A $7.75 million gift from Darwin Deason, founder of Affiliated Computer Services, will launch the Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security and support the Deason Innovation Gym in SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering.
Deason’s gift provides a $5 million endowment, as well as $1.25 million in operational funding, for the new Institute, headed by renowned cyber security expert Frederick R. Chang. Formerly research director at the National Security Agency (NSA), Chang joined SMU in fall 2013 as the inaugural Bobby B. Lyle Endowed Centennial Distinguished Chair in Cyber Security with the goal of creating the Institute that now bears Deason’s name.
The gift provides another $1.5 million to support the operation of the Deason Innovation Gym, also named in honor of the Deason family. The Innovation Gym is a facility in which students are immersed in a fast-paced environment to solve engineering problems.
“This support immediately positions the Lyle School to make significant contributions to the science of cyber security,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Darwin Deason’s generous gift of operational funding, in addition to the endowment, allows the Institute to begin addressing critical cyber security issues from day one.”
“Darwin Deason’s gift will support important research and education across a broad spectrum of student involvement,” said Lyle School Dean Marc P. Christensen. “The Institute will attract the best minds to address the threats of cyber crime and cyber terrorism. The Innovation Gym helps develop young minds, turning students loose to solve real-world problems under tight deadlines.”
Deason was born in Rogers, Arkansas. He and his wife, Katerina Panos Deason, divide their time between their home in Dallas and their other residences. Several members of Deason’s family have SMU connections: Deason’s son, Doug, is married to Holly, who is an alumna. Doug’s son, Preston, and Holly’s daughter, Fallon, both currently attend SMU.
Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security
The Lyle School’s cyber security program has been one of the University’s centers of academic excellence for 15 years. The program, supported by a core of highly regarded faculty engaged in advanced research, has garnered attention from the NSA and the U.S. Department of Defense.
The Deason Institute will expand SMU’s work in this area, incorporating a broad, interdisciplinary approach to problem solving and building relationships ranging from campus-wide to worldwide.
Deason Innovation Gym
The Deason Innovation Gym in the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education is where engineering students, as well as those in other SMU disciplines, come together to work on immersion design projects and competitions.
Located on the ground floor of Caruth Hall, the large physical space incorporates computerized design equipment as well as access to traditional mechanical tools and 3-D fabrication equipment, allowing students to take a project from the idea stage to rapid prototyping in the same space.