DALLAS (SMU) – Delores M. Etter – an engineer, scientist and innovative leader – will become the director of SMU’s new Caruth Institute for Engineering Education and the Texas Instruments Distinguished Chair in Engineering Education on June 1.

A former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense and Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Etter’s own barrier-breaking career serves as a strong example for drawing young people into math, science and engineering careers they might otherwise have assumed were out of reach.

The Institute’s first director, she is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

The directorship and chair being assumed by Etter are made possible by a $2 million gift from the Texas Instruments Foundation.

The TI Foundation contributions to SMU support ambitious programs that break through roadblocks to diversity and introduce a new wave of innovation into engineering education. These K-12 and early college programs will be greatly expanded within the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education, endowed in October with a $10.1 million gift from the W.W. Caruth Foundation atCommunities Foundation of Texas.

The new TI Foundation gift guarantees outstanding leadership for this new national institute by endowing the Distinguished Chair and directorship of the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education.

“This new gift is yet another example of TI’s leadership in finding solutions to challenges in education,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “With this endowment, the TI Foundation has enabled us to appoint a leader who brings with her extensive experience in education, public service and research – a combination that uniquely suits the goal of advancing engineering education. We are grateful to the TI Foundation for its ongoing generosity in helping SMU to broaden opportunities for talented young people.”

Etter will establish a high standard as the first Texas Instruments Distinguished Chair in Engineering Education and Caruth Institute director. She has served as both Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition and as Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Science and Technology. Her Washington assignments in public service complement a distinguished academic career. She comes to SMU from the electrical engineering faculty of the U.S. Naval Academy, where she held the Office of Naval Research Distinguished Chair in Science and Technology. Etter earned her Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico. Among her numerous honors and awards, she is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the highest recognition that can be bestowed upon an engineer in this country.

The Caruth Institute for Engineering Education is dedicated to increasing the number and diversity of students who graduate from U.S. high schools with both the enthusiasm and knowledge to pursue the engineering careers that are necessary for the U.S. to compete in a global economy. Geoffrey Orsak, dean of the SMU School of Engineering, warns that the U.S. could fall behind its international competitors without the targeted pursuit of math, science and engineering expertise that drove the space race of the 1960s.

“As we strive to increase the research portfolio among our faculty and the academic credentials of our students, the disciplines of engineering and science play a critical role,” said Paul Ludden, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “The new TI Foundation endowment enables us to add another distinguished scholar and leader to the faculty. As a professor, she will inspire our students, especially as SMU strives to reach gender parity in engineering education. As the Caruth Institute director, she will have an impact beyond campus by providing effective and proven curricula and programs to develop the next generation of engineers.”

“Engineering education is critical to the future of our region and country. By funding the TI Distinguished Chair, the TI Foundation is helping build a center of excellence in Dallas for the delivery and assessment of K-16 engineering education programs,” said Jack Swindle, chair of the Texas Instruments Foundation. “This aligns with the foundation’s interests and supports the national effort to improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. We are excited about this opportunity to bring a nationally recognized figure to the area whose deep experience will help address this challenge.”

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison helped SMU establish what is now the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education in 2002 through a federal grant, and its programs immediately began changing the education landscape through Texas Instruments’ sponsorship, including:

  • The Infinity Project: An award-winning high school and early college math and science-based engineering program that helps teachers across the U.S. make advanced math and science courses relevant and exciting for high school students.
  • The Gender Parity Initiative: A nationally recognized program that promotes interest in engineering and technology among girls and young women.
  • Visioneering: An annual program that gives middle school students the opportunity to play “engineer for a day.”

“Texas Instruments continues its dedicated leadership to developing our future engineers,” Orsak said. “Now, more than ever, we are dependent upon our ability to recruit and educate world-class engineers. With this visionary gift, the TI Foundation is addressing critical educational needs by permanently establishing the Texas Instruments Distinguished Chair in Engineering Education.”