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SMU celebrates Fondren Library transformation

SMU celebrates Fondren Library transformation

April 15, 2016

DALLAS (SMU) - The renovations to SMU's Fondren Library, unveiled Friday during Founders' Day Weekend, transform information technology resources for student and faculty researchers and feature a restoration of the historic grandeur of the Fondren Foundation Centennial Reading Room.

The Fondren Foundation, Hillcrest Foundation, Hoblitzelle Foundation and other donors to the renovations were honored Friday, April 15, at a ribbon cutting on the library steps. Immediately following, an open house in the library featured a release party for SMU historian Darwin Payne’s new book, One Hundred Years on the Hilltop: The Centennial History of SMU.

"The renovation of Fondren Library is a successful balancing act that respects the history of the building, yet opens its doors to emerging technology," said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. "The new spaces offer inspiring settings for study and exhibits, with access to the digital technology that is essential for contemporary research."


Remarks by Gillian M. McCombs, dean and director
of SMU Central University Libraries. See text of her speech.


See scenes from Fondren Library Renovation Celebration

Guests toured the first phase of the renovations, including the Fondren Foundation Centennial Reading Room and the Hillcrest Foundation Exhibit Hall. The second phase of the renovations includes the Caren H. Prothro Learning Commons, given by the Hoblitzelle Foundation in honor of Caren H.  Prothro in acknowledgement of her exceptional services as a trustee for both SMU and the foundation.  The second phase also includes the Collaborative Commons and Starbucks Café and the Gillian M. McCombs Special Collections Reading Room and will open in fall 2016.

The 5,100-square-foot Fondren Foundation Centennial Reading Room, the centerpiece of the renovations, has been restored to its original 1940 grandeur as a signature study space for students. White oak bookcases, floor-to-ceiling casement windows and original architectural details have been restored and accented. New lighting highlights the seven plaster bas relief elements in the ceiling, sculptures by Texas sculptor Harry Lee Gibson, who is best known for his sculptures at Fair Park's Hall of State. Each bas relief sculpture represents an important scene from literature, from Beowulf to Whitman.

More than 50 donors provided the Reading Room's American cherry handcrafted wooden study tables and chairs, designed by Thomas Moser. Each table is topped with an amber American Craftsman design lamp.

“Most fundamentally, universities are characterized as institutions that promote the sparks of intellectual exchange that take place when scholars and students gather,” said Steven C. Currall, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs. “Today, as was true hundreds of years ago in the ancient universities of Europe, libraries continue to serve as a principle physical space where such exchanges occur.  Our renovated Fondren Library will provide a truly 21st century physical space where faculty members and students will meet to innovate and learn from each other.”

Students gathered to study in the reading room until 1968, when Fondren Library East opened, providing new study space on its four floors. The reading room was then divided for other library and administration uses.

"The renovation plan responds to the demand for varied spaces for learning and research. Students often work in teams, using several work stations at a time," said Gillian M. McCombs, dean and director of Central University Libraries. “Students also requested more individual silent study space, which is why it was so important that the backbone of this project be the return of the reading room to its original purpose as a quiet oasis for individual study."

The Hillcrest Foundation Exhibit Hall, adjacent to the Reading Room, is designed to showcase the treasures in SMU library special collections. "Books, Buildings and Benefactors," the first exhibit in the hall, will highlight signature items in the library collections, including rare books, manuscripts, photographs, prints and ephemera. Political items, such as a 1900 William Jennings Bryan presidential campaign poster, first edition books by William Faulkner and J.D. Salinger as well as historic SMU photos will be included in the exhibit.

Fondren Library Then and Now
Fondren Library at SMU
Students at Fondren Library Then
Fondren Library
Students at Fondren Library Now

The second phase of the renovations, opening in September 2016, includes the Mary Lynch Healey DeGolyer Library Director's Office, given by Maureen Healy Decherd '09 and Robert W. Decherd, and the Ann Warmack Brookshire '77 and Bradley W. Brookshire '76 Family Classroom. It also includes the Friends of the SMU Libraries/Colophon Classroom, the Meredith and Jim Holbrook Family Conference Room, the Jo Ann Geurin Pettus '69 '70 Technology Enhanced Group Projects Room and the Carolyn Lupton Fondren Library Director's Office, a gift of the T.C. Lupton, Jr. Family Foundation. Other named offices include the Laurie L. Allen and Randolph F. Allen '84 Librarian Office, the Barbara D. Miercort and Clifford R. Miercort Librarian Office, the Jeanne Roach Johnson '54 Reference Librarian Suite, the Jennifer Burr Altabef '78, '81 and Peter A. Altabef Librarian Office, the Becky L. Schergens '62 Librarian Office, the Inge Foundation Librarian Office and the Anne Lund Stewart '68 and James W. Stewart, Jr. Librarian Office.  Other donors include the Iota Alpha Chapter of Chi Omega Fraternity and the Vin and Caren Prothro Foundation.

"We are grateful to the Fondren, Hillcrest and Hoblitzelle Foundations and all the donors to the renovations of Fondren Library," said Brad Cheves, SMU vice president for Development and External Affairs. "These important improvements are very tangible gifts for our students and faculty, and will support sharing SMU library treasures with the community."

About the Fondren Foundation

The Fondren Foundation was established in 1948 by Ella Cochrum Fondren, the widow of Walter W. Fondren Sr. Mr. Fondren was one of the founders of Humble Oil and Refining Company (later Exxon Company U.S.A.). He served on the SMU Board of Trustees until his death in 1939, when Mrs. Fondren replaced him, becoming the first woman to serve on the board.

In 1938, W.W. and Ella Fondren gave the first of many gifts to SMU libraries for the construction of what is now known as Fondren Library West, the University’s first stand-alone library, and, in 1940, the first air-conditioned building on campus. Mrs. Fondren and the Fondren Foundation also provided funds for the Fondren Library East addition, which opened in 1968 and the renovation of the Texana Room. In addition, the foundation funded the Fondren Library Center, a link which opened in 1999 to connect Fondren Library East, Fondren Library West and the Science Information Center.

Mrs. Fondren and the Fondren Foundation also funded the construction of the Fondren Science Building, which opened in 1950, and Mrs. Fondren gave the funds for Memorial Health Center, which opened in 1959. Several members of the Fondren family have attended SMU and many have served and are serving in SMU leadership roles.

The family and foundation also have supported several endowed scholarships, library acquisition funds and general library endowment funds. The foundation received SMU’s Mustang Award in 1998 in recognition of its remarkable generosity.

About the Hillcrest Foundation

The Hillcrest Foundation was created in 1958 by Mrs. W.W. Caruth, Sr., to provide financial support to qualified Texas charitable organizations for the advancement of education, the promotion of health and the relief of poverty. The foundation continues in perpetuity to carry the Caruth family's legacy of generosity to the people of Texas. The Caruth family relationship with SMU can be traced to the University's very beginning when Mr. W.W. Caruth, Sr. gave a parcel of family farmland to establish the site of today's SMU.

The foundation has a broad history of SMU support, most recently providing the Hillcrest Foundation Amphitheater for Lyle School of Engineering's Caruth Hall, which opened in 2010. Other contributions to SMU include technology enhancements for the Dedman School of Law and the Hillcrest Foundation Commons in the James M. Collins Executive Education Center, which opened in 2005. Also in the Cox School of Business, the family and foundation have provided funds for the Caruth Chair of Financial Management, the Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship and the Hillcrest Foundation International Resource Library in the Business Information Center.

The foundation funded the Owen Arts Center's Caruth Auditorium in Meadows School of the Arts, which opened in 1968.  The foundation also created the Herrscher Endowment Fund in Education in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development and the Herrscher Family Endowed Student Leadership Fund. In acknowledgment of the foundation’s extraordinary generosity, SMU awarded the foundation its Mustang Award in 2014.

About the Hoblitzelle Foundation

The Hoblitzelle Foundation was established in 1942 by Karl and Esther Hoblitzelle to support Dallas-area organizations. Mr. Hoblitzelle invested the profits from his successful entertainment businesses in growing oil and gas, real estate, and banking industries in Texas. The couple was active in the social, civic and cultural activities of Dallas.

As part of SMU's centennial celebration, the Hoblitzelle Foundation supported the recent publication of the first comprehensive history of SMU, One Hundred Years on the Hilltop: The Centennial History of Southern Methodist University, by Darwin Payne, professor emeritus of communications and the University's centennial historian.

A longtime supporter of SMU, the Hoblitzelle Foundation has supported construction of the James M. Collins Executive Education Center, which opened in 2005. It also helped fund the Laura Lee Blanton Student Services Building, opened in 2003, the Jerry R. Junkins Electrical Engineering Building, which opened in 2002, the Dedman Life Sciences Building, which opened in 2001 and the Fondren Library Link, which opened in 1998. The foundation supported the remodeling of the Fondren Science Building and Florence Hall, among others. In 2014, SMU gave  the Hoblitzelle Foundation its Mustang Award in recognition of its outstanding generosity.

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