As president of SMU since 1995, R. Gerald Turner is leading an era of unprecedented progress. His tenure has included two historic major gift campaigns that raised more than $1.6 billion for student scholarships, endowed faculty positions, academic programs and capital projects, including new academic, student life and athletics facilities. In 2020, SMU successfully completed Pony Power: Strengthening the Stampede, its three-year drive to provide annual gifts that support today’s students, faculty and academic programs. The University extended the drive, instituting Pony Power Plus with the objective to secure at least $50 million in annual investments plus additional support to address emerging challenges.
Fueled by these investments, SMU’s progress has included increases in average admission test scores, a near tripling of student applications, an increase in enrollment of underrepresented communities up to 31 percent and a more than tripling of the endowment. Under his leadership, SMU has secured the largest gifts in its history: a historic $50 million gift from Carolyn L. and David B. Miller ’72, ’73 for the Cox School of Business and a landmark gift of $100 million from the Moody Foundation to create the new Moody School for Graduate and Advanced Studies.
The University continues to advance as a leading center of teaching and research that generates new knowledge, addresses significant issues and prepares students to be world changers. SMU ranks in the top 20 percent of the best national universities by U.S. News & World Report.
From its home in the global city of Dallas, SMU’s vibrant campus offers enrichment opportunities such as the Tate Lecture Series and the Meadows Museum to students and the wider community. President Turner led efforts with the Board of Trustees to attract the George W. Bush Presidential Center, which opened at SMU in 2013. SMU and the Bush Center partner through fellowships, public lectures, the new George W. Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative and additional collaborations that bring together students, faculty and global experts to tackle pressing challenges.
Beyond the campus, President Turner has served on the boards of the Dallas Citizens Council, the American Council on Education and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and he co-chaired the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for nearly 10 years. In Texas, he serves on the boards of the Methodist Health System Foundation, the Salvation Army of North Texas and the AT&T Performing Arts Center.
Before joining SMU, President Turner was the chancellor of the University of Mississippi. He previously served in administrative positions at the University of Oklahoma and Pepperdine University. A native of New Boston, Texas, he earned an AA degree from Lubbock Christian University, a BS in psychology from Abilene Christian University and an MA and a PhD in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. He and his wife, Gail, have two married daughters and five grandchildren.