SMU’s Tower Scholars Program receives over $4 million in gifts

This news story first appeared on September 4, 2014. For more information click here.

SMU’s Tower Scholars Program receives over $4 million in gifts

By Robert Miller, The Dallas Morning News; September 4, 2014

Gifts totaling more than $4 million will endow and provide operational support for the new Tower Scholars Program at Southern Methodist University.

The program provides an immersion experience for undergraduates in public policymaking through SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies.

A $2 million gift from Highland Capital Management LP will endow the Highland Capital Management Endowed Tower Scholars Program Fund. Participating students will be recognized as Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars.

A $1 million gift from the Hamon Charitable Foundation will endow the Jake L. Hamon Endowed Internship Program in the Tower Scholars Program Fund.

A $1 million gift from The Berry R. Cox Family Foundation will support the endowment and provide operational support.

SMU has received additional donations of more than $400,000 toward operation of the Tower Scholars Program fund that will allow it to start the program before the endowments mature.

Ten sophomore students will be selected as Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars every year. Students may apply to the program during the fall term of their sophomore year, and the first applications are being accepted this fall. The students will begin their studies in spring 2015 leading to a minor in public policy and international affairs.

They will study domestic and foreign affairs, national security and defense, and international political economy.

“Few American universities offer a program designed for undergraduates with as much real-world policy education and experience as does the Tower Scholars Program,” SMU President R. Gerald Turner said. “The gifts that make this program possible allow students to begin gaining professional perspectives while working toward their undergraduate degrees, bridging the usual gap between graduation and career development.”

The Tower Center is a signature program in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, dean Thomas DiPiero said.

“Transformative education initiatives are a key focus of our philanthropy,” said James Dondero, Highland Capital Management co-founder and president. “This program will offer students extraordinary opportunities to interact with global and national leaders, influential policy makers and top employers that call Dallas home.”

Highland Capital Management is a global alternative asset manager with headquarters in Dallas.

The invitation-only Tower Scholars Program and associated minor is open for application from all majors across SMU’s schools. The minor in public policy and international affairs requires 15 hours of political science courses.

“By focusing solely on undergraduate students, the Tower Scholars Program distinguishes SMU from peer institutions that offer this type of curricula only to graduate students,” Hamon Foundation president Kelly E. Roach said. “The opportunity to begin working with political, government and business leaders at this stage of their education is going to nurture leadership skills at a pivotal point in these students’ lives.”

Berry R. Cox is a private investor with interests in oil and gas, real estate and public and private securities worldwide. He and his wife, Jeanne Tower Cox, are stalwart SMU supporters.

“SMU strives to educate students who think globally. The idea behind the Tower Scholars program is to connect students with the public policy and international affairs aspects of whatever their chosen field may be — the engineering student, the business student, the journalism student — any student who wants to understand the relationships between politics, public policy, international affairs and international economies,” said Jeanne Cox, an SMU alumna who’s the daughter of the late Sen. John Tower.

The gifts to fund the Tower Scholars Program count toward the $1 billion goal of SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign, which has raised $874 million.