TEDxSMU A Resounding Success

The crowd gathers at Owens

On Saturday, about 400 people gathered at the Owens Art Center for TEDxSMU, an independent TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference. I had heard of TED, seen some videos of talks given at TED conferences, and been told that it is an amazing experience. It is. 

The question speakers were given to answer was, “What will change everything?” The answers — given in 18-minute-segments — were so engaging, so practical, and so surprising that I am still trying to absorb them. I’m assuming that videos will be posted on the TED site soon, and when they are I’ll alert you.

Pulling this off could not have been an easy task, but it was very smart of SMU to do it. Because many of the speakers and performers were SMU faculty and students, the event was a brilliant introduction to some of the school’s most impressive talent. When Gerald Turner arrived as SMU’s new president 15 years ago, the school was a little island of mediocrity that few people in Dallas had any connection with. Saturday was a kind of coming-out party for the university SMU has become: an intellectual force radiating energy to the entire city. I have to admit, I was a sceptic. But now I’m a believer. The ideas flowing out of that place are simply astonishing.

How good was it? I sat there transfixed — without even thinking of breaking for my car — for eight hours.


  • jack gessert

    Sounds like you are drinking the Kool Aid. I really doubt SMU will ever be in the same ballpark as Northwestern, Rice, Duke, or even some of the more prestigious public universities like Univ. of Michigan, Univ. of Virginia, Cal-Berkley, or even Univ. of Texas.

  • Brad

    I can’t believe I wasn’t aware of this.

  • I beg to differ. I attended not one but TWO Ivy League colleges, and I have been very impressed with the way SMU has morphed into an intellectual petri dish of ideas, creation, collaboration and energy. My daughter, a graduate of SMU Law, and I heard Clarence Thomas at Tate two weeks ago and as we walked to the car, we agreed that SMU makes life in Dallas far, far better. I always thought I’d live in NYC or Chicago where I would have the vibrancy of fine universities so I could “be in school” forever. Why not support the school for what it has become and hope it can grow even more?

  • Torrence Robinson

    I have partnered with numerous universities across the country for nearly 15 years of my corporate career — in other words, I’ve sipped many brands of higher education Kool Aid. I continue to be impressed by the intellectual energy, continued improvement in student quality, and bold administrative leadership emanating from SMU, particularly from the Lyle School of Engineering where I have enjoyed the most interaction. SMU is an integral contributor to the climate for research and innovation our region must foster to be globally competitive. There is no doubt SMU will be as important to our community as those private universities are to Chicago, Houston or the Research Triangle in North Carolina.

  • Me

    So, what’s the answer Wick? Can we have the Cliff Notes? What will change everything?

    Moving the office to downtown Dallas?

  • Publicnewssense

    Given the opportunity to sit transfixed by people who “made it” BEFORE things changed in the country and probably had a leg up because of trust funds or bottomless family wealth, I think I’d rather spend my money with the University Park Massagin’ Momma and think about the good times when sex was for everybody and not just randy politicians.

  • It was an honor to be an attendee and it was a completely inspiring experience. Have an idea? Go do something with it! Start small. Start now. Make a difference. Excellent branding for Lyle School of Engineering and SMU overall. Brilliant timing in context of AT&T Performing Arts Center. Bravo to Dean Geoffrey Orsak and Sharon Lyle, TED program director,for the vision and execution. Encore!!!

  • TEDx was a bright light of hope and ideas this weekend. It was rather nice to get away from the narrow-minded negativity of the regular world for a few short hours.

    As for the speakers and the reference to ‘bottomless family wealth’ , one of the most compelling segments came from Kamkwamba – a young guy from Malawian who helped to save his family from drought and death thru invention.


  • Sky Masterson

    Great story, DM! Thanks for the link.

  • Arthur Epps

    Wick, do you want to rethink two of your opinions in the article? How do you substantiate the entirity of SMU 15 years ago, was nothin more than a “little island of mediocrity that few people in Dallas had any connection with”? And to which city exactly does SMU’s “intellectual force” radiate? While I haven’t yet felt it, please tell me if I live in the city that’s the lucky one. The first statement is a gross reduction of fact and the second is simply asinine. Wick, I strip you of your TED credentials until further notice.

  • Wick Allison

    @ Arthur: Right you are. From now on, I will make no generalized assertions. I will substantiate every statement and if need be, provide footnotes. Oh, wait. This is a blog. Never mind.

    If there is a measurement of asininity, which there should be, I’m fairly confident that I can at times easily reach the highest level. However, in dismissing SMU’s attainment because you “haven’t yet felt it,” I see that you have gotten there before me.

  • My husband attended TEDxSMU and came home inspired (yet exhausted) and enthralled. He found the attendees (almost) as interesting and eclectic and diverse as the speakers. No comment about SMU as we are not from Dallas so can not objectively or even subjectively comment of then versus now but he thought they did an amazing job of putting the program together particularly for first time out of the gate. He’s watching football but after reading this I went and asked him if he felt there was any sense of privilege or elitism either on or off stage. He said “not at all”. We say “congrats” to SMU, everyone involved in putting TEDxSMU together and the engaged audience who hopefully will feel a “call to action” in their own unique way toward making and being a part of change locally and globally.

  • zenabi

    I attended and I agree with the post. It was impressive and I believe SMU is shedding the rep of HP finishing school. Unfortunately, the school will soon be saddled with the academic millstone know as the Freedom Institute, dedicated to the most anti-intellectual post-war presidency. SMU- keep up the good work!

  • Arthur Epps

    Wick: Thanks for the reply. What is so “generalized” about your “assertions”? To me, they are declarative statements given as factual; not as opinion. Oh wait. I thought you were serious. It’s just your comments in a blog. Never mind. I apologize. Truly. I thought what you said was said as a fact, not as your opinion. And, I’m not “dismissing SMU’s attainment,” only disagreeing with your opinion that its intellectual force has radiated energy (whatever that is) to the entire city. Okay, I get it … don’t disagree with Wick. Just let him have his TED moment. I’ll leave you to your moment and wait for my radiation. May the force be with you, Wick. I am your father.

  • Ann

    TEDxSMU was one of the best gatherings of speakers that I think I have ever seen. I left inspired and ready to takle the challenges in my industry. I’ve had no other interactions with SMU (I don’t even live in Texas) but if the TEDx conference is indicative of their programing then Dallas should be thrilled to house SMU.

  • Rogers Hartmann

    Not that the hateful, boring emails to Wick are worth reading, but for those of you who did NOT do your homework, TEDx has very little to do with the achievements of SMU. VETERAN TEDsters were in attendance and were glowing about the level of TEDx at SMU. They loved it, as did everyone else. Apparently, some people just like to spew hatred based on total ignorance. Wow. Go take a nice walk in the sunshine now that the rain has stopped — maybe you will feel less angry.

  • I have been a not very proud graduate of SMU until TEDx. The speakers from SMU were erudite and mesmerizing. I only wish I’d had them as teachers 20 years ago.

    I also wish that my alma mater hadn’t attached itself to George Bush…Laura Bush would’ve been different.

  • Rogers Hartmann

    I am still interested in this Arthur Epps who seems to want to spew hatred toward Wick without even having accurate information about the event. Arthur, hopefully, you are somewhere with your tail between your legs and have realized how off base you were about the event and what TED is all about — all over the world. And Jack Gessert — wow. Your snobbery is hilarious. My family and friends are all Ivy League-ers — I went to UT-Austin — Jack your comments are irrelevant since you did not even attend the event. And frankly, your comments are an embarrassment to anyone who went to any other school that you seem to hold in high regard for no apparent reason. Again, haters, take a walk in this gorgeous weather and get behind positive conventions like TED. The world needs it. Be part of the solution. How ’bout it? What a fresh idea.

  • I am so sorry that I missed this event. We were out of town at the time.

    SMU is the “Ivy League school of the West,” if one wants to anoint it as such. I, for one, who sent a son through that university and have dealt with the Temerlin Advertising Institute since its inception, strongly believe that SMU is an acculturative institution taking the best of “eastern academia” melded with midwestern practicality and common sense. SMU has the opportunity to soon attain the status as Dallas’ “very own” University; a status that has alluded the school for dozens of years. The TedxSMU event is just one demonstration of the stature the school has attained. I only wish I had been here to enjoy it.

  • Arthur Epps

    Rogers Hartmann: You slay me. What passion you have for Ted. It’s super, seriously. I haven’t realized how off-base I am regarding the event and what Ted is all about because my comments aren’t at all about Ted. Originally, it was about wick declaring SMU, prior to Gerald Turner’s arrival, “a little island of mediocrity that few people in Dallas had any connection with” to now being an “an intellectual force” so powerful that it radiated “energy to the entire city.” Both statements I think are ridiculous. SMU was not then mediocre nor is it so intellectually powerful that it is over the “entire city.” If it was all over the city, wouldn’t it be “all over the city” and ie wick wouldn’t have to tell us it is “all over the city?” Rogers, are you still interested? Can I continue? How is this seemingly “spewing hatred” to Wick? I don’t “hate” Wick. I don’t wish him ill at all. I respect the man for replying to my e-mail (regardless of his comments). My e-mails are of no consequence to anything important. I just wanted wick to understand the absurd reduction of his first statement and ridiculous assertion on the latter. How in the world did you think I wrote specifically about ted? rogers, are you sure you don’t hate yourself too much?

  • Arthur, would love to have lunch with you very soon. You can treat me after your various emails. I have zero self-hatred. Purely from your emails, you sound like a miserable person. I am 38 and was diagnosed with an incurable, Parkinson’s related disorder and am focused on dividing me from my illness. SMU TEDx was a venue. I live in Los Angeles. Please write a retraction now about what you have written about me. You have no idea who I am. I am focused on advocacy for ill people who want to commit suicide. You just seem like a doll. Good God. TED is not about SMU — it is global. It clear that you did not do your homework. Ouch for you. Your comments make you appear totally ignorant — if you are not, then post again, but so far, you seem way too focused on SMU. In finishing this short response, I would like to request a meeting or a meal so you know what you are talking about. Can’t wait. Let me know. I arrive in Dallas tomorrow and will be happy to let folks know if you are up to a face to face or not. It would be a pleasure for me. I love to educate people. If you cannot take a meeting, then that will say it all.

  • Also, I think you should consider legal repercussions after writing about me. Surely, you know what that can lead to — taking a poorly written pot shot at someone who has a hard time walking, but has a happy attitude will surely win you NO fans in any circle in Dallas. Head to Oklahoma? I await possible time for a coffee or a meal.