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Darwin Deason contributes $7.75 million
to fund Cyber Security Institute, Innovation Gym

Affiliated Computer Services founder bolsters research and education at SMU

January 30, 2014

DALLAS (SMU) – A $7.75 million gift from Darwin Deason, founder of Affiliated Computer Services, will launch the Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security and support the Deason Innovation Gym in SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering.

Darwin Deason
Darwin Deason

Deason’s gift provides a $5 million endowment, as well as $1.25 million in operational funding, for the new institute, headed by renowned cyber security expert Frederick R. Chang. Formerly research director at the National Security Agency (NSA), Chang joined SMU in fall 2013 as the inaugural 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 another $1.5 million to support the operation of the Innovation Gym, also named in honor of the Deason family. The Innovation Gym is 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 cyber security,” 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 cyber security issues from day one, advancements that will have an impact far beyond our campus nationally and globally.”

“Darwin Deason’s gift will support important research and education across a broad spectrum of student involvement,” said Lyle School Dean Marc Christensen.  “The institute will attract the best minds to address the threats of cyber crime and cyber terrorism. 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. By funding the Innovation Gym, the gift helps to develop the next generation of innovators equipped to solve emerging problems.”

Deason is the founder of Affiliated Computer Systems, launched in 1988 to handle business processes for clients such as E-ZPass, 7-Eleven, United Parcel Service (UPS), the City of Dallas and numerous state and federal agencies. Serving in a variety of executive positions, including as chairman of the board and CEO, Deason took the company public in 1994 and sold it to Xerox for $6.4 billion in 2010.

Previously, Deason worked for the data-processing firm MTech, where he was promoted to CEO at the age of 29. Before joining MTech, Deason worked in data processing for Gulf Oil in Tulsa, having started there as a mail clerk.

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

Deason is Chairman of Deason Capital Services (DCS) and President of the Deason Foundation, which supports Christian agencies and churches, education and medical research. Deason's son, Doug Deason, President of DCS and vice president of the Deason Foundation, helped coordinate this extraordinary gift.

Deason was born in Rogers, Ark. He and his wife, Katerina Panos Deason, divide their time between their home in Dallas and their other residences. Several members of Deason’s family have SMU connections: Deason’s son, Doug, is married to Holly, who is an alumna. Doug’s son, Preston, and Holly’s daughter, Fallon, both currently attend SMU.

The gift counts toward SMU’s Second Century Campaign, which has received more than $800 million toward a $1 billion goal to support student quality, faculty and academic excellence and the campus experience. The campaign continues to work toward raising the number of endowed faculty positions at the University to 110; raising the number of endowed student scholarships to 500; and completing 15 major campus facilities.

“Mr. Deason’s generosity and foresight will help ensure that the Second Century Campaign further positions SMU at the forefront of U.S. higher education, contributing research and solutions that are essential in meeting society’s challenges.” said Brad Cheves, SMU vice president for development and external affairs. 

“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 Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security

SMU & Cyber Security

cyber security

The Lyle School’s cyber security program has been one of the University’s centers of academic excellence for 15 years.  The program, supported by a core of highly regarded faculty engaged in advanced research, has garnered attention from the National Security Agency (NSA) and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Under the leadership of institute director Frederick Chang, the Deason Institute will expand SMU’s work in this area, incorporating a broad, interdisciplinary approach to problem solving and building relationships ranging from campus-wide to worldwide. The institute will educate leaders who understand the complexities of cyber-related issues, whether they take their degree in computer science or philosophy.  The institute also will incorporate elements from law, business and the social sciences to promote development of an educated citizenry in the issues of cyber security.

In addition to directing the Deason Institute, Chang also 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.

Institute goals include:

  • Developing techniques to prevent, protect and recover from cyber attacks on infrastructure.
        
  • Creating software and hardware designs that incorporate security and ensure protection and proper operation of mission-critical hardware components.
        
  • Understanding and addressing critical issues in both psychology and economics to establish a deeper grasp of cyber security phenomena.
          
  • Employing data mining, machine learning and other technologies as tools to respond to complexities of information security.
          
  • Providing global leadership in the dialogue between law and policy institutes regarding cyber security, ethics and intellectual property 

The Deason Innovation Gym

The Deason Innovation Gym in the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education, is where where engineering students, as well as those in other SMU disciplines, come together to work on immersion design projects and competitions. Located on the ground floor of Caruth Hall, the large physical space incorporates computerized design equipment as well as access to traditional mechanical tools and 3-D fabrication equipment, allowing students to take a project from the idea stage to rapid prototyping in the same space.  Kate Canales is director of design and innovation for the Lyle School and Greg Needel is director of the Deason Innovation Gym.

The gym has been home to a variety of immersion design experiences (IDEs) and competitions, including:

  • A group of Lyle students worked with nonprofit design group bcWORKSHOP to design and prototype a sensor network to gather data about noise, light and other factors impacting safety and quality of life in Dallas’ Dolphin Heights neighborhood.
        
  • A team of SMU students calling themselves Mustang Developers worked in the gym to win a 24-hour, round-the-clock Ericcson North America competition known as a “hackathon.” The app developed by the SMU team, BiteBlast, is an automated donation alert system that notifies food recipients when certain items are available and notifies both donors and the public when specific items are needed.
        
  • Five teams of SMU students participated in the World’s Tallest Toy Competition in partnership with toy company WABA Fun LLC, answering the challenge to prototype a structure built from Superstructs toy components aimed at setting a Guinness World Record.

SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools.

 SMU’s Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering, founded in 1925, is one of the oldest engineering schools in the Southwest. The school offers eight undergraduate and 20 graduate programs, including masters and doctoral degrees.


Media Contact:

Kim Cobb
214-768-7654
cobbk@smu.edu

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