Lyle discusses 'unique dream' for Lyle School of Engineering

Bobby B. Lyle, namesake of SMU's Lyle School of Engineering, fielded students' questions feb. 18, 2009, about Lyle's dream of a school of "absolute uniqueness."

By John Coleman
Associate News Editor

Bobby B. Lyle, namesake of the Lyle School of Engineering, fielded students' questions Wednesday about Lyle's dream of a school of "absolute uniqueness."

Lyle began by telling how his dream came to fruition, with engineering roots at SMU, he was able to make a deal with an assistant dean.

"A young guy came along by the name of Jeffery Orsak that I was able to meet. I was visiting with him one day and I told him I had a deal for him," Lyle said. "I told him if you will undertake a school of engineering unlike anything we have ever seen but exactly like what an engineering school of the future should be, I will help you do it."

He said at the time the school was still a vision, the national academies of science and engineering were declaring that the nation had huge deficiencies in these areas.

"We decided to respond," Lyle said. "We went out and said 'let's go out and create the best engineering school in the world, one that is absolutely unique.'"

In the spring 2008 semester the direction of SMU's school of engineering was defined when Lyle donated the funds necessary to realize his dream of a unique engineering school.

Lyle said he was proud of what has been accomplished by not just creating engineers, but leaders as well.

"We learn in the classroom, what we do is lead," Lyle said. "We learn engineering to solve the major problems of the world, it is about learning and leading."

He said the leadership component is one of the top attributes that make the Lyle school so unique. Along with the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works lab, the school will also strive for gender parity, a rarity in the engineering community.

Lyle said that the school's innovative approach is already garnering attention from top engineering schools in the nation. Schools such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Texas A&M University, and Vanderbilt University are all taking notice and trying to copy SMU's leadership model.

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