DALLAS (SMU) — A $4 million gift to SMU from former Texas Governor William P. Clements, Jr. (SMU ’39) and his wife, Rita, will support improvements in facilities at SMU-in-Taos, the University’s campus in northern New Mexico.
Other donors have provided more than $900,000 in additional gifts. They include Dallasites Roy and Janis Coffee, Maurine Dickey (SMU ’67), Richard T. (SMU ’61) and Jenny Mullen, Caren H. Prothro, and Steve (SMU ’70) and Marcy (SMU ’69) Sands; Jo Ann Geurin Pettus (SMU ’69) of Graham; and Richard C. Ware II (SMU ’68) of Amarillo.
A groundbreaking ceremony will be held July 18 for construction of new student housing as the first phase of planned enhancements, which also will include renovation of present student and faculty housing, state-of-the-art technology and a new student center. The improvements will make facilities useable in all seasons, enabling fall semester classes to be offered.
SMU-in-Taos currently operates only during the summer because facilities are not suitable for use during cold weather. The goal is to accommodate 70 students for a fall semester starting in 2009, in addition to spring and summer terms. Approximately 300 students now participate each summer in courses in the humanities; natural and social sciences; and performing, visual and communication arts.
The new fall semester program will follow a schedule tailor-made for SMU-in-Taos. It will emphasize close faculty-student interaction and coursework structured in four intensive course modules taken in sequence, each lasting three weeks. A fifth course module will consist of an independent study project. The schedule will enable regular full-time SMU faculty to teach three-week modules in the fall at Taos while maintaining duties on the main campus in Dallas and without having to move their families. Other plans call for an expanded curriculum, development of internship programs and opportunities for community service in the Taos area.
“Bill Clements has played a major role in the development of SMU-in-Taos over the past four decades,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “We are grateful for his early vision of the Taos program and his generous support through the years. This latest gift from Bill and Rita Clements will enable the University to make full use of this extraordinary site for the education of our students.”
The new student housing to be constructed will consist of adobe-style casitas compatible with current facilities and with traditional New Mexico architecture. The SMU-in-Taos master plan also calls for the addition of a student center and new faculty housing. Planned infrastructure improvements include Internet access in new and existing housing, cell phone service and other technology upgrades. Additional funds are being sought for the planned improvements.
“SMU-in-Taos is a unique facility for teaching and research that draws from the diverse natural resources and cultures of Northern New Mexico,” said Paul W. Ludden, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “By offering a fall semester, we can now make this resource accessible to more SMU students, especially those who cannot enroll in summer programs because of the need for employment during those months.”
SMU-in-Taos has offered summer study programs since 1973 at the site of historic Fort Burgwin, a pre-Civil War fort near Taos. The 295-acre campus also includes the remains of 13th-century Pot Creek Pueblo, the focus of SMU’s annual archaeological field school.
“The Fort Burgwin SMU campus has been a unique addition to the University, providing a completely different environment both academically and physically,” Bill Clements said.
As SMU approaches the centennial of its founding, in 2011, and its opening, in 2015, the University is seeking additional resources to support outstanding students, faculty, academic programs and the campus experience. Gifts for facilities improvements at SMU-in-Taos support that effort.
Fort Burgwin was established in 1852 as headquarters for United States regional military operations, but was abandoned at the beginning of the Civil War. Its colorful history came to light in 1950, when amateur archaeologist Ralph Rounds acquired the property. Rounds enlisted distinguished archaeologist Fred Wendorf to excavate and rebuild the fort.
Wendorf joined the SMU faculty in 1964, bringing with him his Fort Burgwin research. SMU envisioned the fort as an ideal setting for an archaeological field school and other summer programs. The University began acquiring the property in 1964 with assistance from Bill Clements, then chair of SMU’s Board of Governors. Since then, in addition to rebuilding much of the fort to its original state, SMU has added student and faculty housing, classrooms, a dining hall, auditorium, information commons and other facilities. Clements has continued his support of property acquisition, facilities and programs at Fort Burgwin, providing a total of $7.5 million, including the new gift. In 2002 he provided $1 million toward construction of an information commons building named in honor of Wendorf.
Through the years, Bill and Rita Clements, who live in Dallas, have contributed more than $21 million for the University’s academic programs and facilities, including their support of SMU-in-Taos. A gift of $10 million in 1994 endowed the William P. Clements Department of History, began a Ph.D. program in history and established the Clements Center for Southwest Studies. Other gifts include $1 million to establish the Betty Clements Professorship in Applied Mathematics in honor of Clements’ sister and funds for renovation of a building renamed Clements Hall.
Bill Clements’ relationship with SMU began in the mid 1930s, when he was an engineering student. He later served several terms as a member and officer of the SMU Board of Trustees and its former Board of Governors. He was named trustee emeritus in 1991. SMU has honored Clements with the Mustang Award for longtime service and philanthropy to SMU, an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree and the SMU Distinguished Alumni Award. Both Bill and Rita Clements are members of the SMU-in-Taos Executive Board.
Currently a private investor, Bill Clements served two terms as governor of Texas, from 1979-83 and again from 1987-91. He was co-founder and co-owner of Southeastern Drilling Company, which later changed its name to SEDCO Inc. and became the world’s largest oil drilling contracting firm.