Honorary Degrees

Virginia Savage McAlester

Preservationist Virginia Savage McAlester is best known nationally for her magisterial 1984 book, A Field Guide to American Houses, celebrated by the American Library Association and the National Trust for Historic Preservation as the standard reference on American residential architecture across all eras and regions. Her other books include Great American Houses and Their Architectural Styles; A Field Guide to America’s Historic Neighborhoods and Museum Houses: The Western States; and Homes of Park Cities, Dallas: Great American Suburbs.

She has a deeply historical sense of place. Her ancestors were among Dallas’ first settlers and her father was mayor of Dallas. As a young woman, she became concerned about the material and spiritual loss of established communities as Dallas pushed north. McAlester was a founder of the Historic Preservation League, now Preservation Dallas. It has helped designate and sustain more than 4,000 local landmarks. It is a model adopted by many cities for historic preservation.

In 1984, she created the advocacy group Friends of Fair Park, which successfully petitioned to protect and preserve the permanent buildings in Fair Park, site of the 1936 Texas Centennial, now home to the State Fair of Texas and a broad range of museums and cultural venues. Her many awards include receiving a key to the city of Dallas in 2014, an AIA honorary membership and a Friends of Fair Park Spirit of the Centennial Award in 2017.

For her life of dedication to preserving our common past, Southern Methodist University is honored to confer the degree of Doctor of Arts, honoris causa.


Hamdi Ulukaya


Hamdi Ulukaya is founder, chair and CEO of Chobani, one of the fastest-growing food companies in the last decade and a pioneer in the natural food movement.


Raised in a Kurdish dairy-farming family in a small village in eastern Turkey, Ulukaya launched Chobani in 2007 in the United States with the mission and vision of making better food more accessible. In less than five years, Chobani became the best-selling Greek yogurt brand in the U.S. with more than $1 billion in annual sales. He implemented a profit-sharing program in 2016 with 2000 Chobani employees in New York and Idaho.


As a humanitarian, Ulukaya founded the Tent Partnership for Refugees to mobilize the private sector to improve the lives and livelihoods of refugees around the globe. He signed its Giving Pledge and committed the majority of his personal wealth to this cause. For these efforts, he received the 2015 United Nations Foundation Global Leadership Award and was named an eminent advocate in 2016 by the United Nations Refugee Agency, among other recognitions. In 2017, TIME magazine named Ulukaya one of its 100 Most Influential People.


Ulukaya serves on the board of the Pathfinder Village and the American Turkish Council. Most recently, Ulukaya became a member of the B Team, a collective of global leaders working to inspire dialogue and business action for a fairer, greener and more human economy.  


For his work as a humanitarian and as an inspiring global leader, Southern Methodist University is honored to confer the Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.