Challenge From Carl and Peggy Sewell Sparks Successful Drive for Dedman College Scholarships

$400,000 challenge yields more than $834,000 in commitments for 20 new scholarships

Dedman Scholars
Dedman Scholars


DALLAS (SMU) – A $400,000 challenge from longtime SMU supporters Carl Sewell '66 and Peggy Higgins Sewell '72 has generated more than $834,000 in gifts and pledges for merit-based scholarships combined with unique programming for academically gifted students in SMU's Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

Dedman College Scholars are chosen to inspire their peers, challenge their professors and contribute to the university’s academic reputation. The new funding will allow SMU to offer 20 new four-year scholarships, effectively doubling the number available in past years.

"The Sewells' call to action, and the response of 17 new donors and donor families who met their challenge, is giving us the opportunity to offer admission in fall 2018 to the largest group of Dedman Scholars in SMU history," said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. "These scholarships are a great opportunity for the recipients, but our Dedman Scholars also enrich the University as a whole."

Carl Sewell, an SMU trustee, issued the challenge Nov. 27, 2017, after the summer launch of the Pony Power initiative to raise more current-use funds for initiatives such as scholarships, faculty research and rewarding student experiences. The Sewells vowed to match every dollar in gifts and pledges up to $400,000 made by new donors to the Dedman College Scholars program by Sept. 1; however new donors stepped up to meet the challenge and committed $434,614 before April 1.

"Peggy and I sincerely believe that helping bright students through scholarships is an investment in a shared future – not just the University we love," Carl Sewell said. "Meeting and engaging with SMUs student scholars makes us very optimistic about that future."

"Carl Sewell is co-chair of the Pony Power initiative, and it is just like him to set the kind of example he has with this challenge gift," said Brad Cheves, SMU vice president for Development and External Affairs. "Mr. and Mrs. Sewell do so much for the University, and we are grateful that they took this opportunity to invite new friends and supporters to join them in expanding this program."


Dedman Scholars


Entering students are selected to the Dedman College Scholars Program each year through a competitive process. Students must be admitted to SMU as a first-year student whose primary major lies within Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, and he or she must qualify academically for the University Honors Program. After a review of all eligible prospective students, a select number are invited to submit a written application and interview with a committee of Dedman College faculty, staff, and current Dedman College Scholars. 

The Dedman College Scholars who entered SMU in the Fall of 2017 had an average SAT (math and critical reading) score of 1488, an average ACT composite score of 32, and an average unweighted GPA of 3.90 in challenging high school curricula coupled with extracurricular involvement.

"Our Dedman Scholars are highly intelligent and we find they also are terrifically motivated young people who are interested in many different fields of study," said Steven C. Currall, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs. "We offer them a wide variety of opportunities to participate in academic, cultural and social events where they meet key people in fields related to the humanities and sciences and also become fully immersed in life at SMU."

In year one, Dedman Scholars connect with faculty, students and the SMU community, as well as campus resources, through exclusive meetings and events. In year two, they begin conducting small independent research projects under the guidance of faculty members in their majors.

During years three and four, scholars are guided toward the completion of long-term research projects that can originate through study abroad, study at SMU-in-Taos, completion of a senior distinction thesis or from resources such as the Richter Fellowship Program, the Hamilton Research Fund and Big Idea grants. 

"Dedman Scholars are, in a word, extraordinary," said Thomas DiPiero, dean of Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. "All students complete a capstone research project, and must also participate in hands-on projects in the SMU community and beyond. One remarkable student established a bail bond program for non-violent offenders."

Dedman College is home to nearly half of all declared majors and minors at SMU, offering 40 undergraduate majors and 56 minors plus pre-professional programs including pre-law and pre-health. Opportunities for advanced graduate education include 18 master’s programs and 15 doctoral degrees in numerous fields.

Peggy and Carl Sewell share a lifelong relationship with SMU. Mr. Sewell, chairman of Sewell Automotive Companies, received a B.B.A. degree with a double major in banking and finance and in economics from SMU. Mrs. Sewell graduated from SMU with a B.F.A. in art history and is a highly respected civic leader. She serves as a member of the board of trustees and executive committee for the Dallas Museum of Art and as a member of The MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors. Mr. and Mrs. Sewell’s two children, Carl and Jacquelin, both earned M.S. degrees in management from SMU’s Cox School of Business and work in the family business.

Mr. and Mrs. Sewell are actively engaged at the University. Mrs. Sewell, who received the SMU Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013, serves as a member of the Meadows School of the Arts Executive Board. Mr. Sewell received the University’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1993, has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 1996, and served as chair from 2006 to 2010, during which time SMU experienced remarkable improvement in student quality. Mr. Sewell was also chair during the planning period and public launch of SMU’s Second Century capital campaign. He served as co-chair of SMU’s successful Second Century campaign and co-chair of The Second Century Celebration and currently serves as co-chair of the Pony Power initiative. Both have dedicated their time and leadership across SMU.

In addition to the Dedman College Scholars, the Sewells have provided scholarship support for President's Scholars, BBA Scholars, Meadows Scholars, Lyle Engineering Scholars and Pre-Law Scholars. They also have generously supported programs and projects in virtually every area of the University.


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