SMU Dedman School of Law honors distinguished alumni

SMU's Dedman School of Law honors seven for distinguished achievements.

Dedman School of Law at Southern Methodist University

SMU Law QuadDALLAS (SMU) — Seven highly accomplished legal and business professionals were in the spotlight when the SMU Dedman School of Law presented its Distinguished Alumni Awards on February 25 at the Westin Galleria.

A tradition since 1986, the Distinguished Alumni Awards dinner is the Dedman School of Law’s premier annual event. An alumni committee selects recipients who are standouts in their respective fields, and an honorary award given at the invitation-only ceremony also acknowledges exceptional service to the law school.

This year’s awards and recipients were:

Edward B. Rust Jr., Robert G. Storey Award for Distinguished Achievement

Edward B. Rust Jr.Rust received the highest honor awarded, named in honor of Robert G. Storey, SMU Dedman School of Law dean from 1947–1959 and a former prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials.

Rust is nationally recognized as a leader of business community efforts to improve U.S. education. He is vice-chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Business Roundtable and The Financial Services Roundtable. He serves on the boards of America’s Promise Alliance and the James B. Hunt Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership.

The Illinois native, a graduate of Illinois Wesleyan, earned his Juris Doctor and Master of Business Administration degrees in 1975 from SMU Dedman School of Law. He is chairman of the board and CEO of State Farm Mutual and its principal affiliates. He joined State Farm in 1975 in Dallas, became president and chief executive in 1985 and was elected chairman of the board in 1987.

He is former chairman of the Business-Higher Education Forum and Business Roundtable’s Education Initiative. He also served on the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century and on the No Child Left Behind Commission.

Rust is past chairman of the American Enterprise Institute, The Financial Services Roundtable, the National Alliance of Business and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. He currently serves as a trustee of The Conference Board, the Committee for Economic Development and Illinois Wesleyan University. He also is a member of the boards of directors of Caterpillar, Inc., Helmerich and Payne, Inc., and McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Judge Dean M. Gandy, Distinguished Alumni Award for Judicial Service

Judge Dean M. GandyGandy, an expert in bankruptcy law, was recognized for his key role in the passage of the Bankruptcy Code of 1978, which created the U.S. Trustee Program. He testified before three House and two Senate Committees, appeared on major network news shows and actively published and lectured in support of the code that replaced the 1898 Act. 

The Dallas native received his B.B.A. in 1948 and his J.D. in 1950, both from SMU. After graduation he practiced law in Sherman, representing clients in title and insurance disputes. In 1953, he returned to Dallas and went to work in the oil and gas business, serving as executive vice-president of Magna Oil Corporation. In 1966, he began practicing bankruptcy and business reorganization law with William J. Rochelle, and in 1970 was appointed Bankruptcy Judge for the Northern District of Texas.

Gandy became a prominent member of the National Bankruptcy Conference. He also served as president of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges, was a member of the Bankruptcy Committee of the Fifth Circuit, and chairman of the Bankruptcy Law Section of the State Bar of Texas. He taught at seminars for new bankruptcy judges and at regional seminars for sitting bankruptcy judges from 1974–1984.

In 1983, he resigned from the bench and worked as partner and head of the Bankruptcy Section of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld until 1992. He had a limited bankruptcy practice and engaged in acquiring property offered to the public by FSLIC and the FDIC until 1996.

U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña, Distinguished Alumni Award for Government Service

U.S. Attorney Sarah R. SaldañaSaldaña was nominated by President Obama as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas and was confirmed last year by the U.S. Senate. She is the first Latino U.S. attorney in Dallas, and the first Latina to hold the office in Texas.

The Corpus Christi native received her Bachelor of Science, summa cum laude, from Texas A&I University in 1973, and her Juris Doctor in 1984 from SMU Dedman School of Law, where she was a member of the Journal of Air Law & Commerce.

Before law school, Saldaña was a language arts teacher in Dallas. From 1974–1981, she worked at the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Housing and Urban Development and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In 1984, she served as law clerk for Judge Harold Barefoot Sanders, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas. Later she was in private practice in Dallas, first at Haynes and Boone, LLP and later at Baker Botts, LLP. From 1985-87, she taught legal writing and research methods at SMU, and was appointed to the City of Dallas Zoning Board of Adjustment for 1989–1991.

In 2004, Saldaña became Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Dallas-based Northern District of Texas, prosecuting criminal cases involving bank and mortgage fraud, civil rights, human trafficking and public corruption. In 2009, she was promoted to Deputy Criminal Chief, managing the Major Fraud/Public Corruption Section. 

Saldaña is a member of the Dallas Bar Association and has served on its various committees. She is a member of the William Mac Taylor Inn of Court, and the Dallas and Texas Bar Foundations. She is a former member of the SMU Law Alumni Association Council. 

Justice H. Harjono, Distinguished Global Alumni Award

Justice H. HarjonoBorn in Nganjuk, Indonesia, Harjono is a founding justice of the Constitutional Court of Indonesia. Alongside eight other Constitutional Court Justices, Harjono has helped produce landmark decisions for the constitutional development of Indonesia.

He received his Bachelor of Laws degree from Airlangga University in Surabaya in 1977, where he was named “Best Student.” He later earned a Master of Comparative Law from SMU Dedman School of Law in 1981 and a Doctorate of Laws from Airlangga University in 1994.

Harjono was a law lecturer at Airlangga University and other state and private universities until 1999, when he was appointed to the People’s Consultative Assembly, the highest state organization at that time. As a member of Ad Hoc Committees I and III from 1999–2002, he became a prominent figure in the process to amend the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia. His contributions led to the incorporation of several key new provisions into the Indonesian constitution.

As a result of his many achievements, President Megawati Soekarno Putri appointed Harjono as Constitutional Court Justice of the Republic of Indonesia for 2003-2008.

Prior to the end of his first term in 2008, Harjono served as Deputy Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court. In 2009, he was elected by the House of Representatives to serve a second term as Constitutional Court Justice until 2014.

D. Wayne Watts, Distinguished Alumni Award for Corporate Service

D. Wayne WattsSince 2007, Watts has been senior executive vice president and general counsel of AT&T, where he is responsible for all legal matters.

He was born in Abilene and grew up in Dallas, graduating from the University of Texas at Arlington with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 1976. He received his Juris Doctor from SMU Dedman School of Law in 1980.

Watts joined Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in 1983 as an attorney in Dallas. In 1986, he became general attorney for Southwestern Bell Publications in St. Louis. By 1989, he was vice president-general attorney and secretary for Southwestern Bell Mobile Systems in Dallas. He became general attorney and assistant general counsel for SBC Communications Inc. in 1995 and served as legal counsel for its mergers and acquisitions and wireless operations. During this time he helped lead a series of mergers and acquisitions valued at more than $200 billion, transforming SBC from the smallest of the Baby Bells to the largest communications holding company in the world.

Prior to SBC Communications’ acquisition of AT&T, Watts served as vice president and assistant general counsel. And before his current position, he served as vice president and associate general counsel for AT&T Inc., with legal responsibility for mergers and acquisitions, wireless operations, international operations, strategic planning, U-verse strategy and general corporate matters.

Watts is a member of the advisory board of the Salvation Army’s Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex Command, the Development Board at the University of Texas at Arlington, and serves on the Executive Board of SMU Dedman School of Law.

W. Richard Davis, Distinguished Alumni Award for Private Practice

W. Richard DavisW. Richard Davis is a lifelong resident of the City of University Park, where he is mayor. He received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from SMU in 1956 and a Juris Doctor degree from SMU Dedman School of Law in 1958. 

In 1958, Davis began his career with Strasburger & Price LLP and has practiced extensively in cases involving product liability and civil litigation, representing major automotive, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, maritime and oil companies. He has been lead counsel of record in litigation in 15 states and Puerto Rico, as well as national, regional or multi-state counsel for General Motors, Nissan, American Honda and International Harvester. He became counsel to Strasburger & Price LLP in 2000.

Since 1972, Davis has served on the City of University Park Master Plan Committee and the Planning and Zoning Commission. He served on the University Park City Council from 1998–2004 and became mayor in 2010.

He is a frequent lecturer on civil litigation for the American Bar Association, Texas Bar Association, and Dallas Bar Association, Defense Research Institute, Product Liability Advisory Council, International Association of Defense Counsel, Federation of Defense Counsel, American Manufacturing Association, and many law schools, including SMU’s. 

Davis is active in many civic, educational, and charitable organizations. He has been involved in numerous professional organizations and was elected as a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, American Bar Foundation, Texas Bar Foundation, and the Dallas Bar Foundation.

Carl Sewell, Honorary Alumnus Award

Carl SewellSewell is chairman of Sewell Automotive Companies, which includes 16 franchises. The Dallas native’s career began after he received his Bachelor of Business Administration in Banking, Finance, and Economics from SMU in 1966. After serving in the U.S. Army, he joined the family automotive business in 1967 and became the third generation to focus on the leadership and service that his family has embraced since 1911.

As a national leader in the automotive industry and an innovator in establishing customer service standards, Sewell is often asked to speak at universities, as well as at companies such as General Motors, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Amoco and Apple Inc. His successful business philosophy is featured in the book he co-authored, Customers for Life, which is available in 17 languages and has sold more than a million copies. 

Sewell has served as chairman of both the Cadillac and Lexus National Dealer Councils. He is also on the Board of American Tire Distributors, Southwestern Medical Foundation and the State Fair of Texas. Sewell previously has served as chairman of Goals for Dallas and as a board member of the Neiman Marcus Group, Southwest Media Corporation, First City Bank, Ford Bank Group, United National Bank and the Dallas Chamber of Commerce.

Sewell has been recognized with SMU’s Distinguished Alumni Award and the Cox School of Business Distinguished Alumni Award, as well as awards from Dallas civic organizations. Other honors include election to the Junior Achievement 2000 Dallas Business Hall of Fame, the Automotive Hall of Fame, and the Texas Automobile Dealers Association Diamond Select Circle.

Sewell is a longtime member of the Board of Trustees of SMU, where he served as chairman, and was the past chair of the SMU Cox School of Business Executive Board. He is co-chair of the University’s Second Century Campaign Leadership Council.

For more information about the SMU Dedman School of Law, visit

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