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Spotlight on Jennifer Altabef (Executive Board Member)

Dallas Lawyer and SMU alumna is investing in the future of our best students through the Meadows Scholars Program

by Melanie Jarrett

A few years ago, Dallas lawyer and SMU alumna Jennifer Altabef was invited to a showcase at Meadows, where she had studied journalism more than 30 years before. The program featured Meadows Dean José Bowen speaking about his vision for arts education. It created such an impression on Altabef that she renewed her relationship with her alma mater.

“He talked about music and his love of music, and I just thought he was fantastic,” says Altabef. “I went to lunch with him and learned more about his vision for the school and thought it was amazing.” Altabef joined the Meadows Executive Board in 2010 and has since found a strong connection with the Meadows Scholars Program, which helps raise annual and endowed resources to bring top-caliber students in the arts and communications to SMU.

“Meadows’ trajectory has been so fast and so steep in the last several years in terms of the students it has been able to attract, and I think that Meadows Scholars is one way to get the top students,” says Altabef. “We already have the very best faculty and fantastic facilities; we need to make sure we get the very best students we can.”

One of those students is Zain Haidar, a first year from Southlake, Tex- as, and the direct beneficiary of Altabef and her husband Peter’s dona- tion to the Meadows Scholars Program. Haidar is studying journalism, a division close to Altabef’s heart. Altabef, who graduated from SMU in 1978 with a B.A. in journalism, is fascinated with the way journalists at SMU are taught now compared to how she was taught in the ’70s.

“The markets are changing and the demands on journalism graduates are so different,” she says. “They have to know how to do everything now, and so that is something I really, really want to support.”

Altabef’s involvement with SMU is even more impressive considering her daughter Hayley attends Northwestern University, where the Altabefs co-chair the Northwestern Parents’ Fund. They also have a son in eleventh grade at St. Mark’s School in Dallas.

“When your own children start going off to college, it’s a reminder of the challenges; my husband and I were able to go to college and law school because of the generosity of other people,” she says. “We are very interested in helping the very best students.”

Haidar has already seen the benefits of the Altabefs’ generosity through obvious facets of the Meadows Scholars Program such as tuition benefits, as well as through the less obvious: a first-semester class that brought together all the incoming Meadows Scholars, along with tickets to various arts-related events throughout Dallas contrib- uted by Meadows Scholars board members.

“It takes a certain kind of energy to fund something like this, because a lot is at stake,” Haidar says. “You don’t necessarily know for sure when you’re investing in a person. You’re investing in something that’s not concrete, and that takes a lot of guts. I’m extremely fortunate and grateful they did that.”

He isn’t the only one. “Jennifer’s involvement at Meadows has been a game-changer,“ says Dean Bowen. “Not only is she an enthusiastic volunteer and alumni voice on our executive board, but her advocacy and support for Meadows Scholars are invaluable in helping us attract the top best students. Students are turning down offers from NYU, Northwestern and USC to be a part of this program and that wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for supporters like the Altabefs.”

To find out more about how you can help Meadows compete nationally for top scholars, please

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