Robert Dedman is president and CEO of DFI Management, Ltd. A trustee since 2004, Mr. Dedman serves on numerous boards and committees. Mr. Dedman continues the leadership example of his parents, the late Robert H. Dedman, Sr. ’53 and Nancy McMillan Dedman ’50, whose gifts included endowments naming Dedman College and the Dedman School of Law; the lead gifts constructing the Dedman Life Sciences Building and the Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports; and a new gift to create the Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute.
Campaign Update: Gifts from the Dedman Family and Dedman Foundation have had a transformative impact on SMU. Why has support for the University been so important to the Dedman family over the years?
Dedman: Every adult in our family has at least one degree from SMU, so we like to joke that we want to see the University do well and increase the value of our degrees. But the real answer is that we strongly believe in SMU’s mission. SMU has educated the vast majority of Dallas’ leaders and is continuing to educate future leaders. But its role also has expanded greatly. Through contributions to projects like the identification of the Higgs boson particle, for example, SMU is advancing the knowledge of mankind. It is also our hope to be a catalyst to encourage others to contribute their time, energy and treasure to support SMU and Dedman College.
CU: Why did your family support creation of the Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute?
Dedman: Steve Jobs talked about the importance of standing at the intersection of the humanities and the sciences. The Interdisciplinary Institute is intended to be a place where it is possible to do just that. Seventy-five percent of the universities we aspire to compete with have interdisciplinary institutes. The spark of creativity that can occur when disciplines come together creates new knowledge, and gaining awareness of different perspectives is a key part of creating solutions to real-world problems. Our commitment also represents a vote of confidence in the leadership of SMU and the College, particularly Dedman College Dean Bill Tsutsui and Professor Caroline Brettell, who will serve as the Institute’s first director.
CU: Dedman College recently completed an exercise to help hone its messaging to external audiences in a way that clearly explains its role as a liberal arts college, and has adopted the motto “Minds moving the world.” Why is this important?
Dedman: It is essential to communicate that Dedman College is not an ivory tower but a place where people are gaining and creating knowledge with practical applications. The message is that a liberal arts education is not about students understanding ideas for their own sake, but using ideas as a basis for action. Part of the message also is that a liberal arts education teaches not just what to think, but how to think. In that sense, it prepares students not only for their first career but also for their later careers, and prepares people to evolve as the world evolves.