ’10 recalls his years at SMU as “an incredible and meaningful experience.” Those great memories have motivated him to stay connected to his alma mater as an active member of SMU Alumni in Chicago, where he now serves as chapter president.
Carmichael, who grew up in Tuscaloosa, AL, earned a degree in finance from the Cox School of Business before launching his career. He’s currently an associate at Glencoe/Stockwell Capital and is pursuing Chartered Financial Analyst certification.
“Glencoe Capital is a private equity firm that acquires lower-middle market companies. Stockwell Capital is owned by Glencoe and does private equity co-investment,” he explains. “I conduct financial analyses on potential buyout opportunities for Glencoe and monitor the financial performance of the companies in which Stockwell has invested.”
Despite his hectic schedule, he makes sure to carve out time for chapter events. Coming up in Chicago are a Campaign Celebration for alumni, parents and friends October 9, and the Stampede of Service October 19, when alumni will volunteer at the Chicago Park District’s Northerly Island Adventure Day.
Carmichael recently shared some of his favorite Mustang moments and thoughts about his student experience with SMU Magazine:
A favorite SMU memory?
Freshman year tailgate for the SMU/UAB game on Halloween. My roommate and I made some funny costumes and were matched by many other great outfits on the Boulevard before the game. SMU also won, which is a plus.
A favorite SMU class and/or professor and why?
I have to name two professors. First, Mark Frost, my micro- and macroeconomics teacher. I am sure every college has a few professors who boast about the difficulty of their class on the first day and recommend dropping it to those looking for an easy B. Frost wasn’t boasting; he was giving away valuable advice. For the first test, I studied for 12 hours and got a 32 (out of 115). I was disheartened, but I decided to stay in the class. Frost had an unorthodox way of looking at the world; he stretched the class to see different perspectives and somehow related economics in an effective way. I looked forward to every lecture and encouraged a few of my friends to sit in on some of them. My test grades improved, and I passed both micro- and macroeconomics with an A, a new way of thinking, and a solid grasp of the subjects. I continue to be fascinated with economics, and I give Mark Frost much of the credit.
The second is Ashley O’Neill, my Rhetoric 1 and 2 teacher. I was a terrible writer when I entered college. Terrible. She was a skilled teacher and broke down writing into fundamentals that even I could understand. She also put in many extra office hours with me and brought my writing skills up to a manageable standard. Thanks to SMU for making rhetoric a mandatory class. I can now craft Shakespearean two-line emails.
How did your SMU education prepared you for your career?
Very well. The Cox School of Business gave me a well-rounded basis for different aspects of business; my psychology minor expanded my knowledge in a subject in which I was very interested; and the liberal arts requirements forced me to take interesting classes I would not have otherwise chosen. SMU also does a good job of connecting students with alumni for job opportunities.


SMU Alumnus Helps Improve Economic Opportunities In Costa Rica

SMU alumnus Jonathan “Jonás” Lane ’09 calls his three years in the Peace Corps “an internship in life itself.”

Jonathan Lane (left) with children showing off their artwork created in conjunction with a river clean-up project.
Jonathan Lane (left) with children showing off their artwork created in conjunction with a river clean-up project.

Lane, who graduated from the Cox School of Business with a degree in finance, serves as a volunteer leader for community economic development in San José, Costa Rica. He says the Peace Corps may not be for everyone, but in his experience, it definitely lives up to its reputation as “the toughest job you’ll ever love.”
“If you are prepared for a challenge that is as personal as it is professional, and as globally meaningful as it is personally enriching, then brace yourself,” he says. “This is as real as it gets, in the best possible way, and I am assuredly all the better for it.”
His role in the Peace Corp’s central office in the capital city encompasses training, technical support, project strategy development and a multitude of other services for volunteers in the field.
In the previous two years, while fulfilling his regular term of service, Lane put his business and finance background to work as an economic development facilitator in a community of 4,800 people located almost two hours south of San José.
“I worked primarily on three tiers of economic development: first, preparing a qualified labor force and teaching skills to improve employability; second, stimulating entrepreneurship and better business practices; and finally, fomenting the development of and offering organizational consulting to economic associations and institutions, as well as national enterprise networking opportunities.”
A Peace Corps posting in Costa Rica has provided Jonathan Lane with an opportunity to travel in Central and South America. Here he is on a visit to Lake Nicaragua's Ometepe Island.
A Peace Corps posting in Costa Rica has provided Jonathan Lane with an opportunity to travel in Central and South America. Here he is on a visit to Lake Nicaragua’s Ometepe Island.

Under his guidance, the community formed a Chamber of Commerce and Tourism; created a community-owned and -operated Community Credit Union and a rural tourism cooperative; and organized a National Rural Tourism Symposium that included some 11 communities from across Costa Rica. He also served as an organizational and commercial development consultant for a women’s artisan group.
When his initial Peace Corps stint ended in December 2012, Lane signed up for an extra year, which has been extended to June 2014. “To be honest, I couldn’t be happier,” he says.
Lane’s path to service in Central America started at SMU.
While an undergraduate, he was a man for all seasons: a President’s Scholar, manager of the men’s swimming and diving teamStudent Senate Chief of Staff, a member of Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) fraternity and a Hilltop Ambassador and campus tour guide, to name just a few of his affiliations and activities.
He spent the summer of 2007 at SMU-in-Oxford followed by a semester of study with SMU-in-Spain and a semester with SMU-in-Australia, opportunities that had a game-changing impact on his future. He credits a host of SMU staff and faculty supporters with helping him find the ideal intersection of his desire to use his academic foundation in a consequential way with living abroad and two mentors, in particular, for steering him toward the Peace Corps.
“When I was considering post-graduation options, Dr. Tom Tunks [professor of music], who was an assistant provost and director of the President’s Scholars at the time, told me a great deal about his experience serving in the Peace Corps with his wife in Colombia in the 1960s,” he recalls. “And, Susan Kress [director of Engaged Learning], then the director of SMU Abroad, talked to me about her service as a volunteer in Malaysia.
“While they both helped me distill my vision for my future ­– professionally, personally, spiritually – ­it was their strength of character, their emotional maturity and their global perspective that truly convinced me that the path to international service in the Peace Corps was exactly what I needed to fill the hole left by my profound experiences of living and studying abroad.”
– Patricia Ward