Second Century Campaign leaders and volunteers celebrate the announcement of a $15 million lead gift for the new Gerald J. Ford Research Center during the October 25 volunteer summit.

Second Century Campaign leaders and volunteers celebrate the announcement of a $15 million lead gift for the new Gerald J. Ford Research and Innovation Building during the October 25 volunteer summit.

SMU launched the final 24 months of The Second Century Campaign at a Volunteer Summit on the Hilltop October 25, during which President R. Gerald Turner also announced a $15 million lead gift from Trustee and Campaign Convening Co-chair Gerald J. Ford ’66, ’69 and Kelli O. Ford and The Gerald J. Ford Family Foundation for a new campus research and innovation building.

The gift pushed the campaign’s total raised to $800 million, en route to a $1 billion goal. The goal was set by SMU’s Board of Trustees in September following the announcement that the campaign had exceeded its original $750 million financial goal more than two years ahead of schedule.

Ford Research and Innovation Building

The new Gerald J. Ford Research and Innovation Building will provide the nexus that stimulates use of high-performance computing in order to produce more externally funded research, attracting top-quality students and faculty working in an interdisciplinary and collaborative environment. Innovative research includes:

  • Broad-scale simulation and forecasting of changes in complex financial markets and consumer behavior in support of dynamic marketing decisions.
  • Acceleration of development of new drugs to treat cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
  • Analysis of the largest database of arts research ever assembled, to identify market and industry trends and act as a catalyst for the transformation and sustainability of the national arts and cultural community.
  • Enhanced teaching, communication of research results and experimentation with imagery through the facility’s visualization lab to optimize the human-computer interface.

“The new Gerald J. Ford Research and Innovation Building will help to transform the research and educational landscape of the University,” said President R. Gerald Turner. “Students must be prepared for a world in which data analyses, modeling and visualization are critical decision-making tools, while faculty continue to push the boundaries of knowledge and innovation. The Fords’ new gift continues this tradition of strong support for faculty research.”

The state-of-the art building, to be located on SMU’s main campus, will support research facilitated by SMU’s high-performance computing capabilities, among other projects. It also will be the home of the Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute, established in May 2012 through a gift from the Dedman family and Foundation.

The building joins other advancements the University is implementing to support its accelerated research push. Among them is completion of a new University data center. Other actions to promote research include raising resources for new endowed faculty positions and funding for other faculty with active research agendas, along with increasing opportunities for undergraduates to conduct real-world research.

More than 200 of the University’s most passionate supporters gathered on campus for the summit to marshal forces behind the campaign’s new $1 billion goal. During the meeting, President Turner announced three new goals for the campaign.

Groups attending the summit were the SMU Board of Trustees, Campaign Leadership Council, Campaign Executive Committee, Campaign Steering Committees, the Development and External Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees, the Alumni Board, Young Alumni Board, alumni chapter presidents and members of the University administration.

SMU volunteers and leaders were in high spirits even before the announcement of the Ford gift. “This is an exciting time to be involved, with the most pronounced transformation in SMU’s history now taking place,” said SMU Board of Trustees Chair and Campaign Co-chair Caren H. Prothro.

To date, the campaign has created 34 endowed faculty positions, 472 endowed scholarships, new academic programs and initiatives, and new facilities for academics and athletics; increased student support services; and expanded community outreach efforts.