If you ask university presidents what counts as “a good year” for their institutions, most would tell you it’s when student quality is rising, donors are giving generously, research productivity is up, new facilities are in progress and there is something to cheer about in athletics.
If their universities also gained national distinction by attracting a unique resource – such as a presidential library – they would tell you it was a very good year!
That is indeed what I am reporting. SMU’s selection as the site of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, Museum and Institute made national news. The complex will bring unprecedented resources for research and dialogue. Along with international scholars and dignitaries, hundreds of thousands of visitors will learn what makes SMU special. But the other good news is that during the years of competition for the library, SMU has been happily moving along and moving up, by all indicators. During the past academic year alone, some examples include:
- The naming and endowment of the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, with a $20 million gift from Harold and Annette Simmons also helping to fund a new building.
- The Caruth Institute for Engineering Education gift of $10.1 million from the W.W. Caruth Jr. Foundation of Communities Foundation of Texas, and the hiring of the Texas Instruments Distinguished Chair and director of the Institute.
- In Dedman College, the endowment of the Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences with a new $10 million gift from Mr. Huffington, and the C. Vincent Prothro Biological Sciences Initiative and endowed chair, with $3.6 million from Caren Prothro and the Perkins-Prothro Foundation.
- In Perkins School of Theology, the Wendland-Cook Professorship in Constructive Theology, with $1 million from Erroll and Barbara Cook Wendland.
Campus improvements continue with the opening of the Crum Basketball Center, a new 855-vehicle parking garage, residence hall renovations and three buildings in progress or set for groundbreaking – for engineering, theology and education.
New endowments and facilities have an impact on students and faculty. Entering students SAT scores continue to rise, and external funding for faculty research and sponsored projects has reached an all-time high of $20.53 million. New academic leaders arrived to guide more enhancements: Paul W. Ludden, provost and vice president for academic affairs; James E. Quick, associate vice president for research and dean of graduate studies; and David Chard, the Leon Simmons dean of the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. Arriving in July is the new dean of Dedman College, Cordelia Chávez Candelaria.
In athletics, the women’s basketball team won the 2008 Conference USA Tournament. Mustang fans also welcomed new head football coach June Jones.
So, yes, it’s been a very good year.
In choosing SMU as the site of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, the selection committee noted the University’s high quality, and the library’s resources will enhance SMU’s prominence. As we continue to attract support, we will ensure many more very good years for SMU – our second century of achievement.
R. Gerald Turner