Leslie Long Melson is the chair of SMU’s Alumni Board, having served as a member since 2011, and serves as chair of the Campaign Steering Committee for Alumni. She has volunteered in other capacities at SMU, including serving on the reunion committee for the Class of 1977. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in the Meadows School. Leslie also serves as president of the Board of Trustees for Highland Park Independent School District in Dallas, is an elder at Highland Park Presbyterian Church and has served on the boards of numerous philanthropic and nonprofit organizations.
Campaign Update: Tell us about your role as chair of the SMU Alumni Board.
Melson: The job of the chair is to help strengthen the alumni network so that former SMU students across the country and around the world stay connected to the University and also to one another. We want our alumni to continue to feel part of the SMU community no matter where they are. The chair of the Alumni Board also serves on the SMU Board of Trustees.
CU: SMU recently announced the addition of a Second Century Campaign Steering Committee for Alumni, which you also chair. Why is such a committee important?
Melson: The role of the committee is to spearhead the effort to achieve the campaign’s alumni participation goals, and also ensure that the rate of giving by alumni continues to increase each and every year. We have to grow and sustain a culture of alumni giving for SMU to continue to progress. That’s why the goals set by the leadership at the beginning of the campaign include alumni participation. The universities that SMU wants to be compared with have annual alumni giving levels of 25 percent to 30 percent, so the leadership set a 25 percent goal for SMU. In the past 10 years our rate has increased from 12 percent to 24 percent, which is terrific, but we need to reach 25 percent and beyond.
CU: Is the alumni giving rate important for other reasons also?
Melson: Absolutely. The alumni giving rate is one of the many factors taken into consideration in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of national universities. It is viewed as an indicator of the strength of the relationship between the school and its alumni. Because of the impact on these rankings, it is essential that every SMU alumnus provides a gift every year. The act of making a gift annually is just as important as the amount you give.
CU: What message would you like to deliver to every graduate of SMU?
Melson: Gifts to The Second Century Campaign are having a profound and transformative effect on your University. The campaign is providing vital support for scholarships and faculty positions, strengthening the endowment and enhancing campus facilities. I encourage all alumni to visit the Hilltop to see the dramatic transformation taking shape. I also encourage everyone to provide a campaign gift before the end of the fiscal year May 31 and to make a gift to SMU every year!