Flags, Fireworks And Festivities Herald SMU’s Second Century

More than 1,200 alumni from around the globe and members of the campus community gathered April 15 for tributes, fireworks and a giant birthday card as SMU celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding. The event kicked off a series of events for SMU’s Founders’ Day Weekend.
The kickoff also officially launched the University’s multiyear Second Century Celebration, commemorating the centennial of the University’s founding in 1911 and its opening in 1915. Founders’ Day, designated as the third Friday in April of each year, recognizes the filing of the University’s charter on April 17, 1911.
“Our founders would be proud of where we are as we approach 100 and as we launch our second century of achievement,” said President R. Gerald Turner, citing as examples SMU’s recent rise in academic rankings, applications for admission and student SAT scores.
The event took place in front of Dallas Hall, SMU’s centerpiece and oldest building. Board of Trustees Chair Caren Prothro noted that the Hilltop was just a patch of Johnson grass when SMU was founded. “The land, the resources and the magnificence of Dallas Hall were all made possible by the citizens of Dallas, who believed that a better future for our region, a better city, a better quality of life for our families – all would be the result of SMU being placed here.”
The University presented resolutions thanking the citizens of Dallas and The United Methodist Church, which joined in partnership to establish SMU. They were accepted by Dallas City Council member Angela Hunt, representing the city, and Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe ’85, representing the church.

Other Centennial Activities

Darwin Payne, Dallas historian and SMU professor emeritus of communications, has been appointed the University’s centennial historian, responsible for compiling SMU’s first comprehensive history. The book, to be published in 2015, will provide an account of SMU’s first 100 years. Payne also recently authored In Honor of the Mustangs: The Centennial History of SMU Athletics, 1911-2010. The centennial commemoration will include taped interviews with past and current University leaders and supporters and a series of symposia and public programs.
To be published in fall 2011, the book will contain photographs of SMU’s campuses, historic architecture and University life. This book will be the first of its kind since SMU’s 75th anniversary celebration in 1986.

By making a $100 gift, alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends of the University will be recognized with an etched paver on SMU’s planned Centennial Promenade, to be constructed on Ownby Drive for the 100th anniversary of SMU’s opening in 2015. For more information, go to

“SMU’s Second Century of Achievement” – The lower level of the Hughes-Trigg Student Center will become a Centennial Hall with an interactive web-based exhibition designed to engage visitors of all ages in the life and future of the University. The exhibition, expected to open in fall 2011, will be available both in the Centennial Hall and through SMU’s website. The hall will be the site of alumni reunions, Homecoming activities, Founders’ Day events and other campus activities through 2015.
The Centennial Celebration coincides with SMU’s Second Century Campaign. Launched in 2008 with a goal of $750 million, gifts to date have exceeded $500 million.

In addition to President Turner and Trustee Chair Prothro, other platform party guests included Ruth Collins Sharp Altshuler ’48 and Carl Sewell ’66, co-chairs, The Second Century Celebration Organizing Committee; Brad E. Cheves, vice president, SMU Development and External Affairs; W. Richard Davis ’56, ’58, mayor of University Park; Linda S. Eads, president, SMU Faculty Senate; Paul W. Ludden, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs; Gail Meletio Madden ’63, mayor pro tem, Town of Highland Park; Rev. Dr. Stephen W. Rankin, SMU chaplain; Jake Torres ’11, student body president; Bill Vanderstraaten ’82, incoming chair of the SMU Alumni Board; and Gretchen Voight, president of the SMU Staff Association.
President Turner also recognized groups of individuals who have helped to shape the University: family members of former SMU presidents; past provosts; as well as current and past trustees; presidents of alumni, faculty, student, and staff organizations; Mom’s and Dad’s club leaders; members of campaign committees; and winners of Distinguished Alumni and Emerging Leader Awards.
The ceremony culminated with a fireworks display and the raising of SMU’s centennial flag that will fly on campus through 2015. Giveaways included miniature versions of the centennial flag, centennial cupcakes and Peruna punch. A 12-foot-by-20-foot birthday card to SMU was available for students, alumni and others to sign.
“Through our centennial activities, we will engage our alumni and the broader community more actively in the life and progress of the University, celebrate our achievements, and prepare for even brighter days ahead,” said Trustee Ruth Altshuler.
Friday afternoon also included Inside SMU, classes for alumni, parents and friends taught by SMU faculty, followed by a University briefing by President Turner. That evening and overnight, the SMU student body hosted Relay for Life, benefitting the American Cancer Society, on Bishop Boulevard.
On April 16, SMU co-sponsored University Park’s Easter egg hunt for children at Goar Park near University Park’s City Hall. And on April 17, the dome of Dallas Hall was illuminated in red and blue lights for the first of 10 evenings, representing SMU’s 10 decades, in honor of the Dallas residents who provided land and funds used to establish SMU.
“Today is really a call to action,” Turner said. “Truly it’s a time to reflect, to express our gratitude, but then to return to the work at hand. SMU has always been eager, ambitious and forward-looking. It’s part of our DNA.”