The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

Rolling out the red carpet for four decades

Since the 1980s, the Tate Lecture series has brought in well-known celebrities
Martha Stewart speaks as a Tate Lecture guest May 2, 2023. Courtesy of SMU Libraries.

Southern Methodist University’s Tate Lecture Series gives university members and the Dallas community an opportunity to hear from America’s most recognizable names and faces, from renowned political scientists like Henry Kissinger to hospitality stars like Martha Stewart.

For decades, SMU has been devoted to spreading knowledge.

“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,” said Jeff Lockhart, associate director for the Tate Lecture Series.

The series started in 1982 and was named after activist and academic Willis M. Tate.

Henry Kissinger was one of the first Tate Lecture speakers. Courtesy of SMU Libraries.

Tate earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at SMU and later served as the university’s assistant dean of students and university president.

The series that shares his name has been beneficial for SMU and serves as an academic resource, said Pareeni Shah, Student Foundation’s Tate Lecture Chair.

“I think it makes a big difference when you not only see people on the news and hear about things in your classes, but when you have a one-on-one opportunity to hear about them and see them in person,” she said.

Each Tate Lecture is an all-day event that brings SMU students, staff, faculty and the Dallas community together.

A student-moderated forum provides a question-and-answer segment with the guest speakers before the lecture.

In the evening, thousands fill the historic McFarlin Auditorium. Guests are greeted by ushers from Student Foundation, an organization that helps run the Tate Lecture Series.

This year, Student Foundation created a campus liaison position to bring more awareness to the lectures on campus.

“I normally go to classrooms to inform students about the lecture,” said Nise Olawale, Student Foundation’s Outreach Chair.
The Tate Lecture Series also gives back to SMU students.

“The series returns over $800,000 for academic support and scholarship,” Lockhart said. “Over the past 10 seasons, the series has returned almost $10,000,000 for academic programs and scholarships.”

In 1990, SMU increased the number of speakers, enabling attendees to learn from more guests with diverse views.

“In the beginning, we had four speakers per season and now have eight, so there is a Tate Lecture every month of the school year,” Lockhart said.

With a list of speakers, each lecture series takes months of preparation.

“We begin booking speakers approximately 10 months prior to the start of the season in September and announce the upcoming lineup at the last lecture of each season,” Lockhart said.

Guests can purchase single event tickets or coveted season tickets for the lectures.

The Tate Lecture Series entered its 42nd season on SMU’s campus, welcoming U.S. Navy four-star admiral James Stavridis, journalist Fareed Zakaria, and former presidential adviser David Gergen.

Nearly 1,600 guests attended the sold-out lecture on Sept.12. Daphne Lee, a local from Dallas, was among them.

“Everyone in Dallas knows about the Tate Lectures,” Lee said. “I come as often as I can get tickets.”

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About the Contributor
Amara Asrawi, Arts & Life Editor
As our second arts & life editor, Amara shared the duties with Ellen Rogers, covered cultural events on campus, plus every Tate Lecture guest at SMU. She helps recruit and train new contributors to the newsroom as well as coordinate coverage for campus news and events. She was recently selected for the Dallas Morning News fellowship in spring 2024.  You can reach her at [email protected].