Happenings on the Hill

1. Fighting tuberculosis, leprosy

SMU chemistry professor John Buynuck and his team have received a $3.5 million, 5-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to design and synthesize new antibiotics to fight drug-resistant strains of bacteria that cause tuberculosis and leprosy.  

“If properly developed, these new antibiotics will provide clinicians with a fallback strategy in treatment of patients infected with highly resistant mycobacterial strains,” Buynak said. 

Buynuck has spent the past 10 years creating a drug to combat these challenging diseases and came out with a promising solution. With the grant, Buynuck wants to improve the molecule he has created and see if patients can take the product orally. 

2. More honored alumni

Also, on Oct. 27, SMU will present Distinguished Alumni Awards to winners Robert Dedman Jr., Emily Rich Summers, and Ray W. Washburne. 

Dedman, who completed his MBA at SMU in 1980 and law degree there in 1984, is the president and CEO of DFI Management Ltd., which administers the family’s financial and philanthropic activities. 

Summers, class of 1966, is known as a proven tastemaker who seamlessly blends her professional talent for interior design with her knowledge and passion for art, architecture, and historic preservation. She founded Emily Summers Design Associates, a residential and commercial design and interior architecture firm. 

Washburne, class of 1984, is president and CEO of Charter Holdings, co-founder and co-owner of M Crowd Restaurant Group, and president and managing director of Highland Park Village. He was inducted into the North Texas Commercial Association of Realtors Hall of Fame earlier this year. 

3. Prisoners’ advocate

SMU has chosen Brittany K. Barnett, a celebrated attorney, criminal justice reform advocate, social justice entrepreneur, and author, for its Emerging Leader Award.

The prize recognized outstanding achievements by someone who graduated from SMU in the past 15 years.

SMU will bestow the honor on the 2011 law school graduate during the Distinguished Alumni Award presentations on Oct. 27. 

As a corporate attorney, Barnett committed herself to pro bono representation of clients serving excessive federal prison sentences under federal drug laws. She helped secure executive presidential clemency for clients during the Obama and Trump administrations. 

Her memoir, A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom, was selected as an NAACP Image Award nominee. 

4. Winning hands

SMU soccer player Harvey Castro, 21, has scored big off the field.

This summer, he won the main event at the World Series of Poker Circuit inside Choctaw Casino & Resort in Durant, Oklahoma. 

There, he bested 1,025 other players to secure $275,660 of a $1.5 million prize pool.

Castro’s win also secured him a spot in the invitation-only Tournament of Champions in Las Vegas in 2024. 

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