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$1.25 million gift creates endowment for medieval professorship at SMU

Two graduates of Southern Methodist University are giving back to their alma mater by creating an endowed professorship in medieval history. Stephen L. and Kathryn Hedges Arata of Dallas are donating $1.25 million to create the Jeremy duQuesnay Adams Centennial Professorship in Western European Medieval History in honor of the longtime SMU professor.

In addition to the Aratas, several other former students of Professor Adams have contributed toward the endowed professorship in his honor. Those contributing $25,000 and more include Cindy and Dr. David Stager, Jr. ’87; Jo ‘90 and Joe Goyne; and Renee Justice Standley ’90 and Kenneth Standley.

“We are honored to have an endowed professorship bearing the name of one of SMU’s most distinguished and revered faculty members,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “We are grateful to the Aratas for their vision and generosity in providing this gift, which supports our Second Century Campaign goal to increase the number of endowed chairs to 100. With the Adams Professorship, the University is within 15 faculty positions of reaching that goal.”

oth Stephen and Kathryn Arata majored in English and minored in medieval studies in SMU’s Dedman College. Kathryn earned a B.A. degree in 1987. She also received an M.A. in English from SMU in 1991. Stephen received two degrees from SMU in 1988 — a B.A. from Dedman College and B.B.A. from Cox School of Business. He also earned a Master’s of Management degree from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Kathryn Arata said, “My parents, the Rev. Bill B. Hedges and Jane Hedges, graduated from SMU in 1960. All of my life I have loved this university, growing up steeped in the SMU culture and history. When I finally arrived on the campus, I was captivated by the quality and variety of the courses offered.

“Jeremy Adams created a sense of academic curiosity and desire for learning that I possess to this day. Now that Stephen and I are in a position to pay back (actually pay forward) the gifts he gave us, we wanted to do something that would be close to Jeremy’s heart. He is passionate about his subject, and we have given this endowment to ensure that his passion will continue to light the fires of academic curiosity in students for years to come.”

Professor Adams earned his bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University. After teaching at Harvard and Yale universities, he joined the SMU faculty in 1974. More than 30 years ago, Adams and his wife, Bonnie Wheeler, associate professor in SMU’s Department of English, were joined by colleagues across the University in co-founding SMU’s Medieval Studies Program. Through the years, Adams’ courses on medieval history have played a central role in the expansion and strong reputation of the interdisciplinary program, which now offers a popular undergraduate minor and major and a master’s degree. Adams also has taught at and directed SMU study abroad programs in France and Spain and, most frequently, at the SMU-in-Oxford program in England.

The Aratas have fond memories as students of homemade dinners each semester in the home of Jeremy Adams and Bonnie Wheeler, where conversations centered on subjects such as poetry, literature, history and politics. They studied with Adams and Wheeler both on the SMU campus in Dallas and at SMU-in-Oxford.

Adams has received numerous honors during his distinguished academic career. At Yale, he received the DeVane Medal of that university’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter and the national Danforth Foundation’s E. Harris Harbison Award for Gifted Teaching. At SMU, he was awarded the Perrine Prize from SMU’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter and was named an Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor. He has received several Outstanding Professor Awards, as well as the “M” Award, SMU’s highest award for distinguished service. He is the author or editor of seven books and numerous academic articles.

“This professorship will ensure that the teaching of Western European medieval history will continue at SMU at the high quality level established by Professor Adams,” said Dedman College Dean William Tsutsui. “It underscores our commitment to interdisciplinary teaching and research reflecting Professor Adams’ creative blend of history, literature and other disciplines, which makes medieval history come alive for his students. We are grateful to the Aratas for enabling SMU to recruit an additional distinguished faculty member to fill this professorship.”

The Arata gift of $1.25 million and other gifts for the Adams Professorship count toward the $750 million goal of SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign, which to date has raised more than $631 million to support student quality, faculty and academic excellence and the campus experience. The campaign coincides with SMU’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the University’s founding in 1911 and its opening in 1915.

Source: SMU

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