News story about summer camp inspires $2 million gift

Hamon Charitable Foundation to support free SMU camps and scholarships to drive engineering careers.

DALLAS (SMU) – When Hamon Charitable Foundation board member Tom Souers read a Dallas Morning News article last June about an SMU Lyle School of Engineering summer camp for underrepresented students, it proved to be the spark behind a $2 million foundation gift to support expansion of the camps and create engineering scholarships for students who attend them.

Hamon gift announcementThe camp opportunities and scholarships are aimed at inspiring students to pursue engineering as a field of study and future career. Middle and high school students attending the Lyle School Hamon Summer Engineering Camps initially will be recruited from the KIPP DFW network of public charter schools, the STEM-focused Young Women’s Preparatory Network, and DISD’s Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy.

Teachers from the participating schools also will be allowed to attend camps to engage with Lyle students and faculty. Students attending the camps who are later accepted into the engineering program at SMU will be eligible to apply for college scholarships through the new Jake L. Hamon Scholars Program.

“We are delighted that the Hamon Charitable Foundation is making these eye-opening camps available to a larger group of students,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “The foundation’s gift helps expand our impact in the community and will help build a brighter future for more young people in Dallas, particularly through the creation of the companion scholarship program.”

The Engineering Quad at SMU is crowded with young visitors every summer as the Lyle School offers eight weeks of camps for students in 6th through 12th grades at a cost of approximately $1,200 per student for residential camps and about $400 per student for day camps. The camp that caught Souers’ attention, which challenged a group of boys to design and produce an alarm clock under deadline pressure, was offered free to selected high school students through a grant from the Texas Workforce Commission.

Upon learning of the Hamon Charitable Foundation’s interest in supporting more camps for low-income students, SMU met with foundation directors Kelly and Jack Roach to discuss SMU’s submitted proposal for a five-year, $1.5 million commitment. Hamon board members suggested that an additional $500,000 be added to the proposal for scholarships.

“If we could bottle this kind of approach to philanthropy, we would,” said Brad Cheves, SMU vice president for Development and External Affairs. “The Hamon Charitable Foundation saw SMU making a real difference in the community, asked to help us expand this creative STEM program, and then generously offered us extra resources.”

“Planting the seed for a STEM career when students are young can go a long way toward getting them prepared for a college education in that field,” said Steven C. Currall, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “The mentorship that will follow participants in this camp will increase the program’s reach.”

Lyle School of Engineering Dean Marc Christensen said he expects the ripples from this gift to help more students tap into their undiscovered passion for engineering. “You cannot imagine how much fun it is to tackle real-world problems with engineering know-how until you get the chance to try it. We see it happen in our camps every summer,” Christensen said.

The Hamon-supported programs featured this summer will be 12-day residential camps for high school students and shorter day camps for middle school students. The high school camps are designed for rising juniors and seniors to explore the four main disciplines of engineering offered at Lyle: electrical, mechanical, civil and environmental engineering, and computer science, learning the skills and tools that are part of a career in engineering. Middle school camps will focus on similar categories over the course of a week, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Beginning in fall 2018 the Hamon gift will also allow SMU’s Caruth Institute for Engineering Education to support and mentor the engineering focus of students who have attended the camps, with an eye toward identifying applicants to SMU who would then be eligible for the Hamon Scholars program.

The Hamon Charitable Foundation supports arts and cultural programs, education, and social and human services primarily in Texas. Dallas philanthropist and civic leader Nancy B. Hamon, who died in 2011, established the foundation in memory of her late husband, Jake Hamon. The Jake L. Hamon Endowed Internship Program in the Tower Scholars Program Fund was created at SMU in 2014 through a $1 million gift from the foundation. Mrs. Hamon provided $5 million in 1988 to establish the Hamon Arts Library, and a gift from her estate in 2013 provided personal papers and materials and $1 million to endow, preserve and exhibit the collection.

Read more about this donation in the Dallas Morning News here.


For more than 100 years, SMU has shaped minds, explored the frontiers of knowledge and fostered an entrepreneurial spirit in its seven degree-granting schools. Taking advantage of unbridled experiences on the University’s beautiful campuses and SMU’s relationship with Dallas – the dynamic center of one of the nation’s fastest-growing regions – alumni, faculty and nearly 12,000 graduate and undergraduate students become ethical leaders in their professions and communities who change the world.

SMU’s Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering, founded in 1925, is one of the oldest engineering schools in the Southwest. The school offers eight undergraduate and 29 graduate programs, including master’s and doctoral degrees, through the departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Computer Science and Engineering; Electrical Engineering; Engineering Management, Information, and Systems; and Mechanical Engineering. Lyle students participate in programs in the unique Deason Innovation Gym, providing the tools and space to work on immersion design projects and competitions to accelerate leadership development and the framework for innovation; the Hart Center for Engineering Leadership, helping students develop nontechnical skills to prepare them for leadership in diverse technical fields; the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education, developing new methodologies for incorporating engineering education into K-12 schools; and the Hunter and Stephanie Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity, combining technological innovation with business expertise to address global poverty.