Five honorary doctorates, 1,500 degrees
to be awarded May 18 on SMU’s historic main quad

SMU's commencement weekend includes graduation ceremonies and symposia.

Commencement 2013 at SMU is May 18

DALLAS (SMU) – Former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree at SMU’s Spring 2013 Commencement Convocation at 9 a.m. May 18.  A technology entrepreneur, a former U.S. ambassador, a distinguished scholar and a criminal justice reform activist also will receive honorary degrees.    

President R. Gerald Turner will confer approximately 1,500 undergraduate and graduate degrees upon students from all of SMU’s schools and professional programs.  This year’s spring ceremony falls midway through the University’s centennial celebration, which marks the university’s founding in 1911 and its opening in 1915.

The ceremony will be staged in front of SMU’s first building - Dallas Hall - on the historic Main Quad.   Against a campus backdrop of oak trees and red brick buildings, students and faculty will march to the quad in their academic regalia, accompanied by processional music.  The ceremony, which lasts approximately 90 minutes, will be simulcast live at video icon.

“Commencement allows us to celebrate our SMU graduates’ achievements and look forward with them to the future. By awarding honorary degrees, we also recognize individuals who have made important contributions to academia and society,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner.  “Commencement is one of our most cherished Hilltop traditions, and this year’s outdoor ceremony will be particularly memorable.”  

The five individuals who will be awarded honorary degrees by SMU each have made distinguished contributions in their fields:

  • James R. BiardJames Robert (Bob) Biard will receive the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, for his outstanding contributions in the field of optoelectronics. Biard received the world’s first patent for the light emitting diode (LED), now ubiquitous in devices ranging from digital clocks and remote controls to television screens and traffic lights.   He holds more than 75 patents for his inventions.  Biard is an adjunct professor of electrical engineering at Texas A&M.
  • Swanee HuntSwanee Hunt will receive the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, for her efforts toward world peace and gender parity. Hunt was ambassador to Austria during the Balkan War and helped host programs aimed at stabilizing the neighboring Balkan states. She is founder and president of the Institute for Inclusive Security, which trains women peace builders around the globe. She also is a lecturer in public policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
  • Kay Bailey HutchisonKay Bailey Hutchison will receive the degree of Doctor of Engineering, honoris causa, for her distinguished career in public service and support of higher education. Hutchison is the first woman to represent Texas in the United States Senate, serving from 1993 to 2012. During her years in the Senate, she expanded higher education opportunities for thousands of Texans and championed advancements in science, technology, engineering and math education. Hutchison helped bring to SMU more than $20 million in federal research funds.
  • Francis Christopher OakleyFrancis Christopher Oakley will receive the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, for his distinguished contributions to higher education as a scholar and administrator. Oakley is the Edward Dorr Griffin Professor of the History of Ideas and president emeritus of Williams College, where he led establishment of the tutorial form of instruction. He has written 13 books and served as president of the American Council of Learned Societies.
  • Bryan A. StevensonBryan A. Stevenson will receive the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, for his efforts to achieve social equity through criminal justice reform. Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, which provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners who have been denied fair treatment in the legal system. Stevenson also is a professor of clinical law at New York University School of Law.

Biard will be featured in an 11 a.m. symposium in his honor Friday, May 17, in the Huit-Zollars Seminar Room in the Embrey Engineering Building.  The public seminar will describe the events leading up to the invention of the first Light Emitting Diode (LED) by Biard and Gary Pittman at Texas Instruments in 1962.  Pittman received a B.S. in Chemistry with honors from SMU in 1953.  Also included is a discussion of continuing developments in semiconductor light emitting devices leading to the Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser (VCSEL).

Oakley will participate in a symposium in his honor at 1:30 p.m. Friday, May 17, in the Texana Room of the DeGolyer Library.  The symposium is open to the public and Oakley will respond to remarks made by Charles Curran, SMU’s Elizabeth Scurlock University Professor of Human Values; Texas A&M Professor Cary Nederman, an expert in medieval political thought; Bruce Basington, Regents Professor at West Texas A&M; and Willard Spiegelman, SMU’s Dwaine E. Hughes, Jr., Distinguished Professor of English, who was one of Oakley’s undergraduate students.  A reception will follow at the home of Jeremy Adams, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor in the William P. Clements Department of History.

Hunt will be featured at an invitation-only luncheon and symposium in her honor from noon to 3 p.m.  Friday, May 17, in the Dedman School of Law’s Karcher Auditorium.  The symposium is titled “Demand Abolition” and will address the topics of sex trafficking and prostitution.

In addition, nine retiring faculty members will be recognized during Saturday's Commencement Convocation:

  • William Beauchamp, Associate Professor of French in Dedman College
  • David Blackwell, the William B. Hamilton Chair in Earth Sciences in Dedman College
  • Robert C. Davis, Associate Professor of Mathematics in Dedman College
  • Margaret (Maggie) H. Dunham is Professor of Computer Science and Engineering in Lyle School of Engineering 
  • Charles (Charley) Helfert, Associate Professor of Theatre in Meadows School of the Arts
  • Robin W. Lovin, the Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics and former dean of Perkins School of Theology
  • Bijan Mohraz, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering in Lyle School of Engineering.
  • Laurence (Larry) Scholder, Professor of Art in Meadows School of the Arts
  • Linda Brewster Stearns, Professor of Sociology in Dedman College

United Methodist Bishop Michael McKeeAt 8 p.m. Friday, May 17, the day before Commencement Convocation, the Baccalaureate Service will be held in McFarlin Auditorium with United Methodist Bishop Michael McKee as the speaker. He is a member of the SMU Board of Trustees. Before his election as bishop in 2012, he served as pastor at several churches in North and Central Texas. Beyond the local church, his leadership has included serving as a member of the General Board of Church and Society, chair of the Texas Methodist Foundation Board of Trustees and member of the board of Harris Methodist Health Systems. At SMU, Bishop McKee chairs the Perkins School of Theology Executive Board and co-chairs the Perkins Steering Committee for SMU’s Second Century Campaign.

The Rotunda Recessional will follow the Baccalaureate Service. Undergraduate candidates, led by faculty and alumni marshals, will march through the front doors of Dallas Hall, through the Rotunda and around to the University's main quad. This tradition welcomes graduates into their new phase of membership of the SMU community - their life as alumni.

Click here for more information about May Commencement Weekend.

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