2014 Archives

$4 Million in Gifts to Fund SMU Tower Scholars Program

Highland Capital Management leads donor support for policymaking immersion program for undergraduates

September 5, 2014

DALLAS (SMU) – Gifts totaling more than $4 million will endow and provide operational support for the new Tower Scholars Program – a unique immersion experience for undergraduates in public policymaking through SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies.

A gift of $2 million, made possible through the generosity of Highland Capital Management L.P., will endow the Highland Capital Management Endowed Tower Scholars Program Fund. The participating students will be recognized as Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars.

Tower CenterA gift of $1 million from the Hamon Charitable Foundation will endow the Jake L. Hamon Endowed Internship Program in the Tower Scholars Program Fund.   A $1 million gift from The Berry R. Cox Family Foundation will support endowment and provide operational support.

The University has received additional donations totaling over $400,000 toward operation of the Tower Scholars Program fund – important to the implementation of the program until the endowments mature.

Ten sophomore students will be selected as Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars every year.  Students may apply to the program during the fall term of their sophomore year; the first applications are being accepted in fall 2014.  The first scholars will begin their studies in spring 2015 leading to a minor in Public Policy and International Affairs.

The scholars will be steeped in domestic and foreign affairs, national security and defense, and international political economy.  Access to global and national leaders and policy makers, study abroad opportunities and meaningful senior-year internships are hallmarks of the program.  The specialized curriculum includes instruction by professors-of-the-practice and visiting diplomats. 

“Few American universities offer a program designed for undergraduates with as much real-world policy education and experience as does the Tower Scholars Program,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner.  “The gifts that make this program possible allow students to begin gaining professional perspectives while working toward their undergraduate degrees, bridging the usual gap between graduation and career development.”

“The Tower Center is a signature program within SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, and I’m delighted with the opportunity this presents for all of our SMU students,” said Dedman College Dean Thomas DiPiero.  “The students who will graduate as Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars are destined for great things,” said SMU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Paul Ludden.   

“Transformative education initiatives are a key focus of our philanthropy,” said James Dondero, Highland Capital Management co-founder and president. “We have deep respect for the role that Southern Methodist University plays in the community. This program will offer students extraordinary opportunities to interact with global and national leaders, influential policy makers and top employers that call Dallas home.”

Highland Capital Management, L.P. is one of the largest and most experienced global alternative asset managers. The company is headquartered in Dallas.

The invitation-only Tower Scholars Program and associated minor is open for application from all majors across SMU’s schools, with admission based on a competitive process.  The minor in Public Policy and International Affairs requires 15 hours of political science courses, beginning with Introduction to Global Policy Making in the spring of the sophomore year.  The scholars will develop mentor relationships with public policy practitioners, work with clients on actual cases, and have access to local businesses, decision makers and Tower Center Board members.  

“By focusing solely on undergraduate students, the Tower Scholars Program distinguishes SMU from peer institutions that offer this type of curricula only to graduate students,” said Hamon Foundation president Kelly E. Roach. “The opportunity to begin working with political, government and business leaders at this stage of their education is going to nurture leadership skills at a pivotal point in these students’ lives.”

Dallas philanthropist and civic leader Nancy Hamon established the Hamon Charitable Foundation in memory of her husband, Jake L. Hamon, who was a prominent oil and gas executive and former SMU trustee before his death in 1985.  Mrs. Hamon, who died in 2011, left a legacy of service and philanthropy at SMU and throughout the community.  She provided $5 million in 1988 to establish the Jake and Nancy Hamon Arts Library at SMU.  The Hamon Charitable Foundation also awarded $1 million to the Meadows Museum at SMU in 2000 to provide space for special exhibitions of international art in the Jake and Nancy Hamon Galleries.

The Tower Center is named for the late U.S. Senator and SMU alumnus John Goodwin Tower '53.   As a veteran of the U.S. Navy who later served as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John Tower was a transformative political figure as well as a college professor.  The Tower Center honors his commitment to public life and his dedication to educating students as future public servants and engaged citizens.

“SMU strives to educate students who think globally.  The idea behind the Tower Scholars program is to connect students with the public policy and international affairs aspects of whatever their chosen field may be – the engineering student, the business student, the journalism student – any student who wants to understand the relationships between politics, public policy, international affairs and international economies,” said SMU alumnus Jeanne Tower Cox ’78.

Berry Cox is a private investor with interests in oil and gas, real estate and public and private securities worldwide. Both Mr. and Mrs. Cox have provided important leadership at SMU.  In addition to her continuing service on the Tower Center board, Mrs. Cox is a member of the SMU Board of Trustees, Dedman College Executive Board and SMU Unbridled campaign steering committee and has served on the board of the Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility and the Parent Leadership Council.  She received SMU’s distinguished alumni award in 2012 and continues to serve on several University committees and boards. Their two sons, Justin Berry Cox and John Goodwin Tower Cox, both graduated from SMU, in 2008 and 2011, respectively.

“These generous gifts to the Tower Scholars Program will have a profound impact on its success, helping mold strong leaders armed with an unwavering sense of ethics, global perspectives, and experience,” said Brad Cheves, SMU Vice President for Development and External Affairs.  “This is a great example of how world changers are shaped at SMU.”

The gifts to fund the Tower Scholars Program count toward the $1 billion goal of SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign, which to date has raised $874 million to support student quality, faculty and academic excellence and the campus experience.  The campaign coincides with SMU’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the University’s founding in 1911 and its opening in 1915.

The primary mission of the Tower Center is to promote the study of politics and international affairs and to stimulate an interest in ethical public service among undergraduates.  All parties and views are heard in a marketplace of ideas, and the Center pursues its mission in a nonpartisan manner. The Tower Center offers academic courses and seminars, research opportunities, and lectures and symposia featuring prominent academic experts and government officials including an annual National Security Conference. 

The Tower Center bestows as its highest honor the Medal of Freedom, in recognition of extraordinary contributions to the advancement of democratic ideals and to the security, prosperity and welfare of humanity. Recipients have included former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, U.S. Senator John McCain, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and former First Lady Laura Bush.

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SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools.




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