June 28, 2013

The renovation and updating of two SMU libraries will be advanced through gifts totaling $8.5 million from family foundations that have supported University libraries for most of SMU’s 100-year history. The J.S. Bridwell Foundation of Wichita Falls is providing a lead gift of $7.5 million for renovation and expansion of Bridwell Library at Perkins School of Theology. The Fondren Foundation of Houston has pledged $1 million to name the Centennial Reading Room as part of the renovation of Fondren Library Center. Further funding is being sought for both projects.

A conceptual rendering of the Fondren Centennial Reading Room.

A conceptual rendering of the Fondren Centennial Reading Room.

SMU is celebrating the centennial of its founding in 1911 and its opening in 1915. The year 2013 has been designated as the Year of the Library, marking the 100th anniversary of the beginning of SMU’s library collections. The University’s nine libraries house the largest private collection of research materials in the Southwest, which last month reached four million volumes.

Bridwell Library
The lead gift of $7.5 million from the Bridwell Foundation will make it possible for renovations of Bridwell Library to include consolidating special collections, relocating the special collections reading room, increasing study carrels and small group study rooms for Perkins theology students, improving handicapped accessibility and providing multipurpose space for instruction, study and lectures. The renovations also will create an archives processing and digital lab.

Bridwell Library, which was dedicated in 1950 as part of the new Perkins School of Theology complex, was provided through a gift from Wichita Falls rancher J.S. Bridwell and his daughter, Margaret Bridwell Bowdle, a 1948 SMU graduate. Bridwell continued to support the Library, particularly in the acquisition of rare books, until his death in 1966. The J.S. Bridwell Foundation, which he established, provided funding for the renovation and enlargement of the Library in 1988. The Bridwell Foundation has continued to support acquisitions, programs and renovations of the Library through the years.

With more than 370,000 volumes, Bridwell Library houses one of the nation’s finest research collections in theology and religious studies. Its outstanding collection of rare books and manuscripts includes over 50,000 items dating from the 15th to the 20th centuries. Among the special collections are the Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Bible Collection and the largest collection in the United States of manuscript letters written by John Wesley.

Fondren Library Center
Renovation of Fondren Library Center will update the facility as a center of interactive technology and a vital gathering place on campus. In addition to expansion of spaces for individual and group study, the project will bring together the many special collections currently distributed throughout the Fondren Library complex in a redesigned Special Collections Research Center, providing exhibit areas and increasing access to its resources.

A prominent feature of the renovation will be the restoration of the grand reading room, to be known as the Fondren Centennial Reading Room.

The original Fondren Library, which opened in 1940, was provided through a gift from W.W. and Ella Fondren of Houston. Both served on the SMU Board of Trustees, and she was the first woman to serve on the board. Fondren was the first stand-alone library and the first air-conditioned building on campus. After her husband’s death, Ella Fondren and the Fondren Foundation funded the Fondren Library East addition in 1968. The Fondren Foundation also supported renovation and naming of the Texana Room in the original Fondren Library and in 1999 funded the addition of Fondren Library Center, a building that connects Fondren Library East and West and the Science Information Center. Mrs. Fondren and the Fondren Foundation also funded the Fondren Science Building and the Memorial Health Center.

Fondren Library Center is the primary information resource facility for SMU students and faculty. It holds more than three million print volumes covering the humanities, social sciences, business, education, science and engineering, many of which also are available electronically.

For more information about the library renovations or to make a gift, contact Paulette Mulry ’83, director of development, Central University Libraries, 214-768-1741 or pmulry@smu.edu; Todd Rasberry ’90, director of development, Perkins School of Theology, trasberr@smu.edu, 214-768-3166.