Oct. 25, 2007

SMU Mourns Loss Of Beloved Former Vice President

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Related Links
 • Leave a comment about Dr. Caswell.
 • See a video of the service:
    Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
 • The Dallas Morning News story.
 • The Daily Campus story.
 • Jim Caswell Endowment for
   Leadership Development and Training

DALLAS (SMU) – James E. Caswell, former vice president for student affairs at Southern Methodist University, spent nearly five decades at SMU as a student, teacher and administrator. Caswell, a national leader in the student affairs profession, retired in May 2007. He died Monday at age 66.

A memorial service celebrating his life was held Thursday, Oct. 25, at Highland Park United Methodist Church. (See a three-part video of the service: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

“Jim Caswell devoted his professional life to the well-being of our students, providing them with a campus experience that would strengthen their educational and personal development,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner.

"As an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church, he exemplified the values of our religious heritage and served as official liaison to the Church,” Turner added. “Generations of students benefited from his leadership, thoughtfulness, and caring manner. They showed their appreciation by honoring him with many University service awards, and have stayed in touch with him as a friend and mentor. We will miss his presence among our University family, but his impact on our campus will endure. Our heartfelt prayers go to his family and other loved ones.”

Dr. Caswell first came to SMU as an undergraduate in 1958 and began his life of service to the University’s students by working as a graduate residence hall director from 1964-66. He went on to become an instructor in SMU’s University College (now Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences) and then held positions as the University’s dean of men, dean of residential living, and dean of student life.

As SMU’s vice president for student affairs from 1988 until his retirement in spring 2007, he was responsible for most of SMU’s out-of-classroom programs and services, designed to help students develop civic and leadership skills. The Division of Student Affairs oversees nearly 200 student organizations and provides programs ranging from career planning and community service to residential living and health and counseling services. In addition, Dr. Caswell was a faculty member in SMU’s Center for Dispute Management and Conflict Resolution and also taught an undergraduate course in leadership.

“I had the pleasure of working with Jim Caswell for many years and through many changes in student life at the University,” said long-time SMU trustee Ruth Sharp Altshuler, former chair of the Board of Trustees and of its Student Affairs Committee. “Students benefited from his wisdom and fairness, and he was very effective in working with parents. Jim was calm and unflappable, two prerequisites for his position. He made SMU a better place.”

It is estimated that, starting from the time he first worked as a graduate residence hall director, he would have touched the lives of nearly 40,000 SMU students, out of SMU’s alumni population of 100,000.

Dr. Caswell with students at his retirement reception.

Dr. Caswell’s many honors and awards included a 1998 Fulbright Fellowship to study in Germany as part of the Fulbright International Educators Program. In 1999, he received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Oklahoma City University. He received the 2001 Pillar of the Profession Award for outstanding service in student affairs from the Educational Foundation of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA). In 2006, he received the Vision Award from Delta Delta Delta National Sorority for his influence on SMU’s Greek community and “significant contributions to the interfraternal movement.” Other honors included two Outstanding Administrator Awards from the SMU Student Senate in 1985 and 1992, as well as a 1975 “M” Award, SMU’s highest honor for outstanding service to the University.

At Dr. Caswell’s retirement in April 2007, SMU Board of Trustees Chair Carl Sewell spoke on behalf of the board. “We are so fortunate that you chose to give your life to SMU,” Sewell said. “We are so blessed.”

Born in Aztec, N.M., Dr. Caswell earned the first of his three SMU degrees in 1963 – the Bachelor of Arts in social science. He received his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1966 and Master of Sacred Theology degree in 1970 from SMU’s Perkins School of Theology. He also earned two degrees from Columbia University: a Master of Arts in student personnel services in 1972 and a Doctor of Education in higher and adult education in 1978, with postdoctoral studies in Harvard University’s Institute of Educational Management in 1984.

As an SMU undergraduate, Dr. Caswell was a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, later serving as president of its national Board of Directors. He is a past president of the Texas Association of Student Personnel Administrators (TACUSPA) and a past vice president of Region III of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. He served on several committees for NASPA and was a member of several accreditation teams for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. In addition, he served as a consultant nationally in the areas of student life, safety and security issues.

An ordained minister, Dr. Caswell served the Church as a member of the Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry for the New Mexico Conference of the United Methodist Church. He served as president of the Dallas Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse; as president of OPEN, Inc. (Offender Preparation Education Network, Inc.); and as president of the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Jim Caswell Endowment for Leadership Development and Training at SMU or the American Cancer Society. For more information on the Leadership endowment, contact Arlene Manthey at 214-768-4711, by e-mail at, or at SMU Box 750305, Dallas, TX 75275.



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