DALLAS (SMU) — A $1 million gift from John C. and Debbie Tolleson of Dallas will provide additional support for the Edwin L. Cox BBA Scholars Program in SMU’s Cox School of Business. The merit-based undergraduate scholarship program was named in fall 2007 in recognition of a $5 million challenge grant from Mr. Cox toward a goal of $10 million for endowment of the Scholars Program. The Tolleson gift supports that goal.

“Merit scholarships for outstanding students are one of SMU’s greatest priorities,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “By supporting the Cox BBA Scholars Program, John and Debbie Tolleson are helping us to attract additional top students who will benefit from our excellent programs and contribute to our rise in academic quality. We are grateful for the Tollesons’ generosity and foresight in making this gift.”

The BBA Scholars Program was established in 2002 to provide scholarships for highly qualified first-year students who are admitted directly into the Cox School of Business. Most business majors enter the Cox School in their sophomore year, after concentrating on general education courses the previous year. By entering the business school in their first year, Cox BBA Scholars are introduced to the business world while taking the required general education courses. Cox Scholars benefit from early academic advising and career services and participate in a seminar that acquaints them with the choices of business majors. They also have opportunities to network with business leaders and attend special events in the Cox School.

About 100 students enter SMU as BBA Scholars each year. Selected from more than 500 candidates, those entering in fall 2007 represented 26 states and three countries. In the first five years, the program’s selection pool more than doubled and the average SAT score for entering BBA Scholars increased by 94 points. The average SAT score for the entering class of 2007 was 1401. Cox BBA Scholars may retain scholarship support throughout their undergraduate years.

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

“With this gift, the Tollesons are adding to our investment in high achievement,” said Cox School Dean Albert W. Niemi Jr. “We know the Cox BBA Scholars will assume positions of leadership in the global business world after they graduate.”

John C. Tolleson is chairman and chief executive officer of Tolleson Wealth Management, a Dallas-based private banking and wealth management firm. He is the founder, former chairman and CEO of First USA, Inc., one of the largest independent credit card companies in the U.S. prior to its merger with Bank One in 1997.

A member of SMU’s class of 1970, Tolleson has been a member of the SMU Board of Trustees since 2000. He also serves SMU as chairman of the Executive Board of the Edwin L. Cox School of Business, as vice chair of the Investment Committee, as a board member of the Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series and as a member of the Parent Leadership Council. He received the Cox School’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1996. His community service includes membership on the boards of Baylor Health Care System Foundation, Southwestern Medical Foundation and the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts Foundation.

Debbie Tolleson, president of the Tolleson Family Foundation, serves on the Board of Directors of Tolleson Wealth Management and on the Executive Board of Meadows School of the Arts. She is a member of the President’s Advisory Council of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts Foundation, SMU’s Parent Leadership Council, Brinker International Forum and the Honorary Advisory Board of the World Affairs Council of Greater Dallas. She is a founding member of The Women’s Auxiliary of Nexus and is active in fundraising for various charitable organizations.

“Debbie and I are pleased to have a part in providing opportunities for some of the nation’s top students to study at SMU as Cox BBA Scholars,” said John Tolleson. “These students come to SMU with strong leadership skills and, through the Cox BBA Scholars Program, they will be prepared for future leadership roles in the world of business.”

The Tollesons have pledged more than $6 million to SMU since 1990. In addition to the new gift for the Cox BBA Scholars Program, their gifts have included the Tolleson Chair in Business Leadership in the Cox School and support for the Tate Lecture Series.

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 Tolleson gift supports that effort.

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.

A private university located in the heart of Dallas, SMU is building on the vision of its founders, who imagined a distinguished center for learning emerging from the spirit of the city. Today, nearly 11,000 students benefit from the national opportunities and international reach afforded by the quality of SMU’s seven degree-granting schools.