February 22, 2018
SMU is announcing plans to move forward with renovation of Bridwell Library, one of SMU’s most visible libraries and one of the preeminent theological libraries in the country. Funding secured from the J.S. Bridwell Foundation is enabling the $6.1 million renovation project to move forward. Renovations will allow the facility to continue its outstanding tradition of providing the highest quality resources and materials for theological scholarship and patron use.
“We are very grateful to the Bridwell Foundation for partnering with SMU since the late 1940s to make Bridwell Library a center of excellence in providing services and resources for theological education and theological reflection,” said SMU president R. Gerald Turner. “As we look forward to this next chapter in Bridwell Library’s development, we cannot overstate the critical importance of the Foundation’s ongoing vision and support to ensure the Library’s stature and quality.”
“The Foundation is pleased to be able to continue to support the vision of J. S. Bridwell and his daughter, Margaret Bridwell Bowdle, far into the future,” said Bridwell Foundation President Mac Cannedy. “They would be proud of where Bridwell Library has come since they first envisioned it, and equally pleased with the direction it will go in the future with this latest renovation.”
Anticipated renovations include structural improvements to the facility to allow better accessibility for patrons, especially those with wheelchairs and other special needs. Students, faculty and scholars will gain new spaces for study, research and gathering, as well as instructional areas for teaching and presentations. Patrons will appreciate new features enhancing service spaces and the overall user experience.
Bridwell Library is named for Joseph S. Bridwell (1885-1966), a rancher and businessman from Wichita Falls, Texas, who devoted much of his time and resources to building the library. In the late 1940s, Mr. Bridwell and his daughter Margaret Bridwell Bowdle donated the funds for the first library building. On February 8, 1951, the building was dedicated along with the rest of the Perkins quadrangle. At the time, the collection numbered approximately 40,000 volumes. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Mr. Bridwell continued to support the Library, particularly in the acquisition of rare books. After Mr. Bridwell's death in 1966, the foundation he established provided funding for the first renovation and enlargement of the Library, which was completed in 1973. The Bridwell Foundation again funded a substantial renovation and expansion of the library in 1988 and was rededicated in October 1989.
“The Bridwell Foundation was among the most generous donors to SMU’s recent Second Century Campaign, and we are delighted to be able to commence work on this exciting project,” said SMU Vice President for Development and External Affairs, Brad E. Cheves. “Mac Cannedy superbly continues the strong tradition of leadership, first of his predecessor, Herb Storey, and now faithfully executes the vision Mr. Bridwell entrusted to them – to sustain Bridwell Library as one of the finest theological libraries. We very much appreciate his knowledge and collaboration on this newest development in the Library’s history.”
With more than 380,000 volumes, Bridwell Library houses one of the nation’s finest research collections in theology and religious studies. Its outstanding collection of rare books and manuscripts includes over 50,000 items dating from the 15th to the 20th centuries. Among the special collections are the Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Bible Collection and the largest collection in the United States of manuscript letters written by John Wesley. While it primarily serves Perkins School of Theology, Bridwell Library serves as the principal bibliographic resource at SMU for the fields of theology and religious studies and is an important resource for other university programs and the extended religious, academic and bibliographic communities. Along with five other libraries located on SMU’s main campus and the libraries at SMU’s Taos and Plano campuses, Bridwell Library provides a critical resource to SMU’s students, faculty and the broader community.
“Bridwell Library, and the entire SMU library system, are vital to the University’s academic enterprise because they provide invaluable resources, staff expertise and up-to-date facilities to enhance scholarship and learning,” said Steve C. Currall, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs. “The SMU libraries serve as a principal meeting ground where intellectual exchange and innovation occur.”
Craig C. Hill, Dean of the Perkins School of Theology, notes, “Bridwell Library is vital to the strength and reputation of the Perkins School. These important capital improvements will greatly benefit students, faculty, and all who utilize the library’s outstanding resources.”
For more than 100 years, SMU has shaped minds, explored the frontiers of knowledge and fostered an entrepreneurial spirit in its seven degree-granting schools. Taking advantage of unbridled experiences on the University’s beautiful campuses and SMU’s relationship with Dallas, the dynamic center of one of the nation’s fastest-growing regions, alumni, faculty and nearly 12,000 graduate and undergraduate students become ethical leaders in their professions and communities who change the world.