Darwin Deason gives SMU gifts toward cybersecurity studies

This news story first appeared on January 29, 2014. For more information click here.

By Robert Miller, The Dallas Morning News; January 29, 2014

A $7.75 million gift from Darwin Deason will launch the Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security and support the Deason Innovation Gym in Southern Methodist University’s Lyle School of Engineering.

Deason’s gift includes a $5 million endowment and $1.25 million in operational funding for the new institute, which is headed by cybersecurity expert Frederick R. Chang. The former research director at the National Security Agency joined SMU last fall as the first Bobby B. Lyle Endowed Centennial Distinguished Chair in Cyber Security with the goal of creating the institute that now bears Deason’s name.

The gift provides $1.5 million to support Deason Innovation Gym, a facility in which students are immersed into a fast-paced environment to solve engineering problems.

“This support immediately positions the Lyle School to make significant contributions to the science of cybersecurity,” said SMU president R. Gerald Turner. “Darwin Deason’s generous gift of operational funding, in addition to the endowment, allows the institute to begin addressing critical cybersecurity issues from day one, advancements that will have an impact far beyond our campus nationally and globally.”

Lyle School dean Marc Christensen said: “The institute will attract the best minds to address the threats of cybercrime and cyberterrorism. The Innovation Gym helps develop young minds, turning students loose to solve real-world problems under tight deadlines, overcoming intermediate failures as they learn to innovate. By supporting the institute, this gift recognizes the importance of research at the highest level to solve a global challenge.”

Deason is the founder of Affiliated Computer Services Inc., launched in 1988 to handle business processes. Deason took the company public in 1994 and sold it to Xerox Corp. in 2010 for $6.4 billion.

Previously, Deason worked for the data-processing firm MTech and in data processing for Gulf Oil in Tulsa.

“My business career was built on technology services, so clearly the issue of cybersecurity is something I take very seriously,” Deason said. “The work of the institute will have a far-reaching impact, spanning retail, defense, technology, health care, energy, government, finance and transportation — everything that makes our world work.”

Deason is chairman of Deason Capital Services and president of the Deason Foundation.

“The reach of this gift means that SMU students will benefit from a unique combination of learning opportunities at SMU,” said SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs Paul Ludden. “It supports both important research and the spark of student creativity in one step.”

The Deason Institute will educate leaders who understand the complexities of cyber-related issues, whether they take their degree in computer science or philosophy. It will also incorporate elements from law, business and the social sciences to promote development of an educated citizenry in the issues of cybersecurity.

In addition to directing the Deason Institute, Chang teaches computer science and serves as a senior fellow in the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.