Honorary Degree

Anita Nañez Martinez

Born in Dallas’ Little Mexico neighborhood in 1925, Anita Nañez Martinez has dedicated her life to enriching the civic and cultural life of the city of her birth. At age 14, she organized a successful petition to pave her neighborhood’s streets. She was the first in her family to graduate from high school, after which she took several classes at SMU’s downtown campus. In 1969, Martinez was elected as the first Mexican American member of the Dallas City Council where she advocated for West Dallas residents and motivated other community members to become engaged in local politics. Her chief accomplishments included the approval of a new recreation center in West Dallas, which was named in her honor; the founding of the Los Barrios Unidos Community Clinic; and the procurement of funds for a much-needed renovation of Pike Park. After completing her second term as councilwoman, she was asked by President Richard Nixon to help evaluate the effectiveness of the Peace Corps around the globe. In 1975, she founded the Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico, an organization dedicated to creating “a cultural and educational foundation to unlock the potential of every child through active engagement in the arts,” which continues to inspire new generations of Dallas children today. For her dedication to enriching the civic and cultural life of the city, SMU is honored to confer the degree Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.