A new SMU institute aims to bring together technological innovation, collaboration and the free market to fight poverty in the United States and abroad.

The Hunter and Stephanie Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity in Lyle School of Engineering was established with gifts totaling $5 million from Hunter L. Hunt ’90 and Stephanie Erwin Hunt, William T. Solomon ’64 and Gay F. Solomon, Bobby B. Lyle ’67 and others.

The gifts also create two endowed professorships. The Bobby B. Lyle Professorship of Leadership and Global Entrepreneurship is held by Jeffrey Talley, the institute’s founding director and chair of the Department of Environmental and Civil Engineering. The Lyle School is conducting an international search to fill the William T. and Gay F. Solomon Endowed Professor in Engineering and Global Development. The school is seeking a scholar who has broad experience in developing technologies and infrastructure for emerging economies.

The institute will be housed in the new Caruth Hall, which was dedicated in April.

“The Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity will enable the Lyle School of Engineering to serve as a magnet for the kind of students and researchers who seek solutions to societal challenges,” says SMU President R. Gerald Turner.

“We are very grateful for the generosity of these donors, whose passion for improving the lives of others matches SMU’s commitment to global leadership.”

The institute’s strategy begins with the understanding that small-scale innovations already exist to solve many problems in poor communities, while others need to be modified to fit specific geographic and cultural needs. Its project list includes safe, affordable and sustainable housing, ready access to clean water and sanitation, functional roads and transportation systems, and clean, reliable energy.

The institute is the fourth new endowed academic center or institute created through The Second Century Campaign.

“We’re big believers in innovation,” Stephanie Hunt told The Dallas Morning News, one of a number of media outlets that reported the institute’s founding. “Solutions have to be scalable so that we can reach millions of people. And they have to be market-driven.”

She added, “We want to recast a new type of engineer who thinks more from a human perspective.”

“Dallas has always been a hotbed for innovation,” Hunter Hunt said. “SMU’s engineering school is becoming a home for people who want to look at issues and problems and view the world a bit differently.”

Lyle School of Engineering Dean Geoffrey C. Orsak says the institute is taking on “no easy challenge.”

“To make basic technology globally available at a price the poorest of the poor can afford requires a radical rethinking of centuries of engineering practice,” he says.

Identifying solutions for alleviating poverty will require talented, motivated engineers, Orsak says, adding that the success of this new institute can have a profound impact on people who struggle just to survive with dignity.

To learn about supporting Lyle School of Engineering, please contact Ann Fielder at 214-768-3845 or afielder@smu.edu.