2015 Archives

SMU Dedman Law Scholarships endowed in honor of Thomas W. Luce, III by Sarah and Ross Perot, Jr.

Centennial gift provides $1.75 million for endowment and operations

September 22, 2015

DALLAS (SMU) – A $1.75 million gift from Sarah Fullinwider Perot ‘83 and Ross Perot, Jr., will endow the Thomas W. Luce, III Centennial Dedman Law Scholars Program at SMU, honoring Luce’s dedication to law and community while helping infuse scholarship students with his integrity and commitment to public service.

H. Ross Perot, Thomas W. Luce III and Ross Perot Jr.
(l. to r.) H. Ross Perot, Thomas W. Luce, III, and Ross Perot, Jr.

The gift creates a $1.5 million endowment, and provides an additional $250,000 in operating funds for the first five years.  The “Centennial” designation of the program recognizes the foresight of donors who ensure the immediate impact of their gift by providing operational funds while the endowment matures.

The gift to Dedman School of Law creating the scholarship program will be celebrated Tuesday, Sept. 22, at SMU. Guests also will honor Luce’s achievements in business and public service over a long and storied career, focused on the unique relationship Luce has enjoyed with two generations of the Perot family.

Luce, who received SMU’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1999, earned his undergraduate degree on the Hilltop in 1962 and graduated from what is now Dedman School of Law in 1966.

“Sarah and Ross Perot have found the perfect way to honor their life-long friendship with Tom Luce,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Tom has been successful both in business and in public service and we are very proud of the history that he’s had here. Having Tom Luce’s name with us in perpetuity on a scholarship fund in the Dedman School of Law is a great way to honor his terrific contributions to SMU and the broader community.”

Describing his family as big supporters of SMU, Ross Perot, Jr., said they agreed the best way to honor Luce was through a gift to his alma mater. In addition to financial support, students in the Luce Scholars Program will have both formal and informal opportunities to learn directly from Luce, who was a founding partner in the Dallas-based legal firm of Hughes & Luce LLP.

“Tom Luce is the role model for what a lawyer should be,” said Perot, Jr.  “We hope that with this scholarship Tom will be able to attract great students to SMU, teach them to be great attorneys, and also to focus on public service.”

“I am so honored and grateful that my dear friends, Ross and Sarah Perot, chose to honor me in this way at my alma mater that means so much to me,” Luce said. “I look forward to working with the Luce Scholars in the years ahead.”

Jennifer Collins, Judge James Noel Dean of SMU’s Dedman School of Law, said she expects the experience of working with Luce will be transformative for Luce Scholars.

“Not only has he excelled in the profession, but Tom Luce spends his time serving others on issues ranging from mental health to education,” Collins said. “He shows students what it means to be a world changer and how to really have an impact on their community, and those are the kind of lawyers we want to be sending out into the marketplace.”

The words “integrity” and “character” are repeated frequently by national and Dallas-area business and community leaders who have worked with Luce during his unique and decades-long business and personal relationship with EDS-founder Ross Perot. They cite as some of his most important success stories:

  • The development with Perot and Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk of Victory Park and American Airlines Center
  • The development with Perot of Legacy in Plano, home first to the EDS headquarters and now J.C. Penney and Toyota
  • The development with the younger Perot of Alliance Texas, a major transportation hub  that includes a cargo train terminal and Alliance Airport
  • Acquisition with Perot of EDS by General Motors Corp.
  • Acquisition with the younger Perot of Perot Systems by Dell, Inc.
  • Purchasing on behalf of Perot one of the original copies of the Magna Carta

Margaret Spellings, president of the George W. Bush Presidential Center and U.S. Secretary of Education under Bush from 2005 to 2009, calls Luce an unsung hero of education reform, both in Texas and nationally.

“He’s helped close the achievement gap, he’s helped bring attention to the needs of poor and minority students for many, many decades, and I think that is one of the mighty contributions Tom has made,” Spellings said. “It hasn’t been a year committed to education reform, he’s been on the battlefield for 30 years.  I’m personally grateful to him, and kids in America owe him a big debt.”

Del Williams, general counsel for Hillwood, a Perot company, commended Luce for succeeding in business and public service with honesty, integrity and decency intact.

“Whether assisting Mr. Perot, Sr., in freeing two EDS executives from a Tehran prison and then successfully suing the Iranian government for millions of dollars; whether it is successfully helping execute the merger of EDS and GM; whether it is helping Mr. Perot zone the land which is now the EDS headquarters in Legacy in Plano; or (whether) it is helping Ross Jr. in his years-long struggle to build the Air Force Memorial in Washington, D.C. – Tom has accomplished a great deal, and in no point in that journey has Tom wavered from his commitment to his values, or his family or his friends,” Williams said.

Those who know Luce well speak of the partnership between Luce and two generations of the Perot family, but it is the elder Perot who explains it most succinctly:

“I looked for the finest lawyer in Dallas to work with me when I started my company,” said Perot. “Again and again people referred me to a man I had never met – Tom Luce – and that’s the story, right there.

“Tom has had the attitude throughout his career of Winston Churchill’s shortest speech, delivered during “World War II,” Perot said. “This is the entire speech: ‘Never give in, never give in, never, never, never.’ Tom, God bless you and keep you - I can’t tell you how much we appreciate everything you have done.”


Luce is founding CEO and chairman of the Dallas-based National Math and Science Initiative, a non-profit organization founded in 2007 to improve student performance and college readiness in STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering and math.  He also is founding CEO of the newly created Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, a nonpartisan organization designed to improve the delivery of mental health services for all Texans. 

Luce served as assistant secretary for the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development in the U.S. Department of Education under President George W. Bush from July 2005 through September 2006.

The attorney was appointed to major posts by Texas governors, including that of chairman of the Texas national Research Laboratory Commission, chief justice pro tempore of the Texas Supreme Court, and a delegate to the Education Commission of the States. Luce also has been appointed by the Speaker of the Texas House to serve as a citizen member of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).

Luce is perhaps best known for his role in 1984 as the chief of staff of the Texas Select Committee of Public Education, which produced one of the first major reform efforts among public schools.

Luce was co-founder of the National Center for Educational Accountability (NCEA), sponsor of the Just for the Kids School Improvement model, and served as chairman of the board for NCEA and Just for the Kids from their inceptions until 2005.  He also founded Communities Just for the Kids.  In 1995, Luce wrote Now or Never: How We Can Save Our Public Schools, a book that defined his education philosophy and outlined a preliminary plan for education reform that called for broader support for public education.  He published a second book on public education, Do What Works: How Proven Practices Can Improve America’s Public Schools, in December 2004.

Luce has served on the boards of, or served as guest lecturer at, a number of schools of higher education, including SMU, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.

In addition, Luce has served on the boards of multiple community and charitable organizations, including the Texas Education Reform Caucus, the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, Advanced Placement Strategies, Education is Freedom and the Foundation for Community Empowerment, and on the executive committee of the Dallas Citizens Council, an organization comprising CEOS of Dallas’ largest businesses.  He was appointed by the U.S. Senate to the Library of Congress Trust Fund Board.

He is the recipient of the J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award from SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public responsibility, the Center for Non-Profit Management Social Entrepreneur Award, the Dallas Historical Society Excellence in Community Service Award and the CASA Award for Service to Children.

Luce has been an attorney since 1965.


The gift endowing the Thomas W. Luce, III Centennial Dedman Law Scholars Program counts toward the $1 billion goal of SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign. To date the campaign has raised more than $987 million in gifts and pledges 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.

“This significant scholarship will enhance Dedman Law’s ability to recruit the best and brightest students, in turn inspiring and equipping them to strive for the integrity and sense of purpose that are Tom Luce’s hallmarks,” said SMU Vice President for Development and External Affairs Brad Cheves. “We are grateful for Tom’s legacy, and for this generous gift from Sarah and Ross Perot, Jr., that will allow us to share that legacy with a new generation of community service-minded attorneys.”


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

SMU’s Dedman School of Law enjoys a national and international reputation of distinction and is among the most competitive law schools in the country for admission, as well as one of the most successful in the placement of its graduates. Students are immersed in an intense professional curriculum with opportunities to obtain real-world experience through extensive legal clinics, public service placements, academic externships and clerkships. Beginning in 1947, Dedman Law was one of the first law schools in the country to provide outreach to the community through clinical programs. Dedman Law also was among the first law schools to implement a public service requirement for graduation. As SMU enters its second century of achievement, Dedman School of Law continues to be dedicated to the ideals that shaped it from its founding: outstanding legal training, public service and professional responsibility.

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