Centennial Celebration: Remarks by Keynote Speakers

Remarks made during the Centennial Celebration on April 15 by SMU President R. Gerald Turner; Carl Sewel, co-chair of Second Century Celebration; and Caren Prothro, chair of the SMU Board of Trustees.

SMU President R. Gerald Turner

My greetings to each of you and thank you for being here for this historic occasion: The Celebration of our Centennial and the first Founder’s Day. I also send greetings to those who could not be with us today, including alumni and friends around the world who are watching this event live on the web, or who will see it later when it is posted on our website. We are all fortunate to be here on this centennial day. None of us is likely to be here for the Bicentennial celebration, and so we might as well heartily celebrate the Centennial available to us!

On this Founder’s Day, we remember those from the United Methodist Church and from the City of Dallas whose vision and commitment created this University. However, we are also thankful for those who in the intervening decades have worked to fulfill the dreams of the Founders and to hand off a strong legacy to all of us who now expand their vision across the nation and around the world.

As these Founders watched Dallas Hall emerge from the waves of Johnson grass covering former cotton fields of Will Caruth and the Armstrong family and others, they could have never dreamed of the beauty that now surrounds us: the stately oaks and the wonderful seasonal color that adorn our campus. There is no doubt that President Hyer would be pleased to see that his first campus master plan and the architectural style of his choosing have both been followed by subsequent presidents and trustees. This consistency to the Collegiate Georgia architectural vocabulary continues to attract new students, faculty, and staff to our campus and provides a place of beauty for its daily inhabitants.

The creation of a university requires the emergence and empowerment of people of vision who can become its Founders. However, they cannot become the university. The vision becomes a university only when faculty are brought forward to teach students. Over the years, it has been the role of hundreds and even thousands of dedicated men and women to develop the academic programs, shape the curriculum, and create the instructional and research opportunities for the students. The end result is this University we celebrate today.

Our founding students tended to be from the local area. Today they come from all 50 states and over 90 foreign countries. But, as they have become alumni they bring validation to the quality of the academic programs installed by the founding faculty and subsequent generations, and by the optimism, entrepreneurial spirit, and amiability that have come to define the SMU graduate.

The emergence of Dallas as a center of business and commerce, arts and culture, science and technology have been greatly energized and undergirded by the contributions of the faculty and alumni of this University. The clergy educated at the Perkins School of Theology, both for the United Methodist Church and other denominations, filled thousands of pulpits around the world and faculty positions at schools of theology and religious studies departments. We are still guided today by the following from our University Mission statement.

SMU affirms its historical commitment to academic freedom and open inquiry, to moral and ethical values, and to its United Methodist heritage.

When one thinks about how the world looked 100 years ago, the technologies and cultural trends that seemed innovative and transformative at that time have been surpassed beyond anything that could have been imagined. Given the incredible increase in the rate of change, innovation, and development, we will probably look even more primitive in the eyes of those who gather to celebrate the Bicentennial of this University, probably on this same site, in 2111.

Today we salute the Commission of Education of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, Chaired by Bishop James Atkins, for selecting Dallas as SMU’s location; we salute the Founding Board of Trustees, Chaired by Horace Bishop; we salute the first President, Robert S. Hyer; and we salute the founding faculty, staff and students recruited to implement the vision of Southern Methodist University. We enthusiastically carry the torch they handed to us across this Century. It is our challenge; it is our opportunity; it is our blessing to lead the University into its Second Century with as much vision, optimism, and commitment as was exhibited by those who began its First Century. Thank you, Dallas. Thank you, United Methodist Church. And thank all of you for leading this University into its second century!

It is now my pleasure to introduce the Co-Chair of The Second Century Celebration and the Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Trustees, Carl Sewell, Class of 1966.

Carl Sewell ’66, co-chair of Second Century Celebration

It’s a great honor to be here. It’s always a great challenge to follow Gerald Turner. We all appreciate President Turner and all of the great things that he is doing for our University. This is a historic day at SMU, and as usual, his comments were right on target and very inspirational for us all.

I’m honored to serve with Ruth Altshuler as co-chair of The Second Century Celebration, and for all of you who really know Ruth and understand her, you realize who the real leader of this is. She’s having me speak, but she is the general leader of this. She has done so much for SMU and been so generous for so many years, and we are so grateful and appreciative of her.

The Second Century Celebration extends from the centennial of SMU’s founding in 1911 through the centennial of its opening in 1915. During these five years, SMU will receive wide visibility, not only because of the Centennial, but also because of the opening of the Bush Presidential Center as well as the very important improvements in the achievements of our students and our faculty.

We plan to use the Celebration as a way to involve more alumni and community leaders in the important efforts under way that will define SMU’s future. And those efforts are: an improved academic program, more research, new scholarship programs, new endowed faculty positions and even new facilities.

We need to take a moment today and just look around. What a beautiful day. What a beautiful campus. Look at our buildings. Look at the landscaping. A hundred years ago today, this Hill did not look quite like this. We need to look at our students, the extraordinary quality of the young people that are at this University. We need to appreciate the ever-improving quality of our faculty and the great leadership that the administration has provided for this University. We have the finest group of deans ever in the history of this University. We have an extraordinary provost. And I think we all appreciate what an extraordinary president we have at this time.

It’s been a great 100 years, but it is a foundation. This celebration honors the accomplishments of the last 100 years, but it is focused on moving SMU forward and upward in the next 100 years. We thank you for taking the time to be with us here today, for supporting SMU and for joining with us as we chart SMU’s unbridled future. Thank you.

Caren Prothro, chair of the SMU Board of Trustees

Thank you, Carl, and on behalf of the Board, I’d like to extend my special welcome and note of thanks to our neighbors. The relationship among SMU, University Park, Highland Park – it’s really unique. We’ve grown up together and shared the same memories and the same experiences. SMU has been blessed to be located here and to have been welcomed so warmly, first by Highland Park and then by the citizens of University Park.

As you know, we have Mayor Dick Davis of University Park and Mayor Pro Tem Gail Madden of Highland Park on the platform with us today. Please join me in thanking them for their commitment and being such great partners of SMU.

The roots of SMU’s founding extend further back to the ideals of the Methodist Church. John Wesley, the Church’s founder, believed that every man, woman and child should be able to read the Bible. And on the basis of that one simple but profound belief, the Church dedicated itself to education in all kinds of forms. And the legacy of that dedication is unparalleled – numerous schools and institutions of higher education founded all across the U.S. by the United Methodist Church, including Duke, Emory and several other prestigious institutions, in addition to SMU.

At its last meeting, the SMU Board of Trustees, in recognition of the primary role of the Methodist Church in establishing SMU, passed a resolution in appreciation. And at this time I’d like to ask Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe to come forward to receive the resolution and Dr. Turner to present the resolution.

President Turner

In your programs you have the full text of the resolution, and I’d like to read the final paragraph aloud as it represents the sincere appreciation of the SMU Board and the entire University community.

“Resolved, That the Board of Trustees of Southern Methodist University, on the occasion of the one hundredth anniversary of SMU’s founding in 1911, expresses its gratitude to the South Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church for its vision and century of support. In addition, the Board hereby resolves to recommit to the partnership and friendship between the Church and the University and to the work necessary to continue to provide future generations of students and faculty with resources to better their lives and the world.”

Bishop Bledsoe, it’s our honor to present to you this resolution on behalf of SMU on the occasion of the Centennial of SMU’s founding.

Caren Prothro

Now it is my honor to express the Board’s gratitude to the City of Dallas. You’ll recall the story of how Dallas and Fort Worth really vied for SMU to be located within their cities. Although the Hilltop was just a patch of Johnson grass at the time, the true Dallas spirit of the city leaders painted a convincing picture of really what the campus could be. And the land, the resources and the magnificence of Dallas Hall were all made possible by the citizens of Dallas, who believed that a better future for our region, a better city, a better quality of life for our families – all would be the result of SMU being placed here.

At its last meeting, the SMU Board of Trustees, in recognition of the important role of the City of Dallas in establishing SMU, passed a resolution in appreciation. I’d like to ask Angela Hunt, City of Dallas Council Person, to come forward to receive the resolution, and Dr. Turner to present the resolution.

President Turner

“Resolved, That the Board of Trustees of Southern Methodist University, on the occasion of the one hundredth anniversary of SMU’s founding in 1911, expresses its sincere gratitude to the City of Dallas and the citizens of Dallas for their vision and support over the past 100 years; and

“Resolved, That the Board hereby recommits the University to its working relationship with Dallas and now also the DFW Metroplex, and to continuing to play a vital and meaningful role in helping make Dallas a strong competitor among global cities and a great city in which to live, work and do business.”

Council Person Hunt, it is our honor to present this resolution to you on behalf of SMU, on the occasion of our Centennial. Thank you.

President Turner

Thank you, Caren, and thank you, Bishop Bledsoe, and thank you, Council Person Hunt, for being with us today. Not only is it appropriate to have Dallas honored here, since it was the city of our founding, but as most of you know, the Mrs. Baird’s plant area and the area east of 75 that we now call East Campus are in Council Person Hunt’s district, and we have begun working with her on a regular basis.

We’re very pleased also to have the continuing strong support of University Park, the mayor, the council and the citizens of University Park and Highland Park, which are crucial to our future. We’d also like to thank the president of the student body, Jake Torres, for assisting with these presentations. He made a great Vanna White, and we appreciate his work.

Today is really a call to action. Truly it’s a time to reflect, to express our gratitude, but then to return to the work at hand. SMU’s always been eager, ambitious and forward-looking. It’s part of our DNA.

So how do we do this? How do we mark this particular time in our history? Americans love flags, so what better way to mark this five-year celebration then to develop a Centennial flag to lead the charge into our Second Century. Those of you that received those flags now know what’s about to happen because to conclude our ceremony and to mark the countdown to the Centennial of our opening in 2015 – and we intend to have you back here at that time – we’re now going to raise SMU’s Centennial flag. So if you would please, stand and turn and face the Flagpole to the south as we sing “Varsity.”

Today at our first Founders’ Day, we honor the visionary leaders who founded and built SMU over a century into this great institution. It’s now time to continue their work for the benefit of future generations. So as we celebrate the end of the first, we welcome you to the founding of SMU’s Second Century.

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