May 7, 2010

As we continue to hear about cutbacks in higher education, we at SMU are especially grateful for our ongoing progress, even as we face budgetary challenges.


One cause for gratitude is donor generosity that has kept The Second Century Campaign moving forward. While giving to most institutions declined 11.9 percent last year, SMU’s increased 37 percent. Thus far gifts to the campaign have exceeded $421 million, funding 193 new scholarships; 16 endowed academic positions; 14 institutes, centers and other academic programs; and 12 new or renovated facilities.

At the same time, annual giving for operational expenses remains a special challenge, in view of the decline in endowment income affecting all institutions. The total return for SMU’s endowment pool for the two-year period ending June 30, 2009, declined 19.2 percent, resulting in fewer resources for operations. We are making cuts in expenditures ranging from 2 to 8 percent – levels that, though difficult, still enable us to continue our academic momentum.

“As competition increases, so must our outreach, campus visitations and, in particular, scholarship resources.”

And examples of academic progress abound. In the past two years, 38 students have received prestigious national fellowships, among them Truman, Marshall, Fulbright and Goldwater awards. Spring break set records in the number of service and study trips taken by our students, ranging from Uganda to Guatemala and throughout the United States. We have added more than 100 education abroad programs, a January term for SMU-in-Plano and a fall term for SMU-in-Taos.

These advancements enrich the experiences of our current students and help us compete for other bright students. Although admission applications have increased 8.8 percent over last year, it will take an all-out effort to ensure that the students we want are the ones who want us. As competition increases, so must our outreach, campus visitations and, in particular, scholarship resources. In addition to giving, alumni can help by serving as SMU ambassadors as you encounter prospective students.

So while we remain vigilant in managing budgets and resources, we report with optimism that SMU is enjoying unbridled progress – thanks to your generosity.

R. Gerald Turner