By LORI STAHL
The Dallas Morning News
Southern Methodist University plans to announce its biggest capital campaign ever today, a move designed to raise the school's academic profile with more money for research and scholarships.
The campaign will position SMU to make significant academic strides just as the George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation prepares to launch its own fundraising drive next spring.
The Board of Trustees is expected to approve a goal of $750 million today, starting a five-year campaign geared toward faculty endowments, student scholarships and campus improvements. SMU has already gotten commitments for $317 million during two years of "quiet phase" fundraising.
Bush Foundation officials said this week they will need roughly $400 million for a presidential library, museum and policy institute to be built on the SMU campus.
Although the SMU and Bush Foundation donor bases overlap somewhat, officials say their efforts are complimentary, not competitive.
"It actually is helpful," SMU President R. Gerald Turner said during an interview this week. "It's not like people only give to one thing or another."
SMU is calling the drive the "Second Century Campaign" because it will end near the university's 100th birthday.
Proceeds will be divided among three broad categories: $350 million for faculty and academic excellence; $200 million for student quality; and another $200 million to improve the "campus experience."
The money slotted for academic excellence will include funding for almost 40 endowed faculty positions, as well as endowments for departments and institutes at Dedman College in the arts and sciences.
English Professor Dennis Foster, president of the Faculty Senate, said most colleagues agree that Dedman's core disciplines need to be expanded in order to produce more students who write clearly, think critically and demonstrate leadership.
"The center of every major university is its college of arts and sciences," he said.
SMU trustee Caren Prothro said the university is at a significant juncture.
"We've got a real opportunity to take a quantum leap forward," said Ms. Prothro, whose gifts include the Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall now under construction at Perkins School of Theology, and funding for a new faculty chair for the Department of Biological Sciences. "Our larger goal is to look at SMU and say, what can get us into a top tier status?"
SMU's current endowment is $1.4 billion, making it the 54th largest in the nation. The endowment has grown significantly since the 1970s, when it was roughly $40 million. But most of the funds are restricted to specific uses, making new fundraising necessary, President Turner said.
Dr. Foster, who has been at SMU 25 years, said the new money could make a huge impact if it isn't used to replace existing resources. If the faculty doesn't expand, he said, SMU won't be able to achieve the student-teacher ratio at colleges such as Vanderbilt, which SMU would like to consider a peer.
"The Bush library has already gotten us a kind of national visibility," Dr. Foster said. "I hope that translates into money for the capital campaign, as well."
Mark Langdale, president of the Bush Foundation, said he expects that to happen, although there are no plans for joint fundraising efforts. SMU appointed several members to the Bush Foundation Board.
"I think the Bush presidential center project expands the opportunity for people who already are supporters of SMU to give to both of us," Mr. Langdale said.
Although SMU officials are emphasizing the need to build intellectual capital, donors have already agreed to support a number of traditional brick-and-mortar projects, including a basketball center, a tennis stadium and renovations to Moody Coliseum.
SMU officials say $200 million for the "campus experience" would include plans for new housing for sophomores, along with a planned requirement that they live on campus. Dormitories are likely to be built on the site of the former Mrs. Baird's Bakery plant at Mockingbird Lane and Central Expressway, President Turner said. Efforts to keep students on campus after classes are part of a strategy to emphasize serious academics over partying.
SMU has conducted only one other capital campaign, which ran from 1997 to 2002 and raised $542 million.
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