New Tate season to feature dynamic political analysis, scientific discovery, Hollywood stories, business leadership and ‘Grit’

Tate's 2016-17 season includes dynamic political analysis, scientific discovery, Hollywood stories and 'Grit.'

Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series

The Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series at SMUDALLAS (SMU) – Veteran news analysts, a frontier-pushing astronaut, the woman behind one of the largest corporations in the world and the star of the beloved  television series, M*A*S*H, are among the speakers for the 2016-17 Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series at SMU. In its 35th season, the Tate Series provides a platform for leaders from wide-ranging fields to share their unique perspectives with area residents and students.

 “Year after year, through the Tate Lecture Series, SMU is proud to bring tremendous speakers on provocative topics to the community,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Starting next September Tate programs will offer analysis of a broad range of topics, ranging from this pivotal presidential election, to criminal justice reform, to the man behind ‘Humans of New York.’” 

The series returns more than $800,000 to SMU each year for academic scholarships and student programs. A primary beneficiary of these funds is the prestigious President’s Scholars Program, which provides full-tuition scholarships and study abroad opportunities.

The Tate Lecture Series maintains an extensive waiting list for patrons interested in season tickets. Single tickets to lectures that are not sold out may be purchased online at or by calling 214-SMU-TATE (214-768-8283). The 2016-17 season will include:

Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016 – The Linda and Mitch Hart Lecture

Tom Brokaw, Doris Kearns Goodwin & David Gergen :With election night seven weeks away, NBC Nightly News former host Tom Brokaw and renowned presidential historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin examine the historic 2016 election and how it will shape America’s next four years. CNN senior political analyst David Gergen will serve as moderator in his 20th Tate appearance.

Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016 – The Jones Day Lecture

Bryan Stevenson: The success of recent podcasts and TV series has brought criminal justice reform further into the mainstream. Bryan Stevenson, author of SMU’s Common Reading selection for fall 2016, Just Mercy, founded the Equal Justice Initiative, which aims to ensure proper legal representation for people who may have been denied a fair trial. He was included as one of the world’s most influential people on the “TIME 100” list in 2015 and is a MacArthur Fellow.

Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 – The Tolleson Lecture

Scott Kelly: Scott Kelly holds the distinction of spending more time in space than any other American astronaut – a total of 382 days. Prior to retiring in April 2016, Kelly commanded the International Space Station for a year and wowed the world with photographs from space. Kelly is the second Tate speaker for the 35th season named to the 2015 TIME 100.

Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016

David Leonhardt: A veteran of The New York Times  since 1999, David Leonhardt will begin writing an op-ed column in 2016. He was previously The Times’ Washington bureau chief, a staff writer for its Sunday magazine and the founding editor of The Upshot, a Times site that uses graphics and data to engage readers. In 2011, he won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017

Angela Duckworth: “Grit” is a trait attributed to coworkers, politicians and sports stars, among others. Angela Duckworth, professor and psychologist, is an expert on the topic who authored Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. She is the second MacArthur Fellow of Tate’s 2016–17 season.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017 – The Ebby Halliday Companies Lecture

Brandon Stanton: Created first as a blog in 2010 and published as a New York Times bestseller in 2013, Humans of New York has swept the nation as a powerful examination of American and international life. The photographer behind the portraits, 32-year-old Brandon Stanton, has amassed a following of more than 17.4 million likes on Facebook and 5.1 million followers on Instagram.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017 – The Oncor Lecture

Indra Nooyi: Consistently named among Forbes’ The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women, Indra Nooyi has transformed PepsiCo’s business in the age of healthier eating. Nooyi’s approach was a three-pronged one labeling products as “fun for you,” “better for you” and “good for you.” She has served as CEO of PepsiCo since 2006 and has seen the company’s profits soar by nearly $4 billion under her watch.

Monday, May 2, 2016 – The Anita and Truman Arnold Lecture

Alan Alda: The star of one of the highest-rated television shows of all time, Alan Alda’s acting career has spanned more than six decades. Best known as Captain Hawkeye Pierce on M*A*S*H, for which he won six Golden Globes and five Emmy Awards, Alda also won an Emmy on The West Wing. Off screen, Alda has donated much of his time and money to scientific research.

“We could not present this gift to the community without the support of our sponsors and the passion of the Tate Board of Directors,” said Brad Cheves, SMU vice president for Development and External Affairs. “The Tate series also provides a rich opportunity for our students, who attend the lectures for free and get to hear from some of the brightest minds in the country.”

The Tate Lecture Series is produced by SMU and is presented by The Dallas Morning News and co-sponsored by WFAA-TV Channel 8, Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, and Turner Construction and Wells Fargo. Additional support is provided by 570AM KLIF News and Information, Sewell Lexus, SMU Student Foundation, and The Weitzman Group/Cencor Realty Services.

For more information about individual lectures, follow the Tate Lecture Series on social media via Twitter @SMUtate and Instagram @smutate


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.