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December Commencement Speakers

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Year Speaker Photo Speech Video

2018

Robert H. Dedman, Jr, Chair, SMU Board of Trustees (biography)

Robert H. Dedman, Jr. ’80, ’84, is president and CEO of DFI Management, Ltd., and the general partner of Putterboy, Ltd., the owner of the Pinehurst Resort and Country Club in North Carolina. He is chair of the SMU Board of Trustees.

Dedman received a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Texas at Austin before earning two degrees from SMU – an M.B.A. with highest honors and a J.D. cum laude.

After working on Wall Street with Salomon Brothers, Dedman went on to a successful career at ClubCorp, a leading operator of golf courses, private clubs and resorts. Starting as director of corporate planning, he quickly rose through the ranks and was named president in 1989, CEO in 1998 and chairman of ClubCorp in 2002. Four years later, he sold the company.

At SMU, Dedman is continuing the historic leadership and vision of his parents, Nancy Dedman ’50 and the late Robert H. Dedman, Sr. ’53 LLM, who served on the SMU Board of Trustees from 1976 to 2002 and as its chair from 1992 to 1996. Their major gifts to SMU have had a sweeping impact, including in the areas of humanities and sciences, law and lifetime sports.

Dedman began his term as Board chair in June 2018 after serving as vice-chair and chair-elect. He was elected to the Board in 2004 and since 1990 has served in numerous SMU committee and board leadership roles. He currently is a member of the Board’s Special Committee on Development, the Pony Power Leadership Committee and the Tate Lecture Series Board. He also serves on the Dedman College Executive Board and the Dedman School of Law Executive Board. He previously chaired the Dedman School of Law Executive Board and 21st Century Council, an advisory organization to the SMU president.

A philanthropic and civic leader, Dedman also sits on the Southwestern Medical Foundation Board, the UT Southwestern President’s Advisory Board and the UT Austin Development Board. He is past chair of the Texas Business Hall of Fame.

Dedman wrote and published Our Star Service Journey in 1998 and compiled two anthologies of quotes, Thoughts on a Purposeful Life and A Journey of Life.

He and his wife, Rachael Redeker Dedman, and their two children reside in Dallas.


2017

Kenneth A. Hersh, President and Chief Executive Officer of the George W. Bush Presidential Center (biography)

Kenneth A. Hersh is President and Chief Executive Officer of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, a Dallas-based non-partisan institution, which houses the George W. Bush Library and Museum and the George W. Bush Institute. The Bush Center’s mission is to engage communities in the U.S. and around the world by developing leaders, advancing policy, and taking action to solve today's most pressing challenges. Under Hersh's leadership, the Bush Center focuses its efforts on domestic excellence and global leadership initiatives.

He also serves as co-founder and advisory partner of NGP Energy Capital Management where he assists with the strategic direction of the firm. NGP is a premier private equity investment franchise in the natural resources industry, managing over $17 billion of cumulative committed capital since its inception in 1988. Mr. Hersh served as NGP’s chief executive officer until 2015. From 1988-2015, under his leadership NGP invested over $10 billion, and achieved a 27-year gross IRR of 30% (net IRR of 19%), making it one of the nation's leading investment firms during that period.

Mr. Hersh currently serves as a senior advisor and as the deputy chief investment officer for The Carlyle Group's natural resources division and sits on the board of the Texas Rangers Baseball Club. In addition, Mr. Hersh serves on the Board of Overseers of the Hoover Institution, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the National Council of the American Enterprise Institute, the Dallas Citizens Council, and the World Economic Forum. He also sits on the Dean’s Council of the Harvard Kennedy School. Mr. Hersh served on the Advisory Council of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business from 2009-2015. In 2014, he was recognized as Master Entrepreneur of the Year for the Southwest Region by Ernst & Young during its Entrepreneur of the Year program, and in 2017 received the Oil & Gas Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mr. Hersh has also been very involved in the nonprofit arena both nationally and locally on a personal basis and also through the efforts of The Hersh Foundation, his family’s private foundation. He serves on the boards of the Communities Foundation of Texas, Baylor Health Care System Foundation, and the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues. From 1998-2015, Mr. Hersh served on the board of St. Mark’s School of Texas, where he held numerous positions including president from 2010-2012. In 2015, Mr. Hersh received the St. Mark's School of Texas Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Prior to co-founding NGP, Mr. Hersh was employed by Morgan Stanley & Co., where he was a member of the firm’s energy group specializing in oil and gas financing and merger and acquisition transactions.

Mr. Hersh was born and raised in Dallas. After graduating from St. Mark’s, he attended Princeton University, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1985 with a degree in political science. In 1989, Mr. Hersh earned his M.B.A. from Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, where he graduated as an Arjay Miller Scholar. Mr. Hersh and his wife, Julie, reside in Dallas.


2016

David O. Brown, Dallas Police Chief, retired (biography)

David O. Brown is a Dallas native and retired Dallas police chief. A 33-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, Brown joined the department as a police officer in 1983. Before taking over as chief, he served as first assistant police chief and as interim Dallas assistant city manager. He was sworn in as Dallas’ 28th police chief in May 2010 and retired in October 2016. He is known for building and maintaining strong, transparent relationships with the community. During his tenure, Brown transitioned the department to a community policing-focused organization and implemented policies and training to ensure citizen and officer safety. He also expanded several community outreach programs and youth centered programs. Under Brown’s leadership, the Dallas Police Department reduced the use of deadly force by more than 40 percent and reduced excessive force complaints by more than 80 percent. He gained national attention for his handling of a gunman’s July 2016 ambush of five police officers who died working to protect participants in a downtown Dallas protest march. Brown holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in business administration. He is a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy, FBI National Executive Institute, Senior Management Institute for Police, the National Counter-Terrorism Seminar in Tel Aviv, Israel, and the United States Secret Service Dignitary Protection Seminar in Washington, D.C. Chief Brown also holds Master Peace Officer and Police Instructor certifications from the State of Texas. Brown will join ABC News as a contributor in January 2017. In March 2017 he will receive the J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award from SMU’s Maguire Center for Ethics.

2015

Michael M. Boone, Chair, SMU Board of Trustees (biography)

Michael M. Boone ’63, ’67 is a distinguished lawyer, community leader and dedicated SMU alumnus. He earned two degrees from SMU – a B.B.A. from Cox School of Business and a J.D. from Dedman School of Law. He is a co-founder and member of the Board of Directors of the national law firm of Haynes and Boone, one of the nation’s largest and most respected law firms. Boone was selected as one of the 25 greatest Texas lawyers of the past quarter-century and named by Texas Lawyer magazine as a “Go-To-Lawyer” in Texas for corporate and business law. Texas Monthly and Law and Politics Magazine named him a Top 10 Super Lawyer. A member of the SMU Board of Trustees since 1996, he became board chair in 2014. He has served as vice chair for SMU’s Second Century Celebration Organizing Committee and as a member of the Leadership Council for The Second Century Campaign, which reached its $1 billion goal ahead of schedule in September 2015. He serves on the executive boards of Dedman College and Dedman School of Law and formerly was an adjunct professor of the law school. He has received Distinguished Alumni Awards from SMU, the Dedman School of Law and the Cox School of Business, and the J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award from SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility. Boone has served his community in numerous roles, including as president of the Highland Park School Board and chair of the Dallas Citizens Council.

2014

Gerald J. Ford, SMU Board of Trustees (biography)

Gerald J. Ford is one of the most innovative and successful business leaders in the nation. He is the chair of the board and principal shareholder of both the Diamond A For Corporation and Hilltop Holdings Inc., a Texas-based diversified financial holding company. He also is the co-managing member and principal investor in Ford Financial Fund II, LP, a private equity firm. In addition, he is an owner of thoroughbred horse breeding and racing operations in Kentucky and California and a working ranch in New Mexico.

Ford earned two degrees from SMU - a B.A. in economics from Dedman College in 1966 and a J.D. from Dedman School of Law in 1969. A member of the SMU Board of Trustees since 1992, he served as board chair from 2002 to 2006. He is convening co-chair of the Campaign Leadership Council for SMU's Second Century Campaign. He is a member of the Executive Board of Dedman School of Law and a past member of the executive boards of SMU's Cox School of Business and Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and the Board of Directors of the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies.

Ford has provided generous support his alma mater. His philanthropy has included lead gifts for the Gerald J. Ford Stadium and the new Gerald J. Ford Research Center soon to be constructed. He also advances faculty achievement through the Ford Research Fellows Program. He is a lead supporter of the Circle of Champions Centennial Challenge. He was honored in 1995 with SMU's Distinguished Alumni Award and in 2002 with the Distinguished Alumni Award of Dedman School of Law. In 1997 he received the Mustang Award recognizing extraordinary philanthropic contributions to the University.

An active community leader, Ford is an honorary trustee of Southwestern Medical Foundation, a former director of the Children's Medical Foundation and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Dallas and a former member of the Dallas Citizens Council. Beyond Dallas, he serves on the Board of Overseers of Cornell University's Weill Medical College.

2013

Ray L. Hunt, SMU Board of Trustees (biography)

Ray L. Hunt has served his profession, his university, and his community with dedication and distinction. A leader in the global energy industry, he currently is chair, president and CEO of Hunt Consolidated Inc. and chair of Hunt Consolidated Energy and Hunt Consolidated Investments.

Hunt graduated from SMU in 1965 with a B.A. in economics. He was a University Scholar and received the Outstanding Business Student Award. Through the years, Hunt has provided visionary leadership and generous support for his alma mater. A member of the SMU Board of Trustees since 1976, he was board chair from 1987 to 1992. He currently serves as co-chair of SMU's Second Century Campaign and on the Advisory Board of the Maguire Energy Institute. His past leadership positions include president of the Alumni Association and member of the President's Leadership Council and boards of Cox School of Business, Meadows School of the Arts and Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility. His support for SMU includes establishing the Hunt Leadership Scholars program with his wife, Nancy Ann, in 1993.

Hunt was a member of the steering committee that directed SMU's successful bid for the George W. Bush Presidential Center. He currently serves on the Board of Advisors of the Bush Institute and as a member of the Bush Presidential Foundation. His civic leadership has included service as chair of the Dallas Citizens Council, North Texas Commission and Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

SMU has honored Hunt with its Distinguished Alumni Award and the Cox School of Business Distinguished Alumni Award. Ray and Nancy Ann Hunt together received SMU's Foundation for the Future Award and the J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award of SMU's Maguire Ethics Center. Hunt has been inducted into the Dallas and Texas Business Halls of Fame and received the Distinguished Business Leader Award from the Texas Association of Business. Among his civic awards are the Linz Award from The Dallas Morning News, the H. Neil Mallon Award from the Dallas Council on World Affairs and the Sprague Community Service Award from the Southwestern Medical Foundation. His professional honors include the American Petroleum Institute Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement, Lifetime Achievement Award from the North Texas Energy Council and Public Service Award from the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

2012

Caren H. Prothro, Chair, SMU Board of Trustees (biography)

Caren Prothro has provided leadership and support for civic initiatives contributing to Dallas' rise as an international center for business and culture, including SMU;s growth as a global educational and research institution.

Mrs. Prothro has served as chair of the SMU Board of Trustees since 2010. She has been a member of the Board since 1992 and served as vice chair from 1996-2000. She serves as a co-chair of SMU's Second Century Campaign and its Campaign Leadership Council. Mrs. Prothro also is a longtime civic leader who helped spearhead the development of the Dallas Arts District and has served on the boards of numerous arts and philanthropic organizations as well as corporations. She was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve on the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

During her tenure as SMU Board chair, Mrs. Prothro has emphasized the importance of reaching the University's stated goal of having 100 endowed faculty positions and attracting nationally recognized experts to enhance SMU's reputation as a center for research and scholarship. She also has focused on drawing increased funding for merit-based scholarships that enable SMU to draw top students nationally and gaining support for major campus enhancements.

Mrs. Prothro, along with her late husband, C. Vincent (Vin) Prothro, has been a generous donor to SMU, supporting the Department of Biological Sciences of the Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, the Perkins School of Theology and Meadows School of the Arts. She and her husband continued a long-standing tradition of SMU support from the Perkins-Prothro family of Wichita Falls. That tradition includes Mr. Prothro's parents, Charles and Elizabeth Perkins Prothro, and his grandparents, Joe and Lois Perkins, who endowed the SMU theology school in the early 1940s and funded six buildings for the school, including Perkins Chapel.

Mrs. Prothro's community leadership positions include having served for nine years as vice chair of the AT&T Performing Arts Center Board of Directors and as a past chair of the Center's Development Committee. She also serves on the boards of the Dallas Salvation Army and the Hoblitzelle Foundation. She has served on the boards of the Dallas Museum of Art, J.P. Morgan-Chase Bank of Texas, the Visiting Nurse Association, the YWCA and the YMCA, and as chair of the Dallas Foundation Board.

Mrs. Prothro, a graduate of Mills College, has been honored for her leadership with numerous awards, including the Robert Dedman Award for Philanthropy, the Ruth Sharp Altshuler presented by the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center, the Linz Award for community service, the Erik J. Johnson Ethics Award, the TACA Neiman Marcus Silver Cup Award, the Annette G. Strauss Humanitarian Award and the William B. Travis State of Texas Award for Volunteerism.

2011

Carl Sewell, SMU Board of Trustees (biography)

A 1966 graduate of SMU, Mr. Sewell earned Bachelor's degrees in banking and finance, as well as economics. He is the chairman of Sewell Automotive Companies, a national leader in the automotive industry and an innovator in establishing customer service standards. He shared his service philosophy in the best-selling book Customers for Life , which has sold more than one million copies in 17 languages.

Mr. Sewell joined the SMU Board of Trustees in 1996 and served as board chair from 2006-2010 and as vice chair from 2004-2006. He has served on numerous University boards and committees, and currently is serving on Trustee standing committees for Academic Policy, Planning and Management; Athletics; Compensation; Development and External Affairs; Executive; and Trusteeship; as well as the Real Estate Ad Hoc Committee and the Presidential Library Special Advisory Commitee. Mr. Sewell is a former executive board member for the Hegi Family Career Development Center, the John G. Tower Center for Political Studies, the Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series and all of the SMU schools.

Through his leadership and philanthropy, Mr. Sewell has been an advocate for increased funding of merit scholarships and programs to serve the needs of high-achieving students. As a result, SMU has raised increased funds for scholarships, SAT scores of entering students have risen dramatically, the number of students applying to SMU has nearly tripled, and SMU's academic ranking has risen to the top quarter of national universities.

Mr. Sewell serves as one of five co-chairs leading the Second Century Campaign, the University's largest and most successful fundraising effort. To date it has raised more than $560 million towards toward its $750 million goal. He also is co-chair of the Second Century Celebration Organizing Committee, 2011-15. His support of the President's Scholars program, the University's highest merit award, has resulted in record numbers of students receiving the scholarships. He also supports SMU athletics and student career services, among other areas.

Mr. Sewell has been recognized with SMU's Distinguished Alumni Award and the Cox School of Business Distinguished Alumni Award, as well as awards from Dallas civic organizations.

In addition to national councils in the automotive industry, Mr. Sewell has served on numerous local boards, including the Dallas Chamber of Commerce, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, United National Bank and the Neiman Marcus Group. He is a past president of the Board of Trustees at St. Mark's School of Texas and serves on the boards of the State Fair of Texas and the Southwestern Medical Foundation.

Mr. Sewell and his wife, Peggy '72 reside in Dallas. They have two grown children, Jacquelin Sewell Taylor '07 and J. Carl Sewell III '07, who earned Master's degrees in management from Cox School of Business. Mr. Sewell's son-in-law, Phillip M. Taylor '11, earned an MBA from the Cox School of Business.

2010

Paul W. Ludden, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs of the University

2009

Alan C. Lowe, Director of the George W. Bush Presidential Library

2008

R. Gerald Turner, President of the University

2007

Paul W. Ludden, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs of the University

2006

Albert W. Niemi, Jr., Dean of the Cox School of Business, 2:30 p.m. Ceremony

2006

Geoffrey C. Orsak, Dean of the School of Engineering, 5 p.m. Ceremony

2006

Caroline Brettell, Dean ad interim of Dedman College, 7:30 p.m. Ceremony

2005

Robert Blocker, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs of the University

2004

R. Gerald Turner, President of the University

2003

Ross C. Murfin, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs of the University

2002

R. Gerald Turner, President of the University

2001

R. Gerald Turner, President of the University

2000

Ross C. Murfin, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs of the University

Future Ceremony Dates

Opening Convocation
Sunday, August 25, 2019
McFarlin Auditorium
5:30 p.m.

December Rotunda Recessional
Friday, December 20, 2019
5:00 p.m.

December Commencement Convocation
Saturday, December 21, 2019
Moody Coliseum