2016 Archives

Inspirational Dallas educator Terry J. Flowers receives J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award

March 8, 2016

DALLAS (SMU) An inspirational pillar of Dallas’ education community, Terry J. Flowers, headmaster and executive director of the South Dallas St. Philip’s School and Community Center, will be honored with the 2016 J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award from SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility at a March 23 luncheon at the Belo Mansion. The annual award honors a community leader who personifies ethical, inspiring leadership.

Terry J. Flowers
Terry J. Flowers

Tickets to the luncheon may be purchased here.

Flowers, who once turned down an invitation to try out for the Chicago Bears to pursue a masters’ degree in education, has worked to provide an exemplary education to low-income, South Dallas residents since becoming principal at St. Philip’s School in 1983. As the first member of his family to graduate high school, Flowers understands the importance of that accomplishment and the significance of realizing a college education, so he’s made college preparation a specialty at St. Philip’s. St. Philip’s graduates go on to attend some of the finest private schools in Dallas as well as country’s most selective universities.  Since St. Phillip’s started keeping track 19 years ago, 100 percent of the students who complete its K-6th grade program have graduated high school and 95 percent have been accepted to a university.

“In many ways, my childhood in Chicago helps to inform some of the programs and services we provide here,” Flowers says. “We were po’, which is when you’re so poor you can’t afford the O or the R. I’m the oldest of five kids, and my dad died early on, so we knew help wasn’t coming. Our mother was working in a sweatshop doing all she could to make end’s meet. What got me here today was fear of my mother, fear of God, and education.”

Over the past 33 years, Flowers has guided St. Philip’s to offering a variety of services beyond education, including a children’s health clinic that serves over 1,500 children, a food pantry that serves over 1,600 children and adults, a variety of after-school programs and hot meals for the community.

“All you see here is connected to my childhood experiences, both as a school and a community center,” Flowers says. “Education is the elixir of the soul. It can address many of the ills that are confronting society. We teach our students to serve and give back to their community, because until we get people to the point where they turn their success into significance, we’ll continue to have challenges in our neighborhoods.”

Under Flowers’ leadership, St. Philip’s has given the school’s neighborhood life and hope by leading the effort to create a safer community. Flowers has worked with parents and neighbors to shut down seven liquor stores and more than 50 drug houses. Additionally, he guided the school towards purchasing a nearby nightclub that is being refurbished into an athletic field house for the 700 area-students who participate in the school’s athletics program.

"Every child needs a successful model to emulate and Dr. Flowers is that person for so many,” says SMU Professor Rita Kirk, director of SMU’s Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility. “His devotion to the idea that each person can make a difference empowers young people to dream beyond circumstance to envision a better community. As Mayor Jonsson once said, 'Dream no small dreams.' That is why he has been chosen to receive this year's prestigious J. Erik Jonsson Award – he has raised our hopes for the future."

Flowers’ experiences as an educator in tough urban communities shaped his belief in the need for holistic efforts to address the erosion of inner-city neighborhoods. Flowers’ pivotal leadership led to the establishment of the St. Philip’s curriculum, which emphasizes academic excellence, a positive self-image and a faith-based focus for life. Alongside the strong academic programs are a wealth of social services and community development activities that are crucial to the neighborhood’s revitalization. This broad-based approach has established St. Philip’s as a model for inner-city schools.

In addition to his work at St. Philip’s, Flowers has served as an adjunct professor at SMU and Cedar Valley College. He is active in his church and has served on a variety of boards and advisory councils. Flowers and his wife, Gernise, have three daughters.

Past recipients of the J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award, now in its 19th year, include Lyda Hill, Gail Griffin Thomas, Nancy Ann & Ray Hunt, Walter J. Humann, Ruth S. Altshuler, Bob Buford, Ronald G. Steinhart, Michael M. Boone, Zan W. Holmes Jr., Roger Staubach, Caren Prothro, Tom Luce, Ron Anderson, Jack Lowe Jr., William T. Solomon, Stanley H. Marcus, Charles C. Sprague and Curtis W. Meadows Jr.

At a Glance

What: St. Philip’s School and Community Center headmaster and executive director Terry J. Flowers will be honored with the 2016 J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award from SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility during a luncheon.

When: Noon – 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 23.

Where: The Pavilion at the Belo Mansion, 2201 Ross Avenue

RSVP: Tickets to the luncheon can be purchased here.

Host: The Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility.

For more information: For more details about the award or the Maguire Ethics Center, visit smu.edu/ethics, e‑mail maguire_ethics@smu.edu or call 214-768-4255.




The Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility is a University-wide center supporting student and faculty ethics-related education and activities, as well as community outreach to private and public institutions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The Maguire Ethics Center serves as a forum for the exploration of issues bearing on the public good. It also seeks to challenge and encourage the development of ethical discernment, imagination and action. It brings together those who confront issues of social importance with resources and opportunities for ethical reflection. For more information, visit smu.edu/ethics.


The J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award is named in honor of the public-spirited former mayor of Dallas. It is given to individuals who epitomize the spirit of moral leadership and public virtue. The founders of our nation foresaw that the ideal of liberty alone would not sustain our country unless accompanied by the concept of “public virtue,” a sacrifice of self and resources for the public good. The Maguire Ethics Center is proud to present this award to people whose careers should be recognized, honored and modeled.

J. Erik Jonsson was a founder of Texas Instruments, a strong advocate for education, and as mayor of Dallas from 1964 to 1971, worked to improve morale and the image of the city after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He pushed through a $175 million bond election that financed a new city hall, the Dallas Convention Center and the Dallas Central Library, and was a driving force in the development of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. For more, visit smu.edu/provost/ethics/events/ethics award.

SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls approximately 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools.




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