The first Founders’ Day Weekend of SMU’s second century started on the steps of the traditional “heart of the university,” where the SMU community gathered April 15 to celebrate donors to the renovation of Fondren Library.

With their gifts, the Fondren Foundation, Hillcrest Foundation, Hoblitzelle Foundation and other donors are expanding access to information technology resources for student and faculty researchers, and restoring the historic grandeur of the Fondren Foundation Centennial Reading Room.

“The renovation of Fondren Library is a successful balancing act that respects the history of the building, yet opens its doors to emerging technology,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “The new spaces offer inspiring settings for study and exhibits, with access to the digital technology that is essential for contemporary research.”


Following a ceremony that included remarks by former First Lady and current SMU trustee Laura W. Bush ’68, guests toured the first phase of the renovations, including the Fondren Foundation Centennial Reading Room and the Hillcrest Foundation Exhibit Hall. The second phase of the renovations, which will be completed in fall 2016, includes the Caren H. Prothro Learning Commons, given by the Hoblitzelle Foundation in honor of Caren H. Prothro in acknowledgment of her exceptional service as a trustee for both SMU and the foundation. The second phase also includes the Collaborative Commons and Starbucks and the Gillian M. McCombs Special Collections Reading Room.

The 5,100-square-foot Fondren Foundation Centennial Reading Room, the centerpiece of the renovations, has been restored to its original 1940 grandeur as a signature study space for students. New lighting highlights the seven plaster bas relief elements in the ceiling, sculptures by Texas sculptor Harry Lee Gibson, who is best known for his sculptures at Fair Park’s Hall of State. More than 50 donors provided the Reading Room’s American cherry handcrafted wooden study tables and chairs, designed by Thomas Moser.

“The renovation plan responds to the demand for varied spaces for learning and research. Students often work in teams, using several work stations at a time,” said Gillian M. McCombs, dean and director of Central University Libraries. “Students also requested more individual silent study space, which is why it was so important that the backbone of this project be the return of the reading room to its original purpose as a quiet oasis for individual study.”

The Hillcrest Foundation Exhibit Hall, adjacent to the Reading Room, is designed to showcase the treasures in SMU library special collections.