DALLAS (SMU) — A $5 million gift from Dallas business leader Edwin L. Cox will support merit-based undergraduate scholarships in the school that bears his name — the Edwin L. Cox School of Business at SMU.

The gift will serve as a challenge grant to stimulate additional contributions toward the goal of a $10 million endowment fund for the Cox School’s B.B.A. Scholars Program. This merit scholarship program for undergraduate business students will be called the Edwin L. Cox B.B.A. Scholars Program.

“Ed Cox has supported SMU generously with his time, talents and resources for more than 50 years,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “It is characteristic that he would step up to fund one of the University’s greatest priorities — the support of high-achieving students. We are grateful for his vision and generosity.”

The B.B.A. Scholars Program provides scholarships for highly qualified first-year students who express an advance interest in business as a major. SMU students typically concentrate on general education courses in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences in their first year and declare a major in their sophomore year. Students invited to participate in the B.B.A Scholars Program follow the same general education curriculum, but are pre-selected for direct admission to the Cox School as first-year students, thus receiving early access to Cox programs and services.

Approximately 100 students enter SMU as B.B.A. Scholars each year. In addition to merit scholarship aid, they receive many additional opportunities, such as individually tailored academic advising and career services, networking with Dallas business leaders and invitations to special events. Scholars continue to receive scholarship support throughout their academic experience at SMU.

B.B.A. students at SMU may choose from majors in accounting, business and financial reporting, finance, financial consulting, general business, information systems, management, marketing and real estate finance.

“This generous endowment from Ed Cox will enable us to strengthen and expand the B.B.A. Scholars Program,” said Cox School Dean Albert W. Niemi Jr. “These exemplary students will contribute to the academic vitality of SMU and will become global business leaders in the future.”

As SMU approaches the centennial of its founding in 2011 and its opening in 2015, the University is seeking additional resources for outstanding students, faculty, academic programs and the campus experience. The new Cox gift will provide major support for that effort.

SMU’s School of Business, established in 1920, was renamed in 1978 to recognize its major benefactor, Edwin L. Cox. He has served SMU in numerous capacities through the years. Cox was chair of the Board of Trustees from 1967 to 1987 and was named trusteeemeritus in 1991. He served on the Cox School Committee for SMU’s recent capital campaign and currently serves on the School’s Executive Board and the Advisory Board of the Cary M. Maguire Energy Institute in the Cox School. The University honored him with its Distinguished Alumni Award in 1974, Volunteer of the Year Award in 1985 and Mustang Award in 1996.

“I hope this gift will further enhance SMU’s efforts to create one of the nation’s premier business schools, ” Cox said.

Cox is chair of the Edwin L. Cox Company, a holding company for his private investments. He formerly was chair of Cox Oil and Gas Inc., which became Cox Exploration, one of the largest independent oil and gas exploration and production companies in the United States.

Aside from his own business interests, Cox is also involved in many civic and professional organizations, having served on the boards of more than 50 business, education and social service institutions. He is an Honorary Trustee of the National Gallery of Art and a member of the Trustees Council and Collectors Committee of the National Gallery. He is a past board member of the Dallas Citizens Council and the Dallas Museum of Art and a current board member of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation. He also was co-founder and chairman of the Library of Congress’ James Madison Council.

SMU’s Edwin L. Cox School of Business is a nationally recognized leader in business education strengthened by close ties to the global business community of Dallas. The Cox School offers a wide range of degree and certificate programs for undergraduates, full-time graduate students, working professionals and executives, as well as special institutes in entrepreneurship and energy. Cox is ranked among the top business schools worldwide by major publications such as BusinessWeekThe EconomistThe Wall Street Journal and U.S. News & World Report.