DALLAS (SMU) — A gift of $1.2 million from the William A. Custard and L. Frank Pitts family will endow four President’s Scholarships at Southern Methodist University. Two will be designated the L. Frank Pitts President’s Scholarships in honor of Mrs. Custard’s father. The other two will be designated the Linda Pitts Custard President’s Scholarship and the William A. Custard President’s Scholarship.

“The President’s Scholars program enables SMU to attract some of the nation’s top students,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “The funding of four new scholarships for the program will broaden our efforts and will give these bright students the opportunity to benefit from SMU’s strong faculty and academic programs. We are deeply grateful to Linda and Bill Custard and Frank Pitts and their family for this generous gift, and it is gratifying that their leadership will advance one of the University’s highest-priority programs.”

A President’s Scholarship is the highest academic merit scholarship awarded by SMU. Each President’s Scholar receives a full-tuition scholarship, renewable for four years, and other benefits, including up to a full year of study abroad. President’s Scholars have opportunities to meet world leaders on campus as part of the Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series and to develop mentoring relationships with business and civic leaders in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Each year SMU selects from 20 to 25 first-year students to participate in this prestigious program, which currently includes 76 students.

“Our family values the challenges of learning and education, and we are pleased and delighted to participate in this way at SMU,” said Mrs. Custard.

The Custard and Pitts families are leaders in oil and gas exploration and production, ranching, investments, and real estate development. Frank Pitts is a world-renowned independent oilman and owner of Pitts Oil Company. William Custard is a private investor/oilman and president and CEO of the family operating companies. Linda Custard is a general partner of Custard/Pitts Land and Cattle Company.

Mr. Custard graduated from SMU in 1957 with a B.B.A. degree in banking and finance, and he is a member of the Executive Board of SMU’s Cox School of Business. Involved in numerous community activities, he is a Life Trustee of the Dallas Theater Center, where he has served as chairman of both the Board of Directors and the Endowment Committee. He is also active in numerous oil and gas industry associations.

Mrs. Custard has been a member of the SMU Board of Trustees since 2000. She also is vice chair of the Executive Board of Meadows School of the Arts. She served as chair of the International Festival of Opening Events for the new Meadows Museum at SMU in 2001 and chair of the Jubilee Opening of SMU’s Greer Garson Theatre in 1992. She received the M.B.A. degree from Cox School of Business in 1999.

Mrs. Custard’s current community activities include serving as inaugural chair of the President’s Advisory Council of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts Foundation and leadership in a broad range of other organizations. She was honored with the 2005 Maura Award for contributions to improving the lives of women and girls in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. In 2001 she received the Dallas Historical Society Award for Excellence in Arts Leadership, and the Association of Fundraising Executives selected her as the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year. Both Linda and Bill Custard have received the TACA/Neiman Marcus Silver Cup Award for their contributions to the arts, and in 2005 they were recognized by the Dallas Opera with the Juanita and Henry S. Miller Jr. Founders Award.

“The President’s Scholars program began in 1982 as part of SMU’s commitment to increase the academic profile of the student body,” said Robert Blocker, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “As these talented young scholars pursue their studies at SMU, they exhibit intellectual and leadership skills that will contribute measurably to an educated citizenry. As students, they are multi-talented and well-rounded, and as alumni they will continue to advance the academic reputation of the University through their achievements.”