SMU President R. Gerald Turner has confirmed that Dallas business leader and SMU trustee Ray L. Hunt and his wife, Nancy Ann, have made a $35 million commitment to SMU, the largest single gift in the University’s history. Although the funds were committed several months ago, an announcement had not been made because details remain to be finalized, and the commitment will be part of the next SMU major gifts campaign, now in its planning stage.
“Typically, we announce such a large gift strategically at the start of the public phase to energize the kick-off,” said Brad E. Cheves, SMU vice president for development and external affairs. “It is not unusual for a donor to make a commitment that will wait to be announced for several months, as part of a larger campaign effort.” The public phase is expected to begin in 2008.
The gift was used initially to purchase Park Cities Plaza, a shopping center adjacent to campus. As the campaign nears public kick-off, a major part of the Hunt gift will be designated for an academic initiative, and other SMU resources will cover that part of Park Cities Plaza purchase. The academic initiative is yet to be determined, but will be announced as the campaign goes public. “We have just completed our new University strategic plan, which will help us work with our donors in designating gifts for priority academic projects,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner.
“Ray L. Hunt was a key figure in the success of SMU’s last campaign, serving as a co-chair and, with Nancy Ann, providing generous support for a new scholarship program,” Turner said. “We are fortunate that he will also play a leading role in our next campaign, and that part of the Hunts’ new gift will fund another project that will enhance academic quality. We look forward to working out with them exactly what that project will be, and to celebrating that commitment at the appropriate time.”
The recently announced $33 million Meadows Foundation gift and the Hunts’ gift to SMU become the first major commitments to the upcoming campaign. “The generosity of these visionary donors will help us to make dramatic progress as we launch a campaign that will significantly alter the academic profile of the University,” Turner said.
In addition to initiatives strengthening academic and student life programs, in the past few years SMU has been purchasing properties near the campus to provide expansion space for intramural fields, student housing, and other University functions. Recent acquisitions include the site of Mrs. Baird’s bakery on Mockingbird and adjacent properties; and, on east of Central Expressway, the former UA Cine, Expressway Towers, and another nearby office building. While the bakery site and former theater are being used for storage, the two office buildings will provide space for research and operations.