The 43rd president of the United States was the surprise guest of honor at a colorful, music-filled, ceremony welcoming the George W. Bush Presidential Center to campus on Founders’ Day April 19. More than 3,000 SMU alumni, students, faculty and staff applauded as Bush walked down the steps of Dallas Hall to the speaker’s platform.
“You see a guy who’s grateful, really grateful, that the leadership of SMU and the Board of Trustees made it possible that Laura and I could build the Bush Presidential Center on this campus,” Bush said. “Today is a day to give thanks, and I’m the most thankful person here.”
Following student performances of music specially composed for the festivities, SMU President R. Gerald Turner continued the theme of gratitude. “First, of course, to George W. Bush and Laura Bush …, we’re honored with your historic decision to place this center on our campus.” Turner also expressed his gratitude to the Bush Library Selection Committee, Bush Foundation, National Archives and Records Administration and SMU alumni, faculty, students and staff.
“The long-term impact of the Bush Presidential Center on SMU, on Dallas and on our nation can really only be imagined at this time,” Turner said. “However, if the activities of the past two years [with the Institute] are any indication, this unique national resource will help change lives around the globe.”
Other SMU and community leaders welcomed the former president, including University Park Mayor Richard B. Davis, who presented President Bush with a “Bush Ave.” street sign. Portions of Airline Road and Dublin Street near the Bush Center have been renamed Bush Avenue to commemorate the new center, located on SMU Boulevard.
Outgoing student body president Alex Mace ’13 presented a bound book of student letters welcoming the Bush Presidential Center to President Bush, along with a tiny Mustang cheerleader outfit for Bush’s new granddaughter, Margaret Laura Hager.
The Board of Trustees honored the Bushes by purchasing a previously unknown journal, An Account of Four Years Travels, by American explorer John Maley, which became the four millionth volume at the SMU libraries.
In addition, SMU Board of Trustees chair Caren Prothro presented a resolution from the Board. “Today is the culmination of literally years of work and collaborative efforts of thousands of individuals,” she said. “The entire world will be watching the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center next week, and we are honored that SMU is a full party in this project.”
Founders’ Weekend included “Inside SMU” informal classes, a briefing by Turner, Golden Mustang reunion, donor receptions, a picnic with faculty, an open house at the Meadows Museum and activities with SMU football players.