December 4, 2007

Celebrating the announcement of a $10.1 million gift to the School of Engineering were (from left) Engineering Dean Geoffrey Orsak, President R. Gerald Turner, SMU Board of Trustees Chairman Carl Sewell, Communities Foundation of Texas Chairman Charles J. Wyly Jr., CFT President and CEO Brent Christopher, and Texas Instruments chairman and SMU Trustee Tom Engibous.

Engineering education is getting a Texas-sized boost.

A $10.1 million gift to SMU from the W.W. Caruth Jr. Foundation at Communities Foundation of Texas will help the United States compete globally in engineering and technology by preparing students to excel in these fields. It is the single largest gift ever received by the School of Engineering.

The gift provides a national center and enhanced facilities to promote engineering and technology education in grades K-12 and beyond. The gift allocates $5.1 million to establish and endow the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education at SMU and $5 million toward a new building on the site of the original Caruth Hall, the historic home of the School of Engineering since 1948.

"New products, life-saving medicines, energy-efficient buildings and vehicles, the exploration of space – there is almost no aspect of life that is not touched by engineers."

"As we approach our centennial celebration, it is fitting that the Caruth name is once again linked with SMU, because the Caruth family made the original gift of land that helped to ensure the University’s location in Dallas," says President R. Gerald Turner. "Now, nearly a century later, this generous new gift will enhance SMU engineering as a critical educational asset for North Texas and beyond."

In 2002 Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison helped establish the Institute for Engineering Education at SMU through an initial federal grant. The Institute and School of Engineering have provided leadership in engineering education through national Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) initiatives.

"The hard reality is that we are falling behind in the pace of discovery and in our ability to compete in a world driven by innovation," says School of Engineering Dean Geoffrey C. Orsak. "The Caruth Institute for Engineering Education will help overcome this deficit as it becomes a national center of excellence in researching, developing and delivering innovative engineering education programs."

The Caruth Institute will serve as a key resource to other math and science education programs, such as the Texas High School Project, a public-private collaboration managed and funded by Communities Foundation of Texas and also funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.

"The Institute staff will conduct primary research on effective techniques for teaching the math and science foundations for engineering and technology," says SMU Provost Paul Ludden. "As an initial investment of this gift, SMU will recruit an international authority to fill a distinguished endowed faculty chair and serve as executive director of the Caruth Institute."

The Caruth Institute will consolidate and further develop several national programs already in place in the School of Engineering:

  • The Infinity Project: The nation’s leading high school and early college math- and science-based engineering education program, which will be extended into middle and elementary schools.
  • The Gender Parity Initiative: A nationally recognized program to promote interest in engineering and technology among girls and young women, with the goal of achieving 50 percent gender parity among engineering students.
  • Science Readiness Institute: An innovative summer math and science program for North Texas middle school students to prepare them for rigorous high school advanced placement courses.
  • Visioneering: National Engineers Week events and curriculum that give middle school students experience in engineering design.
  • College Partnerships: An initiative linking community college pre-engineering programs with four-year engineering colleges to encourage a seamless transition for students.

"Engineering makes the study of math and science very practical," says Brent Christopher, president and CEO of Communities Foundation of Texas. "New products, life-saving medicines, energy-efficient buildings and vehicles, the exploration of space – there is almost no aspect of life that is not touched by engineers."