May 10, 2013
DALLAS (SMU) — Renovation and updating of two SMU libraries will be advanced through gifts totaling $8.5 million from family foundations that have supported University libraries for most of SMU’s 100-year history. The J.S. Bridwell Foundation of Wichita Falls is providing a lead gift of $7.5 million for renovation and expansion of Bridwell Library at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology. The Fondren Foundation of Houston has pledged $1 million to name the Centennial Reading Room as part of the renovation of Fondren Library Center.
SMU currently is celebrating the centennial of its founding in 1911 and its opening in 1915. The year 2013 has been designated as the Year of the Library, marking the 100th anniversary of the beginning of SMU’s library collections. The University’s nine libraries house the largest private collection of research materials in the Southwest, which last month reached four million volumes. Almost $25 million in commitments has been secured for libraries during SMU’s Second Century Campaign.
“These generous gifts represent ongoing support from two families who have played major roles in the development of library resources during the University’s first century,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “We are grateful for their past support and for these new gifts, which will help SMU libraries to meet evolving needs during the University’s second century.”
The lead gift of $7.5 million from the Bridwell Foundation will make it possible for renovations of Bridwell Library to include consolidating special collections, relocating the special collections reading room, increasing study carrels and small group study rooms for Perkins theology students, improving handicapped accessibility and providing multipurpose space for instruction, study and lectures. The renovations also will create an archives processing and digital lab.
Bridwell Library, which was dedicated in 1950 as part of the new Perkins School of Theology complex, was provided through a gift from Wichita Falls rancher J.S. Bridwell and his daughter, Margaret Bridwell Bowdle, a 1948 SMU graduate. Mr. Bridwell continued to support the Library, particularly in the acquisition of rare books, until his death in 1966. The J.S. Bridwell Foundation, which he established, provided funding for the renovation and enlargement of the Library in 1988. The Bridwell Foundation has continued to support acquisitions, programs and renovations of Bridwell Library through the years.
With more than 370,000 volumes, Bridwell Library today houses one of the nation’s finest research collections in theology and religious studies. Its outstanding collection of rare books and manuscripts includes over 50,000 items dating from the 15th to the 20th centuries. Among the special collections are the Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Bible Collection and the largest collection in the United States of manuscript letters written by John Wesley. While it is an entity of Perkins School of Theology, Bridwell Library serves as the principal bibliographic resource at SMU for the fields of theology and religious studies.
“We are truly grateful for the generous and sustained support the Bridwell Foundation has provided through the years, which has made it possible for Bridwell Library to become one of the major theological research libraries in the United States,” said William B. Lawrence, dean of Perkins School of Theology. “The Foundation’s new gift will enable Bridwell to remain a leader in theological libraries for many decades into the future.”
Fondren Library Center
Renovation of Fondren Library Center will update the facility as a center of interactive technology and a vital campus gathering place. In addition to expansion of spaces for individual and group study, the project will bring together the many special collections that are currently distributed throughout the Fondren Library complex in a redesigned Special Collections Research Center. This newly defined building will provide exhibit areas and greater access for students, researchers and the broader community.
A prominent feature of the renovation will be the restoration of the grand reading room, to be known as the Fondren Centennial Reading Room, in the original Fondren Library building. The new configuration of the room will respect the elegant architecture while modernizing the area for convenient use by both undergraduate and graduate students.
The original Fondren Library, which opened in 1940, was provided through a gift from W. W. and Ella Fondren of Houston. Both served on the SMU Board of Trustees, and she was the first woman to serve on the board. Fondren was the first stand-alone library and the first air-conditioned building on the SMU campus. Following her husband’s death, Ella Fondren and the Fondren Foundation provided funds for the Fondren Library East addition in 1968. The Fondren Foundation also supported renovation and naming of the Texana Room in the original Fondren Library and in 1999 provided funding for the addition of Fondren Library Center, a linking building that connects Fondren Library East, Fondren Library West and the Science Information Center, allowing for integration of collections and services. Mrs. Fondren and the Fondren Foundation also funded the construction of Fondren Science Building and the Memorial Health Center at SMU.
Fondren Library Center is the primary information resource facility for SMU students and faculty. SMU’s largest library, with 268,000 square feet, it holds more than three million print volumes covering the humanities, social sciences, business, education, science and engineering, many of which also are available electronically. Fondren is a selective depository of government documents and houses an extensive map collection.
“The vision and support of the Fondren family played an important role in SMU’s development during its first 100 years, especially in the establishment and growth of the University libraries,” said Gillian M. McCombs, dean and director of Central University Libraries. “It is fitting that the reading room in the original Fondren Library be restored to its former glory and named the Fondren Centennial Reading Room. We are grateful to the Fondren Foundation for making this possible.”
Second Century Campaign
SMU’s Second Century Campaign coincides with commemoration of the University’s 100th anniversary, 2011-2015. Including the new gifts from the Bridwell and Fondren foundations, the campaign has raised more than $722 million toward a goal of $750 million to support student quality, faculty and academic excellence and the campus experience.
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