March 23, 2011
By Nancy George
DALLAS (SMU) – After more than 50 years at SMU, Marshall Terry still regularly visits his office in the Department of English in Dallas Hall. But his wise and creative influence reaches throughout the university.
The E.A. Lilly Professor of English, creator of SMU’s creative writing program and former director of public relations and assistant to SMU president Willis Tate, was honored March 23 with the Dedman College Distinguished Graduate Award for his contributions to SMU.
Terry first stepped on the SMU campus as a student, graduating in 1953 with a bachelor’s degree in English and in 1954 with a master’s degree. He stayed as a member of the faculty, chairing English for two terms and initiating SMU’s award-winning creative writing program and the long-running Literary Festival. A mentor and friend to his students, Terry helped launch the careers of novelists Joe Coomer, Douglas Terry, Tracy Daugherty and Lewis Shiner among others.
“I took great joy in starting the creative writing program,” he says. “I’ve worked with wonderful students through the years.”
In addition to his academic career, Terry played an important role as an administrator in shaping SMU’s future. As director of public relations and assistant to SMU President Willis Tate, he wrote in 1963 SMU’s first master plan, the framework for the University’s current strategic plan.
“Looking back, I consider the opportunity to work on the master plan as one of the most rewarding parts of my career. That plan is central to everything that has happened at SMU since then,” says Terry, who has been known as “Mr. SMU” to his colleagues for years.
The author of nationally praised short story collections and novels such as Old Liberty, Tom Northway, My Father’s Hands and The Memorialist, Terry has received highest honors from the Texas Institute of Letters and PEN Texas. His histories of SMU, From High on the Hilltop: A Brief History of SMU, and its third edition, Marshall Terry’s History of SMU with Various Essays by His Colleagues, are important resources as SMU celebrates the centennial of its 1911 founding and 1915 opening.
The Dedman Distinguished Graduate Award honors outstanding graduates of Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences whose lives demonstrate integrity and outstanding accomplishments.
A private university located in the heart of Dallas, SMU is building on the vision of its founders, who imagined a distinguished center for learning emerging from the spirit of the city. Today, 11,000 students benefit from the national opportunities and international reach afforded by the quality of SMU’s seven degree-granting schools.
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