SMU remembers Robert Hyer Thomas '53, '57
DALLAS (SMU) – SMU mourns the loss of Robert “Bob” Hyer Thomas ’53, ’57 attorney, civic leader and beloved University alumnus, who died February 9, 2020, at the age of 88.
“Bob Thomas honored the memory of his grandfather, Robert Hyer, SMU’s first president, in every way that he touched SMU,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Bob continued the legacy of wisdom, service and support that his grandfather began in 1911. Through his own SMU involvement as a Phi Beta Kappa student, alumnus, active supporter and SMU Trustee, Bob created a new legacy that will continue to inspire us all.”
Thomas’s maternal grandfather, Robert Stewart Hyer, was SMU’s first president when it opened in 1915. His mother, Margaret Hyer Thomas ’23, was the University’s first librarian. Thomas earned a bachelor's degree magna cum laude in social science from SMU, and a law degree in 1957 from the SMU School of Law. Thomas was a member of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity and Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society.
The family’s SMU legacy continued with Thomas’s service on the SMU Board of Trustees, and as Alumni Board president. He also served on the Executive Boards for Dedman School of Law, SMU Libraries and SMU-in-Taos.
In 2010, to commemorate the 99th anniversary of his grandfather’s election as SMU’s first president, SMU unveiled Robert S. Hyer Lane. The campus lane runs north from McFarlin Boulevard, past Fondren Library Center and Hyer Hall, to University Boulevard. Members of the extended Hyer family attended the unveiling where Thomas spoke on their behalf.
Thomas and his wife, Dr. Gail Griffin Thomas ’58, who retired in 2016 as the president and executive director of Dallas’ Trinity Trust Foundation, met as students at SMU. The couple were married for 62 years until his death. In 1988, the two received SMU’s Distinguished Alumni Award. Thomas was named a Dedman School of Law Distinguished Alumnus in 1996.
In 1983, Thomas and his mother established SMU’s Robert Stewart Hyer Society to recognize the University’s most intellectually gifted undergraduate students. Thomas and Gail enjoyed attending the prestigious honor society’s annual induction dinners, and meeting the talented students who have distinguished themselves through academic achievement.
The family has indicated that memorials may be made to the Robert Stewart Hyer Society at SMU, c/o Office of Development, P.O. Box 750402, Dallas, Texas, 75275-0402.
SMU is the nationally ranked global research university in the dynamic city of Dallas. SMU’s alumni, faculty and nearly 12,000 students in eight degree-granting schools demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit as they lead change in their professions, communities and the world.