About the Series

For more than 100 years, SMU has shaped minds, explored frontiers of knowledge and nurtured intellectual entrepreneurship. Since 1982, SMU’s Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series has contributed to this mission by bringing thought-provoking and entertaining icons to the SMU campus and Dallas community. Regarded as one of the country’s finest platforms for distinguished and engaging discussions, the Tate Lecture Series provides unique opportunities for student interaction, faculty discourse and community debate with world changers.


President's Scholars

Each year the Tate Lecture Series raises more than $800,000 for academic scholarships and student programs at SMU, including the President's Scholars Program. The next generation of academically gifted world changers receive full-tuition scholarships and opportunities to study abroad. Click here to learn more about the Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series Endowed President’s Scholars Fund.

Student Foundation

The Student Foundation mission is to provide quality traditional programming that will build community on the SMU campus, strengthen relationships with alumni and friends of the university, and foster student leadership. The Student Foundation provides ushers for all Tate Series Lectures, and a grant from the Tate Series helps support Student Foundation events such as Homecoming and Family Weekend.

Willis M. Tate

SMU President 1954-1972, 1974-1976

Willis M. Tate's tenure as president was remarkable not only for his lengthy tenure but also for his vision for the University. As SMU's president, Tate guided the University through turbulent times of protests and attacks on academic freedom.

As a student, faculty member, dean, and president, Tate's life was intertwined with SMU. Although born in Denver, Tate spent part of his childhood in Dallas. He graduated from high school in San Antonio, but as he said, it was inevitable that he eventually come to SMU. He majored in sociology, earning a Bachelor's degree in 1932 and a Master's in 1935. Following graduation, he returned to San Antonio, where he taught and served as principal at two schools. He later served in the Methodist church in Houston before returning to SMU as assistant dean of students and teacher of sociology. In May 1955, Willis Tate was inaugurated as the fifth president of SMU. In his inaugural address, he stated a basic principle of his faith: That a nation remains free only as universities are free in their quest for truth. In 1965, after being nominated by SMU faculty, Tate was awarded the Alexander Meiklejohn Award of the American Association of University Professors "for support of academic freedom."

Tate is well remembered for continually devoting his time to personally meet with students, his energetic efforts to represent SMU in the community, and his leadership, which helped establish SMU as a nationally recognized university.

Board of Directors

J. Carter Tolleson

Brad E. Cheves
Vice President for Development and External Affairs

Dana Wilcox Ayres
Senior Executive Director

Cheryl Alston
Victor Arias, Jr.
Marci Armstrong, Ph.D.
Anita Arnold
Diane Brierley
Tim Byrne
Michael Castle
Taj Clayton
Cece Cox
Jeffrey S. Ellerman
Curt Farmer
Anders Fisher
Kelli Ford
Hilda C. Galvan
Joseph (Jody) M. Grant
John D. Harkey, Jr.
Linda W. Hart
Milledge A. (Mitch) Hart, III
Michael Horne
Robert Kaplan
Elizabeth Karahan
Debbie Kissire
Barbara M. Golden Lynn
David R. McAtee II
Morgan D. Meyer
J. Scott Moore
Pauline S. Neuhoff
E. Allen Nye, Jr.
Melbourne O'Banion
Timothy E. Powers
Sandra Phillips Rogers
Hernan J.F. Saenz, III
Karen Simon
Andrew Sinwell
Miguel Solis
Sabine Gaedeke Stener
Thear Suzuki
James Waters
Matthew Wilson, Ph.D.