$10 Million Gift Endows Department Of Earth Sciences

On July 11, the Honorable Roy Huffington of Houston died while traveling in Italy. Read more about Huffington.


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Roy Huffington (right) is joined by Earth Sciences faculty (from left) Louis L. Jacobs, Brian W. Stump and Chair Robert T. Gregory.

One of SMU’s oldest and most distinguished academic departments will have new resources to support the growing impact of its research and teaching, thanks to a gift of more than $10 million from the Hon. Roy M. Huffington (’38) of Houston. The gift will endow the Department of Earth Sciences in Dedman College, now renamed the Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences.

With this new gift, Huffington has given SMU more than $20 million in the past two years and a total of more than $31 million over many years of support for the University.

The study of geology has been part of SMU’s curriculum since its opening in 1915. Through the years, the Geology Department evolved into the Department of Geological Sciences. Changing the name from Geological Sciences to Earth Sciences reflects the broadened scope of this discipline.

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Confetti rained as the SMU community and President R. Gerald Turner thanked Huffington at the gift announcement. With them is Caroline Brettell, interim dean of Dedman College.

“The term earth sciences more closely captures the essence of programs that no longer are confined solely to problems of subsurface geology,” says Caroline Brettell, interim dean of Dedman College. “Earth sciences address some of the environmental and natural resource issues that are playing an increasing role in the political life of our nation.”

Earth sciences research at SMU has achieved international recognition in the areas of seismology, experimental petrology, geothermal studies and paleoclimatology, which integrates stable isotope geology, sedimentology and paleontology. Research projects of the Earth Sciences faculty have received external funding totaling more than $4 million from agencies such as the National Science Foundation, National Geographic Society, Petroleum Research Fund of the American Chemical Society, U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Energy. Research sites include Asia, Arabia, Africa, Australia, Antarctica, Pacific Islands, the Americas and Europe.

The new gift will create the Huffington Bicentennial Endowment Fund for the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences. Along with Huffington’s gift in 2006 for faculty support and scholarships, it is patterned after the Benjamin Franklin Trust, a unique fund established more than 200 years ago through the estate of the American statesman to benefit the cities of Boston and Philadelphia. As with the Franklin Trust, terms are set forth for use of the Huffington Funds while they
continue to grow over the next two centuries.

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Congratulating Roy Huffington on his gift to Earth Sciences are (from left) SMU Board of Trustees emeriti Edwin L. Cox, William P. Clements and Cary M. Maguire.

At the gift announcement, Huffington, who earned his B.S. degree in geology from SMU in 1938, paid tribute to his mentor at SMU – the late Claude C. Albritton Jr. (’33). Huffington called Albritton, who served as a professor of geology and administrator at SMU for more than 40 years, “a wonderful teacher who loved teaching and students.” Albritton also encouraged Huffington to attend Harvard rather than “head to the oil patch.”

Huffington is chair and CEO of Roy M. Huffington Inc., an independent, international petroleum operations firm based in Houston. After a career in energy, he added another dimension to his international activities by serving as U.S. ambassador to Austria from 1990 to 1993. Upon returning to the United States after his term as ambassador, he renewed his involvement in oil and gas investment. Huffington also earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in geology from Harvard University. His late wife, Phyllis Gough Huffington, earned her B.B.A. degree from SMU in 1943.

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