Ray L. Hunt, a former chair of the SMU Board of Trustees and a trustee since 1976, serves on the board’s George W. Bush Presidential Library Special Advisory Committee and also as a member of the George W. Bush Institute Advisory Board. He is co-chair of The Second Century Campaign Leadership Council and has served on numerous other SMU boards and committees. He is chairman and CEO of Hunt Oil Company. Mr. Hunt spoke to Campaign Update about the upcoming dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the SMU campus.

Campaign Update: Why was the decision made by the SMU Board and administration to pursue the George W. Bush Presidential Center?

Hunt: We believe that the Bush Presidential Center will bring invaluable resources for research, dialogue and programming to SMU and Dallas. It is already making SMU a global destination for scholars, dignitaries and visitors of all ages.

It does not matter if you agree or disagree with President Bush on his programs and actions as head of state – his papers and artifacts will tell the story of a unique eight-year period in U.S. history. We also believe, and effectively made our case, that SMU is the best place for the Bush Presidential Center to be successful. I think the stars aligned in bringing all this together.

CU: What have been the most rewarding aspects of this effort?

Hunt: It was extremely encouraging to see the Bush Presidential Center funding campaign succeed at the same time as SMU’s Second Century campaign. When I reported to SMU’s campaign executive council in December 2010,

I was happy to say that we had already raised the $300 million needed to construct the building that would become the Bush Presidential Center, and that we were then raising an additional $200 million to endow programs.

We currently have more than 310,000 donors to the Bush Center. They come from all over the world, and most have had no SMU connection until now.

If one takes 10 giant steps backward, however, and combines the very successful efforts of both the SMU Second Century Capital Campaign and the equally successful Capital Campaign for the George W. Bush Presidential Center, the numbers, as of February 2013, are $714.8 million for SMU (toward its $750 million goal) and $500 million for the Bush Presidential Center (which will be achieved by the time its formal dedication occurs on April 25, 2013).

What that really means is that more than $1.2 billion has been raised for the SMU campus in the last four years – and I am sure that figure will be significantly higher by the time SMU’s Second Century Campaign is completed.

Today, the most rewarding aspect is to see the dream become a reality, to be experiencing the substantive programs of the Bush Institute in collaboration with SMU – and to look forward to the Bush Presidential Center’s continuing growth in terms of importance and impact. Bringing us to this point was the final product of the collaboration of a great many people pulling together to achieve a common goal.