Honorary Degrees
1918 - Present

Jerry  Bywaters 
Doctor of Arts  1987
Status: conferred

During a career as artist, writer, museum director, educator, and historian that spans more than fifty years, Jerry Bywaters has been a major contributor to the cultural identity of Texas and the American Southwest. His many-sided career began at SMU, where he earned a degree in English and only began to study painting in his senior year. After several years of study at the Arts Students League in New York and after a sojourn in Mexico where he became acquainted with Diego Rivera, Bywaters returned to Dallas. This was in the depths of The Great Depression, and it was here that the American North and South met the West and mingled productively with influences from the Hispanic and Indian cultures. An art movement was born that called itself Regionalism, with Bywaters close to its center. As his own art matured, so did his vision, and Bywaters became the organizer and spokesman for a group of young painters, sculptors, writers, and architects who soon attracted the attention of the nation. In 1936, the year of the Texas Centennial celebration, he began teaching at SMU, and he continued to teach after he was appointed director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, a post he held until his retirement twenty-two years later. Throughout this time he continued to be the tireless and resourceful advocate of young artists, even when their work was very different from his own. He has donated to SMU his books and papers, which are preserved as the Jerry Bywaters Research Collection on American Art. He continues to be active in organizing this collection and in making available his vast store of memory to scholars.

In recognition of his long and valuable service to SMU and to the Southwest, the strength of his vision, and his enduring commitment to quality through times marked by contention and difficulty, and not least, for the beauty of his paintings, drawings, and prints, Southern Methodist University is proud to confer upon Jerry Bywaters the Degree of Doctor of Arts, honoris causa.