After A Challenging Year, Facing Forward
Reflecting on 2009, we feel pride that we weathered economic challenges while continuing progress. Our endowment decline of 21.9 percent for July 1, 2008-June 30, 2009 was considerably smaller than that experienced by many other universities. Still, our loss amounted to a $16 million decrease for annual expenditures, about 4 percent of SMU’s operating budget.
With the help of trustee leadership, we adapted. When we saw that the high-quality students we sought would need larger scholarships to attend SMU, reflecting family economic uncertainties, several trustees stepped up to provide immediate add-on funds to scholarships for selected first-year students. That initiative helped us secure an entering class of 1,330 with a slight rise in SAT scores, continuing our 10-year trend of increases.
Like nonprofit organizations throughout the nation, SMU experienced a slowdown in major contributions. Yet in September, we celebrated the first anniversary of The Second Century Campaign with an uplifting announcement: donor generosity pushed us past the halfway mark of our $750 million goal, reaching $385 million during the quiet phase and first year of the public phase. And the campaign gained strong grassroots support as the faculty-staff kick-off achieved a participation rate of more than 50 percent.
The campaign also has moved us closer to our goal of establishing 100 substantially endowed academic positions by 2015. This past year we added three endowed positions, bringing us to 73, and we hired 31 new faculty. These are significant milestones considering that many universities have frozen faculty hiring or cut positions.
Ongoing support for our faculty is leading to greater levels of research and creative achievement. As an example, Anthropology Chair David Meltzer in Dedman College has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, among the highest honors a U.S. scientist or engineer can receive. To provide the best facilities for teaching and research, we opened the new Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall for Perkins School of Theology and are close to completing Caruth Hall for the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering, among other campus enhancements.
Looking ahead to 2010, there is much work to be done. We must complete funding for new facilities, among them the building in progress for the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. To attract an ever-better student body, we must fund more scholarships to meet need and reward merit.
We know that competing institutions will offer scholarships to the same bright young minds we want at SMU.
We must regain time lost in securing major gifts. As we work closely with our friends on the best timing for their gifts, we must rekindle a sense of positive urgency for their participation. This is the time to attract outstanding students
and faculty with new endowment support.
So, we face forward. We will indeed encounter ongoing economic challenges. But we are confident that, with your support, we will continue to report significant progress in the coming year.
R. Gerald Turner