By Patricia Ann LaSalle ’05
On a bright, crisp day in late October, SMU students walked as usual across the Main Quad on their way to class. Unusual, however, was a huge tent that had been erected in front of Dallas Hall, causing some to wonder what was going on inside. As several students pressed their faces against the tent’s transparent plastic sides to satisfy their curiosity, some of the tent’s occupants also peered through the plastic to get a look outside, creating a virtual face-to-face encounter. Pointing to the students looking in, and the others making their way across the Quad, one occupant of the tent said to a colleague, “This is why we are here.”
They were indeed “here.” More than 200 volunteers and leaders of SMU’s Second Century Campaign gathered on campus October 25 for a revival of sorts, complete with music, streamers, enthusiastic speakers, rousing applause and, finally, a surprise announcement.
In the 100-by-150-foot tent, erected to house several Homecoming events, the Campaign Volunteer Summit enabled supporters from throughout the nation to hear progress and plans as the major gifts drive nears its final two years. They also heard about the structure and strategies to reach a new $1 billion goal, approved by SMU trustees in September 2013. By that month, SMU had already surpassed its original goal of $750 million, and raised more than $785 million by October. Now, the campaign’s momentum will fuel the drive to a billion-dollar destination by December 2015. The new goal places SMU among the ranks of 34 distinguished private universities that have raised or are seeking at least that amount. Among them are Columbia, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, the University of Chicago and the University of Southern California.
“That’s good company to be in,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner at the Summit. “We belong in this group.”
Summit participants soon learned, however, that there was even more reason to celebrate. As the Summit ended, Turner made an announcement that would rework the math of the campaign to date: Gerald J. Ford had just informed Turner that he was committing $15 million to fund a new research center at SMU, supporting a major new initiative to expand advanced computing and interdisciplinary research throughout the University. Ford, an SMU trustee and convening co-chair of the campaign, has a strong history of support for faculty research, as well as programs throughout the University.
Ford’s new gift brought the campaign total raised to more than $800 million, charting a clear path to the finale – $200 million in the next two years.
“The campaign has achieved remarkable results that can be seen in our impressive gains throughout the University,” said Board Chair and campaign co-chair Caren Prothro. “But its momentum tells us that much more can be accomplished.”
“We are focused on what needs to be done,” Turner continued. “Going to a billion dollars enables us to adopt new goals to accelerate our progress.” At the Volunteer Summit, campaign leaders outlined the goals:
- Increase the number of new scholarships from 472 to 500. SMU not only wants the best students to choose the University but also wants them to graduate with minimal indebtedness, keeping SMU an outstanding value in private higher education.
- Increase the number of endowed faculty positions from 100 to 110. These positions attract accomplished faculty with active research agendas who are nationally and globally competitive. Faculty and academic leadership positions targeted for endowments are in areas such as entrepreneurship, biostatistics, science and technology law, the impact of the arts on communities, art history and theological studies. Academic programs earmarked for new endowments and operational support represent areas of growing importance to the region and nation, among them energy management, public policy, interdisciplinary studies, cyber security, arts research and K-12 school leadership.
- Complete funding of 15 major capital projects, among them the renovation of Fondren Library Center and Bridwell Library in Perkins School of Theology, the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center, Moody Coliseum and the construction of the five-hall Residential Commons complex. “To date SMU has added more than 125,000 square feet of academic space alone, not counting renovation of existing facilities,” Trustee and Co-chair Ray L. Hunt reported at the Summit.
The campaign also seeks to reach 25 percent alumni giving per year and 50 percent over the course of the campaign, the latter already having reached 51.1 percent. For the year ending May 31, 2013, SMU neared its annual alumni giving goal, reaching 24 percent. Rates of alumni giving are one measurement used by national ranking organizations in evaluating universities nationwide.
REACHING NEAR AND FAR
The Second Century Campaign is led by five co-chairs: convening co-chair Gerald J. Ford ’66, ’69, with Ruth Altshuler ’48, Ray L. Hunt ’65, Caren H. Prothro and Carl Sewell ’66. They lead a 19-member Campaign Leadership Council and nearly 40 Steering Committees. The Committee co-chairs spearhead various fundraising efforts, such as those for each school, the libraries, athletics and student life.
At the Summit, trustee and co-chair Carl Sewell outlined a new campaign structure, including the addition of four SMU trustees to the Campaign Leadership Council: Paul B. Loyd Jr. ’68, Bobby B. Lyle ’67, David B. Miller ’72, ’73 and Sarah Fullinwider Perot ’83. Also new is an Alumni Campaign Steering Committee, chaired by Alumni Board President Leslie Melson ’77. Members are being recruited to focus on increasing the annual rate of alumni giving.
A new regional strategy for the campaign will focus on Texas and its more than 70,000 SMU alumni. Trustees Michael Boone ’63, ’67 of Dallas, Scott McLean ’78 of Houston, and Richard Ware ’68 of Amarillo will lead the Texas regional effort. The strong work of the Campaign Steering Committees in Houston, led by Scott McLean ’78 and Dennis Murphree ’69, and Fort Worth, led by Albon Head ’68, ’71 and Stephen Tatum ’76, will contribute to this regional strategy.
“At critical times in Dallas’ history, the city has been transformed by decisions that resulted in world-class assets for our community,” Boone said in support of SMU’s $1 billion goal. “Among these are an airport that serves as a global hub, a thriving arts district, a distinguished medical school producing Nobel laureates and a vibrant business community. Our new campaign goal signals the unequivocal commitment to join the list of milestones that have changed our community and its impact on the world.”
Regional fundraising efforts will be led by Tim Moen ’74 and Jim White ’82 (Midwest); Jim MacNaughton ’72, ’73 (Northeast); Marty Flanagan ’82 (Southeast); and Liz Armstrong ’82 and Trustee Ed Wilson (West). These leaders will continue to work with the co-chairs of the 10 leadership city Campaign Steering Committees. These efforts are led by co-chairs: Tim ’74 and Paulette Moen ’75, and Jim ’82 and Becky White ’82 (Midwest-Chicago); Paul ’86 and Sheri Diemer ’86 (Midwest-St. Louis); Jim MacNaughton ’72, ’73 (Northeast-New York City) and Ann Cole ’63 (Northeast-Washington, D.C.); Marty ’82 and Jennifer Flanagan ’82 (Southeast- Atlanta); Liz ’82 and Trustee Bill Armstrong ’82 (West-Denver); Marion and Roger Palley, Kelly ’78 and Kevin Welsh, and Leslie ’81 and Trustee Ed Wilson (West-Los Angeles); and David Cush ’82, ’83 (West-San Francisco).
IMPACT: COUNTING THE WAYS
To date, the campaign has raised funds for 472 new scholarships; 24 academic programs, such as two newly named schools and several institutes and centers; 34 endowed faculty positions, bringing SMU’s total to 96; and five capital projects, including new or expanded facilities for academic
programs and athletics.
In another measure of impact, the average SAT score of entering students has risen from 1144 in 1999 to 1302 in 2013, thanks to increasing resources for scholarships. “The return on investment for scholarships is too great to let this moment pass,” Turner said at the Summit. Also increasing is SMU’s diversity, with minority enrollment now at 25 percent of the total student body. And a record number of international students makes up 13 percent of the
fall 2013 enrollment.
Among those outstanding students is senior Ramon Trespalacios, student body president, who made remarks at the Summit. “You are an inspiration,” he told the volunteers. “I can’t wait to graduate and give back to SMU.”
Faculty Senate President Santanu Roy of the Department of Economics added his perspective. “Dallas will have one of the best universities in the world, and that university will be SMU.” He said it has become evident that “high-achieving students enhance the education of all students. Thank you from the faculty.”
Thus far 58,159 donors have made one or more gifts to the campaign. This includes 467 who have given $100,000 or more, and 124 who have committed $1 million or more, a record high for SMU.
At the Volunteer Summit, one of SMU’s longest-serving leaders, Ruth Altshuler, reminded her colleagues that she entered the University during World War II and has been an SMU trustee for 46 years. “With the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center and all that we are accomplishing with this campaign, we are into the stratosphere. A billion dollars – here we come!”