January 3, 2014

A new $15 million commitment has been made as the lead gift to construct a campus research center supporting SMU’s goal to expand advanced computing and interdisciplinary research throughout the University. The gift is from Gerald J. Ford ’66, ’69 and Kelli O. Ford and The Gerald J. Ford Family Foundation. The commitment brings to over $800 million the amount raised to date by SMU’s Second Century Campaign.

President R. Gerald Turner thanks Gerald J. Ford '66, '69 for his lead gift to constructs a new research center.

President R. Gerald Turner thanks Gerald J. Ford ’66, ’69 for his lead gift to construct a new research center.

The new building will support research facilitated by SMU’s high-performance computing capabilities, among other projects. It also will be the home of the Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute, established in May 2012 through a gift from the Dedman family and Foundation. The building will be located at McFarlin and Airline.

Establishment of the Gerald J. Ford Research and Innovation Building joins other advancements SMU is implementing to support its accelerated research initiative. Among them is completion of a new University data center, a companion building under construction south of Mockingbird Lane. Technology in the new building will enable SMU’s high-performance computing capacity to grow from 2,000 to more than 10,000 CPUs. Other actions to promote research include raising support for new endowed faculty chairs and other faculty with active research agendas, along with increasing opportunities for undergraduate research.

“The new Gerald J. Ford Research and Innovation Building will help to transform the research and educational landscape of SMU,” says President R. Gerald Turner. “Students must be prepared for a
world in which data analyses, modeling and visualization are critical decision-making tools, while faculty continue to push the boundaries of knowledge and innovation. Gerald Ford’s new gift continues his tradition of strong support for faculty research.”

In 2003 Ford established the Gerald J. Ford Research Fellows program at SMU, which annually honors outstanding faculty members with funding to support their research and creative endeavors. By providing the lead gift for the Mustangs’ football stadium in 1997, Ford revitalized the campus experience for athletes, other students and supporters. He also supports student scholarships.

It is expected that availability of the Research Center will encourage more faculty to use high-performance computing and attract greater levels of external research funding. SMU aspires to increase its current $20 million in research activity annually to $50 million per year. In addition, high-performance computing will apply directly to the undergraduate curriculum in several disciplines.

Projects that will benefit from the Ford Research and Innovation Building and expanded high-performance computing include those in biology and chemistry, aiding the development of new drugs to treat life-threatening diseases. In business, advanced computing will support accurate simulations and forecasts of changes in financial markets and consumer behavior. Projects in computer science and engineering also will include forecasting behavior of complex networks, and research in the arts will be aided by improved digital imagery and sound. In statistical science, high-performance computing will support comparisons of DNA/RNA sequences in the human genome to identify sources of genetic disorders.

“Over the years, I have seen firsthand the contributions made by our faculty through their research,” says Ford, a member of the SMU Board of Trustees, former Board chair and the convening co-chair of the Second Century Campaign. “I am pleased to provide them with the next essential asset they need to continue their achievements.”

Gerald J. Ford is one of the nation’s most accomplished financial services executives. Over the past 35 years, he has acquired, managed and sold banking businesses and other financial services companies, including First United Bank Group Inc., First Gibraltar Bank, FSB, Golden State Bancorp and Pacific Capital Bancorp. He serves as chair of Hilltop Holdings Inc., which acquired in 2012 PlainsCapital Corporation, and is the co-general partner and principal investor in Ford Financial Fund II, L.P.

Ford earned a B.A. in economics from Dedman College in 1966 and a J.D. from Dedman School of Law in 1969. He received SMU’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1995 and the Mustang Award in 1997 honoring significant contributions to the University.

Ford is a member of the Executive Board of Dedman School of Law. He is a past member of the executive boards of Cox School of Business, Dedman College and the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies.