DALLAS (SMU) — A gift of $10 million from the Honorable Roy M. Huffington of Houston will establish endowments to support faculty compensation and scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students at Southern Methodist University. Each totaling $5 million, the funds will be known as the Huffington Bicentennial Faculty Endowment Fund and the Huffington Bicentennial Scholarship Endowment Fund.
The Huffington Funds are patterned after the unique Benjamin Franklin Trust, established more than 200 years ago through the estate of the American statesman to benefit the cities of Boston and Philadelphia. As with the Franklin Trust, terms are set forth for use of the Huffington Funds while they continue to grow over the next two centuries.
This is Huffington’s second major gift to SMU patterned after the Franklin Trust. The first was $5 million in 1990 to establish an unrestricted Huffington Bicentennial Endowment Fund. A portion of that fund is paid annually to SMU for current unrestricted use, while the fund continues to grow. The fund, which is administered as part of SMU’s endowment, now has a market value of $15.1 million, more than triple its original value.
“We are deeply grateful to Roy Huffington for his commitment to the continued advancement of his alma mater, as reflected in this generous new long-term investment in the strength of SMU’s faculty and students,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “For SMU to fulfill its goal of becoming one of the nation’s premier private universities, we must be able to continue attracting distinguished faculty and outstanding students. Resources for competitive salaries and merit scholarships are major factors in achieving our academic goals.”
Huffington is chair and CEO of Roy M. Huffington Inc., an international petroleum operations investment firm. His distinguished career has included global oil and gas exploration, international business, and military and diplomatic service. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1942-45, receiving the Bronze Star, with Combat V, and the Presidential Unit Citation. Following World War II, he served for 10 years as a senior geologist and exploration division geologist with Humble Oil and Refining Company, now ExxonMobil. In 1956 he founded Huffco, an oil and gas firm that started exploring in Indonesia in the late 1960s. After signing a production-sharing contract with Indonesia in 1968, a major gas strike there in 1972 launched the company on a 25-year joint venture with the Indonesian government. In 1988 Newsweek magazine listed Huffington as one of 25 Americans “in the forefront of building bridges to the East.”
Adding another dimension to his international activities, Huffington served as U.S. ambassador to Austria from 1990 to 1993, working to open business opportunities between the newly accessible Eastern bloc countries and the West. Upon returning to the United States following his term as ambassador, he renewed his involvement in oil and gas investment.
“One of the most important components of a university’s growth in academic strength is to have a strong endowment that supports faculty and students,” Huffington said. “This endowment is intended to ensure long-term resources at SMU for the recruitment and retention of outstanding faculty and the bright students they will inspire.”
Huffington earned a B.S. degree in geology from SMU in 1938 and both M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in geology from Harvard University. He has received distinguished alumni awards from SMU and the Harvard Business School. He also received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from SMU in 1990, when he delivered the Commencement address.
Huffington graduated from North Dallas High School before enrolling in SMU. His late wife, Phyllis Gough Huffington, graduated from Highland Park High School and earned her B.B.A. degree from SMU in 1943.
The Huffingtons have donated $20.6 million to SMU, including this new $10 million gift to establish endowment funds for faculty compensation and student scholarships. In addition to the $5 million Huffington Bicentennial Endowment Fund in 1990, their gifts have included endowed faculty chairs in Finance and Geological Sciences, and several endowed scholarship funds.
A member of the SMU Board of Trustees from 1980-87, Huffington was named a trustee emeritus in 1991. In 1996 he and his wife received the Mustang Award, which recognizes longtime service and philanthropy to the University.
Huffington’s other honors include the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Henry Laurence Gantt Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He currently is a trustee of the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station and vice chair of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. He is an honorary life trustee of the national board of The Asia Society.