As we note SMU milestones of the past 100 years, this year we also mark a new highpoint in our timeline of progress. In a rare and remarkable moment in the history of higher education and our nation, SMU hosted five U.S. presidents April 25 for the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center. And with the opening, SMU officially became one of the few U.S. universities to host a presidential center, housing a library, museum and independent institute.
SMU’s growing reputation as a center for research was a dominant theme during the dedication, which attracted more than 8,500 guests and 600 international reporters. We achieved unprecedented visibility for SMU through media coverage – in a four-day period more than 1.1 million media stories around the globe mentioned SMU as the home of the Bush Center. Social media postings reached an all-time high.
SMU began celebrating the Bush Center opening on Founders’ Day April 19, part of our Second Century Celebration 2011-2015. We held an official Bush Center welcoming ceremony on the main quad. The more than 3,000 attendees were surprised by a visit by former President George W. Bush. SMU student leaders presented him with 100 letters of welcome written by their classmates. And in honor of the Bush Center’s opening, our trustees funded the purchase of a historic journal by a 19th-century Western explorer, which became our four millionth library acquisition.
These achievements coincide happily with our Year of the Library, so called because we are commemorating SMU’s hiring in 1913 of our first librarian, Dorothy Amann, and the purchase of our first book. Helping us celebrate this special year, the Bush Presidential Library is co-sponsoring an exhibit of George Washington’s personal copy of the U.S. Constitution, including his handwritten notes. From July 14-27, SMU’s DeGolyer Library will display the document, part of its “Hail to the Chief” presidential exhibit July 14-October 4.
In this SMU Magazine, you will read more about the developments I’ve mentioned, along with major new gifts supporting expansion of our libraries.
So, our Year of the Library truly is rewriting the history of our resources for research. We thank everyone whose generosity is marking new milestones for the SMU libraries.
R. Gerald Turner