Building a Department

Southern Methodist University approved a department and a Master's Degree Program in Statistics in 1961. The program grew out of a buildup of courses and services in statistics offered by the Mathematics Department and by the Computing Laboratory. Paul Minton chaired the new department which initially consisted of two faculty members and fifteen graduate students. It was justified by the interest in and need for trained personnel from industrial and medical research institutions and for service courses from nearly all academic disciplines, both at SMU and at other area institutions. During the period 1964-66, most of the Statistics faculty at SMU spent one-fourth of their time at the Southwest Center for Advanced Studies working in the division of mathematical and stochastic systems headed by D. B. Owen.

In 1966 a Ph.D. program was instituted, and at this time it was one of the very few departments at SMU offering doctoral programs. Major assistance in establishing the program came from a National Institute of Health training grant in Biometry, which was justified by outstanding long term cooperation between the department and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Professors R. P. Bland, C. H. Kapadia and J. T. Webster joined the faculty in the early years of the department. Paul Minton was Chair of the Department from 1961 to 1972. Don Owen served as Chair from 1972 to 1979.

In 1968 a THEMIS contract was obtained from the Department of Defense and continued through the Office of Naval Research until 1975 with total funding of about one million dollars. There was no cost sharing on this contract, and over $700,000 went into the development of the Statistics Department. The intent was to make SMU a center of excellence in this area. The THEMIS support by the Department of Defense implied a commitment on the part of SMU to maintain the statistics department as a center of excellence.

The Center for Statistical Consulting and Research was founded in 1968 to provide expert statistical consulting services to the academic community at SMU and the business community in Dallas.

The first graduate of the Statistics Department was Vann B. Parr who was awarded an M.S. in 1963. The first Ph.D. graduate of the department was Lowell Gregory in 1968. The Department to date has graduated 127 M.S. students and 125 Ph.D. students.