Brad E. Cheves

Linda and Mitch Hart commit significant gift to SMU’s Ford Research and Innovation Building

Linda and Milledge 'Mitch' A. Hart IIIDallas business leaders Linda Wertheimer Hart ’65 and Milledge (Mitch) A. Hart, III have committed a significant gift to the Gerald J. Ford Research and Innovation Building at SMU. The new facility will house the University’s Linda and Mitch Hart eCenter, which includes SMU Guildhall, the world’s top-ranked graduate game design program. The building will be located on SMU’s main campus at the corner of McFarlin Boulevard and Airline Road.

“Thanks to the Harts’ generosity, we are one step closer to creating a world-class center for research and innovation on our campus,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “We are excited about the synergies we’ll derive from bringing advanced computer programs together under one roof.”

In 2000, the Harts made a generous gift to establish the Hart eCenter, currently located at SMU-in-Plano, as well as to endow the eCenter’s directorship. The Hart eCenter focuses on interdisciplinary research, education and innovation; it is the first university-wide initiative focused on interactive network technologies created at a major research university. Reporting directly to SMU’s provost, the Hart eCenter uses this freedom and flexibility to promote thought leadership at the intersections of multiple fields and disciplines.

The Hart eCenter’s most visible manifestation is SMU Guildhall. Since its founding in 2003, the program has graduated more than 700 students, who now work at more than 250 video game studios around the world. SMU Guildhall offers both a Master of Interactive Technology in Digital Game Development degree and a Professional Certificate of Interactive Technology in Digital Game Development, with specializations in Art, Design, Production and Programming. In 2017, the Guildhall was named the world’s “No. 1 Graduate Program for Game Design” by The Princeton Review, based on a survey of 150 institutions in the United States, Canada and abroad that offer game design coursework and/or degrees.

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“SMU understands the value of interdisciplinary research in creating new knowledge and discovering new approaches to solving the world’s challenges. With a new facility dedicated to building these research collaborations, the University is stepping forward as an innovation leader,” said Linda Hart. “The growth of SMU Guildhall, both in programming and in stature, has been a source of tremendous pride for Linda and me ever since we made our first gift to establish the Hart eCenter. I look forward to seeing the exciting work this internationally recognized program will produce as it extends and expands its cutting-edge research in interactive technologies,” said Mitch Hart.

The Ford Research and Innovation Building was established with a $15 million lead gift commitment from Gerald J. Ford ’66, ’69 and Kelli O. Ford to construct a campus research center supporting SMU’s goal to expand advanced computing and interdisciplinary research throughout the University.

“One of SMU’s strengths is the research and other work we do at the intersection of multiple disciplines,” said Steven C. Currall, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “We plan to continue building on this strength to advance and expand our research capability.”

In addition to the Hart eCenter and SMU Guildhall, the new building will house the AT&T Center for Virtualization, which will allow researchers from across the University to conduct interdisciplinary work to address the technical, economic, social and security issues associated with virtual technologies and their applications. It also will be the home of the Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute, established in May 2012 through a gift from the Dedman Foundation.

It is expected that the availability of the Ford Research and Innovation Building will encourage more faculty to use high-performance computing and attract greater levels of external research funding. The University’s Second Century Campaign added 54 new substantially endowed faculty positions, bringing SMU’s current total to 120, many of them senior-level scholars with active research agendas. Along with other faculty who are leading important research projects, these scholars need and expect the best facilities to support their work. In addition, high-performance computing will apply directly to the undergraduate curriculum in several disciplines.

“Linda and Mitch Hart have been visionary supporters of SMU for many years. This gift reaffirms their dedication to the University as a leader in interdisciplinary research and education,” said Brad E. Cheves, SMU vice president for Development and External Affairs. “We are incredibly grateful for their support of excellence and innovation among our faculty and students, and for the opportunity to share these world-changing capabilities with our North Texas and global communities.”

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Memorial service for Ruth Collins Sharp Altshuler ’48 held Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017

Ruth Collins Sharp Altshuler '48 at a ceremony where she received SMU's 2011 J. Erik Jonsson Ethics AwardThe SMU community celebrated the life of civic and philanthropic leader Ruth Collins Sharp Altshuler ’48, former chair of the SMU Board of Trustees, on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. Altshuler died Dec. 8.

As a leader, Altshuler was known for her intelligence, decisiveness, legendary fundraising skills and sense of humor. As a result, she became the first woman to lead numerous Dallas boards and organizations, including the Board of Trustees of her alma mater, SMU. Education, health and services for some of the most downtrodden members of society were areas that attracted her support, but her generosity touched nearly every Dallas civic organization. Her influence, however, went far beyond Dallas. Altshuler was recognized nationally and internationally as a dedicated civic leader and philanthropist.

“The loss of Ruth leaves a major hole in the hearts of us all,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Ruth was my dear friend as well as a tireless fighter for SMU and all causes she believed in. She didn’t do anything halfway. Her work on behalf of Dallas and SMU was legendary years ago, and yet she continued to lead and inspire us year after year. Her impact on her city and her University will live on forever.”

“Ruth was a wonderful member of the SMU Board of Trustees. She was high energy and full of enthusiasm in everything she did to help make SMU a leading global university,” said Michael M. Boone ’63, ’67, SMU Board of Trustees chair. “As a civic leader, Ruth fell into that special category known as the best of the best. The SMU community will miss her dearly.”

A Dallas native and 1948 SMU graduate, Altshuler served on the SMU Board of Trustees for 50 years. She brought knowledge and understanding of every aspect of University life to her position, along with a great love of SMU.

Altshuler has served on nearly every board or council at SMU, including individual schools, libraries, lecture series and search committees. She served on the executive boards of six out of SMU’s seven schools, as well as the executive boards of SMU’s libraries, Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series and the Maguire Ethics Center. In Altshuler’s 50 years of leadership, she worked with six SMU presidents, and helped select two of them as a member of the presidential search committees which appointed Dr. R. Gerald Turner and Dr. James H. Zumberge.

“I talked to Ruth almost every day,” said Brad Cheves, vice president for development and external affairs at SMU. “She was fully committed to this University — offering advice and counsel on all manner of topics. But ultimately what she was most committed to was helping get things done. It was never about Ruth; it was always about others and how she could help them accomplish more than they may have thought they could.”

Her understanding of SMU’s strengths and challenges led to intentional and thoughtful leadership and giving, benefitting student achievement and faculty teaching and research. The projects she supported were varied, but all struck a personal chord. They ranged from endowing business professorships in honor of brothers James M. Collins and Carr P. Collins, to providing research funds for history professors in honor of her son, history buff Charles Stanton Sharp, Jr. She and her husband, Dr. Kenneth Z. Altshuler, endowed the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center because of their interest in supporting the achievements of young people. In addition, she supported the Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professors Award, which annually honors four professors for their notable commitment to fostering student learning, as well as endowing lecture series, scholarships and facilities for areas ranging from athletics to arts to academics.

Altshuler received nearly every award SMU offers, including the 2011 J. Erik Jonsson Ethics award, presented by SMU’s Cary Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility to individuals who exemplify the spirit of moral leadership and public virtue, and the 1966 Distinguished Alumni Award. With her husband, Kenneth, the Altshulers were presented the 1998 Mustang Award for extraordinary philanthropy to the University.

The family asks that instead of flowers, donations be made in her honor to the Salvation Army.

> Read the full story from SMU News