SMU Welcomes George W. Bush Presidential Center

From left: SMU Student Body Vice President Elect Jaywin Singh Malhi, Student Body Secretary Elect Katherine Ladner, former U.S. President George W. Bush, Student Body President Alex Mace, and Student Body President Elect Ramon Trespalacios

From left: SMU Student Body Vice President Elect Jaywin Singh Malhi, Student Body Secretary Elect Katherine Ladner, former U.S. President George W. Bush, Student Body President Alex Mace, and Student Body President Elect Ramon Trespalacios

The 43rd president of the United States was the unadvertised guest of honor April 19 at a colorful, music-filled, outdoor ceremony welcoming the George W. Bush Presidential Center to campus. More than 3,000 SMU alumni, students, faculty and staff cheered and waved as Bush strode to the speaker’s platform and later expressed his thanks to the University.

“Laura, SMU class of 1968, and I are thrilled with our association with Southern Methodist University,” Bush said. “We had high expectations about the collaborative effort and the joint programs. Those expectations have been exceeded in a very short period of time.”

SMU is preparing to welcome worldwide visitors who will attend dedication events April 24-26 for the Bush Presidential Center.

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SMU President R. Gerald Turner welcomes former U.S. President George W. Bush during ceremonies April 19.

After student performances of music specially composed for the festivities, SMU President R. Gerald Turner captured the spirit of the day in the opening of his remarks, “Today is a day of thanks. First, of course, to George W. Bush and Laura Bush, we simply say, thank you. We’re honored with your historic decision to place this center on this campus.”

Recalling the initial 2001 SMU Board of Trustees resolution that supported attracting the Bush Presidential Center, Turner expressed his gratitude to all who helped make the dream of a presidential library at SMU a reality, including the Bush Library Selection Committee, Bush Foundation, the National Archives and Records Administration and SMU alumni, faculty, students and staff.

“The long-term impact of the Bush Presidential Center on SMU, on Dallas and on our nation can really only be imagined at this time,” Turner said. “However, if the programs and activities of the past two years are any indication, this unique national resource will grow into a transformational institution that will help change lives and directions around the globe.”

Other SMU and community leaders welcomed the former president, including University Park Mayor Richard B. Davis, who presented President Bush with a green and white “Bush Ave” street sign. Portions of Airline Road and Dublin Street at SMU have been renamed Bush Avenue to commemorate the new library, located on SMU Boulevard.

A bound book of student letters welcoming the Bush Presidential Center was presented to President Bush by Alex Mace, student body president, along with a tiny Mustang cheerleader outfit for Bush’s new granddaughter, Margaret Laura Hager, daughter of Jenna Bush Hager and Henry Hager.

In addition, Caren Prothro, chair of the SMU Board of Trustees, presented a resolution honoring George W. and Laura Welch Bush.

“Today is the culmination of literally years of work and combined and collaborative efforts of thousands of individuals,” she said. “The entire world will be watching the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center next week, and we are honored that SMU is a full party in this project.”

As SMU and the George W. Bush Presidential Center prepare to welcome thousands of guests to campus next week, Bush summarized his thoughts this way:

“You see a guy who’s grateful, really grateful, that the current leadership of SMU and the Board of Trustees made it possible that Laura and I could build the Bush Presidential Center here on this campus. Today is a day to give thanks, and I’m the most thankful person here.” Read the transcript of President Bush’s remarks.

The Board of Trustees also honored the Bushes with the presentation of a rare manuscript at a luncheon following the celebration. A previously unknown journal, Four Years Travels, by American explorer John Maley was presented by the trustees to SMU’s DeGolyer Library.

The 188-page journal represents the 4 millionth volume at the SMU libraries.

Maley recounts his 1808-1812 travels through present-day Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana. Often traveling alone, he wrote of prairie fires, snakebites, robbers and an encounter with a panther. But in addition to his adventures, Maley carefully describes agriculture, mines and mineral deposits, trading opportunities and the inhabitants of settlers’ villages and Native American camps.

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