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SMU President R. Gerald Turner:
Remarks at induction into Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame

April 24, 2012

SMU President R. Gerald Turner was inducted into the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame on April 21, 2012, an honor recognizing community leadership, personal integrity and innovation. Following are his remarks at the induction ceremony:

It is an honor for me to be inducted into the Junior Achievement Dallas Business Hall of Fame with Trish Wilson and Jack Lowe, Jr. The business community and all higher education institutions in the Metroplex are thankful to Junior Achievement and its volunteers, who help students expand their world to aspire to a college education and success both during their college years and beyond. 

SMU was founded in 1911 and opened in 1915, so 2011-2015 is what we are calling our Centennial era.  It is gratifying to all of us associated with SMU to be recognized by the Dallas business community during this historic time for the University.

In 1911, the citizens of Dallas pledged land and $300,000 to attract the new Methodist University. On Wednesday, we presented at the Dallas Federal Reserve a report on the economic and community impact of the University on its founding city.  A few of its major points were presented in the editorial in The Dallas Morning News today.  In addition, over the past 15 years, private contributions to SMU have exceeded $1.1 billion; our capital spending has totaled $1.2 billion, and our annual operating budget now exceeds $500M a year. With over 40,000 alumni living in the Metroplex and an annual economic impact of $7 billion, we tried to show that this economic impact combined with the intellectual, public service, cultural, and alumni impact has given the city a great return on its initial investment. This is due to the leadership and generous support of alumni, friends, and the Board of Trustees. 

Gail and I have been blessed to be able to work with the Board of Trustees, friends, and supporters of the University during this time of dramatic development. I have been blessed to have Gail by my side as partner and co-worker in this family business for 43 years.  We are grateful that our daughters Angela Turner Wilson and Jessica Turner Waugh are with us this evening. They grew up in receiving lines and living in a glass bubble, but we think they came out just fine.  Their husbands are both out of town and babysitters are having the honor and pleasure of sitting with our two granddaughters and two grandsons. In addition, we are thankful that so many members of the University community are here along with friends from different periods in our lives.

As noted in the video, my parents were both educators; so, in a very real way, I am in the family business.  At Pepperdine University President Bill Banowsky noticed my work and invited me, when he became President of the University of Oklahoma, to be his Executive Assistant and later Vice President of External Affairs at age 33.  That opportunity and the level of responsibilities he assigned me prepared me at an early age for the chancellorship of Ole Miss.  So, in a real way that appointment at OU led to our time here.

Growing up in small towns in Texas, New Boston and Graham, Gail and I thought coming to Dallas was magical.  As adults, we still do.  In my inaugural address in 1995, I stated that the Board of Trustees could have selected a president and spouse who would grow to love Dallas, but in Gail and me they selected a pair who already did and who would be fulfilling their highest aspirations to be on the SMU campus every day and work toward achieving its destiny as a national university with an international outreach. 

Just as the development of Dallas is a never ending process, so is the emergence of SMU as a national university.  We thank you for this recognition of the remarkable commitment of the Board of Trustees, our students, faculty and staff, and friends.  The beautiful iconic Jeffersonian building at the top of the gentle hill is named Dallas Hall and looks proudly toward its founding city.

During this Founders’ Week at SMU, we have tried to answer the question: What has been the return on investment (ROI) to Dallas for providing 100 years ago $300,000 and land to attract to Dallas the new Methodist University?

This induction into the JA Dallas Business Hall of Fame tells us that Dallas is very pleased with the return it has received.  And, in a very real way, we have just begun!  Thank you again for this recognition of SMU’s contributions to the development of Dallas and the Metroplex.

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