Robert B. Rowling Center for Business Law and Leadership

May 16, 2018

DALLAS (SMU) - Combined gifts of $4 million will create the new Robert B. Rowling Center for Business Law and Leadership in SMU’s Dedman School of Law to train the next generation of prominent legal and business leaders and influence national conversations surrounding business and corporate law. 

At the request of an anonymous donor who made the lead gift, the center is being named in honor of Dallas businessman Robert B. Rowling, owner and Chairman of TRT Holdings, Inc., which is the holding company for the Omni Hotels and Resorts chain as well as Gold’s Gym International. He received an undergraduate degree in business before graduating from SMU’s Dedman School of Law in 1979.

The lead donor asked Mr. Rowling the favor of sharing his name with the new center to reflect that Mr. Rowling exemplifies the type of business achievement, community engagement and civic contribution that future participants in the center’s programs should strive to emulate.

“Bob Rowling is the perfect example of the combined skills that will be the focus of the new center,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Today’s law students will be navigating careers that we cannot even imagine at the moment. They need training in ethical leadership, business analytics and entrepreneurship to develop the skills they will need to be successful. The Rowling Center has a role to play in shaping the future of business and corporate law.”

The Rowling Center will enrich the School’s existing curriculum, and include new leadership training to highlight professionalism and “soft skills,” as well as empirical training to teach core business skills. The program will build on the legal and business acumen centered in Dallas, collaborating with SMU’s Cox School of Business to provide an interdisciplinary approach. The center also will enhance Dedman Law’s mentoring program and provide new opportunities for students to connect with SMU’s extensive network of highly successful alumni and supporters.

In addition to expanded course offerings for J.D. students, the J.D./M.B.A. degree programs will be closely connected with the Rowling Center and its broader activities.  Both the traditional four-year and the recently launched three-year accelerated J.D./M.B.A. degree programs are attracting top students with exceptional promise and strong credentials.

“I am honored to have my name associated with this center for several reasons,” Rowling said. “Dedman Law is my alma mater, of course, and I know from personal experience that a law degree is very useful in business. The center’s emphasis on business law and leadership will train law students in critical areas of business and position them well for future career success.”

A gift of $3 million from an anonymous donor, in addition to $1 million from the Dedman Foundation, will launch the center in fall 2018.

“This is great philanthropic synergy,” said Brad Cheves, SMU Vice President for Development and External Affairs. “We had a very generous donor who wanted to support an important initiative at Dedman Law and, at the same time, honor Robert Rowling, a Dedman Law alumnus who epitomizes the type of work on which this center will focus. We are delighted to see this idea come to fruition.”

The center will focus on two areas:

  • training through an interdisciplinary program that includes new and innovative courses and extracurricular offerings
  • national conversations related to business and corporate law topics through programming, faculty research and partnerships

The new center will be positioned to build on SMU’s tradition of developing prominent business leaders and serve as a critical source of differentiation in a competitive legal education market.

“The center will capitalize on the Dedman School of Law’s global reputation for producing graduates who work at the interface of law and business,” said Steven C. Currall, SMU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. “The center will also build upon innovative partnerships with SMU’s Cox School of Business and with the George W. Bush Presidential Center, which is located on our campus.”

Dedman Law’s historic strengths in business and corporate law start with its deep and rigorous curriculum, supported by long-standing programming.

“The Rowling Center for Business Law and Leadership is an extraordinarily good fit for us, and a natural progression for Dedman Law,” said Jennifer Collins, Judge James Noel Dean of Dedman School of Law. “This center will enhance the education we provide to our students by ensuring that graduates have the commitment to ethical leadership, entrepreneurial spirit, and business acumen they need to navigate the rapidly evolving employment landscape. It also will position the law school as a thought leader on questions related to corporate law and leadership and provide us with new opportunities to engage our alumni and the broader legal and business community.  We are profoundly grateful to our lead donor, to the Dedman family, and of course to Mr. Rowling for helping us transform our vision of a business law center into a reality.”

Collins said the search would now begin for a center director with the practical experience and professional connections to make the Rowling Center immediately impactful. In addition to hosting seminars, conferences and symposia aimed at stimulating new developments in business and corporate law and policy, the center will house and coordinate established programming such as Dedman Law’s Corporate Counsel Symposium, Corporate Counsel Externship program and Corporate Directors’ Institute.

The Dedman Foundation funding toward the Rowling Center for Business Law and Leadership adds to the long tradition of Dedman family support for SMU.

Founded by Nancy and Robert Dedman Sr., The Dedman Foundation is now led by Robert H. Dedman, Jr. and supports universities and public charities throughout the United States.