Oct. 31, 2007

SMU Honors 2007 Distinguished Alumni

DALLAS (SMU) – International and civic leaders, a former athlete turned dentist and an emerging theatre star will receive the Southern Methodist University Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor the university bestows upon its graduates.

The 2007 recipients include Linda Pitts Custard, James B. Gardner, the Honorable Antonio O. Garza Jr. and Rick Herrscher. Nathan H. Allen will receive the Emerging Leader Award, which recognizes an outstanding alumnus or alumna who has graduated within the last 15 years. The Distinguished Alumni Award banquet and ceremony is at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8, in the Fairmont Hotel at 1717 N. Akard St. For more information, visit

Linda Pitts Custard

Linda Pitts Custard has served her community through volunteer leadership and various civic activities. Even with her demanding schedule, she earned a Master of Business Administration degree in 1999 from SMUís Cox School of Business. She previously attended SMU with the undergraduate class of 1960 before graduating from Mills College in Oakland, Calif.

Custard is a trustee of SMU and the Hoblitzelle Foundation. She is a life trustee of The Hockaday School, Dallas Theater Center and Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Custard has given much service to SMUís Meadows School of the Arts, including chair of the International Festival of Opening Events for the Meadows Museum and the Jubilee Opening of the Greer Garson Theatre. Custardís support for SMU also includes an endowment for Presidentís Scholarships.

James B. Gardner

Since graduating in 1955 from SMUís Cox School of Business with a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance, James B. Gardner has served his profession and community with dedication as an investment adviser specializing in service to financial institutions. He serves as chair of Commerce Street Holdings, LLC and as senior managing director of Samco Capital Markets, Inc.

Gardner has served SMU as a member of the Executive Board of Perkins School of Theology and convener of the Deanís Roundtable at Perkins. His community service spans areas from international affairs to the arts, including the Dallas Opera and the United Way of Greater Dallas. In recognition of his service, he received the Order of Distinguished Service from the Salvation Army.

Antonio O. Garza Jr.

The Honorable Antonio O. Garza Jr. has served his country in three different levels of government. In 2002, President George W. Bush named him U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, responsible for one of the largest diplomatic missions in the world. Early in his career, Garza became the first Republican elected to countywide office in traditionally Democratic South Texas, serving six years as Cameron County Judge. Then, in 1994 the governor-elect Bush named him Texas Secretary of State and senior policy adviser.

Garza earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin in 1980 and a Juris Doctor degree from SMUís Dedman School of Law in 1983. He has been named a Distinguished Alumni of Dedman School of Law and serves on the Executive Board. Hispanic Business has twice named Garza one of its Top 100 Influential Hispanics and also named him one of the 25 Most Powerful Hispanics in the United States.

Rick Herrscher

Rick Herrscher has excelled in two careers that are worlds apart — athletics and dentistry. As a student leader in SMUís class of 1958, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree through the pre-medical studies program. He played in the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament in 1956 and was named Southwest Conference Player of the Year in 1958.

After graduating, Herrscher played professional baseball for five years, concluding his career with the New York Mets. He then enrolled in Baylor College of Dentistry, earning a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree. After two years in the U.S. Navy, he returned to Baylor for an advanced degree in orthodontics. A loyal supporter of SMU athletics, Herrscher has served on the boards of the Mustang Club, Alumni Association and Lettermenís Association. He was also the founder and organizing director of the Hilltop Sports Camp.

Nathan H. Allen

Nathan H. Allen has taken the Chicago theatre scene by storm since receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts in theatre from SMUís Meadows School of the Arts in 2000. Accompanied by a group of fellow Meadows alumni, Allen moved to Chicago after graduating and founded The House Theatre of Chicago, which he serves as artistic director.

After coming to SMU through the Hunt Leadership Scholars program, Allen spent his junior year studying at the British American Drama Academy in London, inspiring him to create The House, which combines American pop culture with European spectacle. Chicago magazine has called Allen a ďboy wonder,Ē and the Chicago Tribune arts critic wrote, ďIn Allen, The House has a star.Ē In 2007 the League of Chicago Theatres named The House, now in its fifth season, as the inaugural recipient of the Broadway in Chicago Emerging Theatre Award.


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