SMU kicked off the largest fundraising campaign in its history with a jubilant campus rally and a host of other events at the University and around the United States.

An estimated 1,000 SMU students, faculty, alumni, family and friends packed a tent near the iconic Mustangs sculpture at a midday gathering September 12 to hear President R. Gerald Turner announce the record $750 million goal for SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign. A torrent of red and blue balloons dropped from the ceiling after President Turner declared the campaign under way.

“Recognizing our first 100 years, The Second Century Campaign looks boldly to the future to build a new era of achievement,” said Turner.

“This campaign will strengthen our ability to enable the best students to attend SMU and the most distinguished faculty to teach and inspire them through challenging academic programs.”

Turner was joined by members of The Second Century Campaign leadership, including Convening Co-chair Gerald J. Ford ’66, ’69, Co-chairs Carl Sewell ’66, Ruth Collins Sharp Altshuler ’48, Ray L. Hunt ’65 and Caren H. Prothro, and Vice President for Development and External Affairs Brad E. Cheves.

“The campaign’s theme, SMU Unbridled, reflects the bold vision of our founders as they looked at the North Texas prairie and envisioned a great university there,” said Ford. “SMU’s founders were daring, imaginative and creative. We’re going to take that drive and aggressively carry it forward.”

The rally marked the transition from the campaign’s quiet phase to its public phase, which will seek the broadest possible support of SMU alumni, family and friends.

The campaign is already off to a running start, with 29,488 donors providing $317 million in commitments. The public phase, slated to last an estimated five years, will coincide with the centennial of the University’s founding in 1911; the University opened in 1915.

The rally was just one of a number of events marking the kickoff. The day began with a Board of Trustees meeting and the first-ever gathering of the Campaign Steering Committee, which comprises the chairs of school, area and regional committees.

Following the rally, the SMU community gathered for a celebratory lunch on the floor of Moody Coliseum, awash in spirited red and blue for the occasion.

On the previous evening, the Board of Trustees hosted a gala in Moody, previewing the campaign announcement for campaign volunteers.

The evening included an appearance by SMU’s first president, Robert Hyer, and a student from the future named Helen, both played by students from SMU’s Division of Theatre in the Meadows School of the Arts.

Helen, who described herself as the student body president of 2108, said in 100 years members of the SMU community would remember the work of The Second Century Campaign.

“You and others helped to define SMU’s future — its commitment to its students, its dedication to creating new knowledge and its innovative solutions to difficult challenges,” she said.

Regional kickoff gatherings were held in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Mexico City during September and October. A Houston kickoff event is scheduled for spring 2009.