Former Texas First Lady and Civic Leader Rita Clements has died

Longtime SMU supporter Rita Clements, former Texas' First Lady, civic leader and political activist, has died after a long illness.

Longtime SMU supporter Rita Clements, former Texas First Lady, civic leader and political activist, has died after a long illness.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 11, at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Dallas.

"Rita Clements’ passion for education was clear to everyone who knew her," said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. "Our University was fortunate to benefit from that passion over the many years that she and Governor Clements, who was an SMU alumnus, generously shared their time and resources with us. It’s only part of her legacy, but the beautiful campus of SMU-in-Taos and the programs it provides for faculty and students will always be a tribute to that generosity. We will miss her."

Rita Clements and William P. Clements Jr., her late husband and former Texas governor, contributed leadership and more than $21 million to some of SMU’s highest academic priorities, including:

  • More than $7.5 million toward development of facilities and programs for the SMU-in-Taos campus. With their support, SMU began in 1968 to acquire and restore property 10 miles south of Taos, N.M., that included the site of Fort Burgwin, a pre-Civil War cavalry post, and Pot Creek Pueblo, a 13th–century Indian ruins. They helped keep intact the rustic beauty of the campus, including $4 million for facilities improvements, new student housing, and $1 million for the Wendorf Information Commons.
  • One of the signature events each year at SMU-in-Taos is a colloquium lecture series funded by an endowment given in honor of the Clements that for more than four decades has brought more than 40,000 people to free public lectures on the Taos campus.
  • $10 million in 1994 to establish the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at SMU.
  • Endow the Clements Department of History.
  • Development of a Ph.D. program in American history.
  • $1 million in 1986 to establish the Betty Clements Professorship in Applied Mathematics in Dedman College in honor of his sister.
  • Nearly $900,000 in l965 to renovate SMU’s second campus building. Adapted from a former dormitory to general-purpose classrooms, it was renamed Clements Hall.
  • Other support for SMU, ranging from the Lyle School of Engineering to Perkins School of Theology.
  • Service on the the SMU-in-Taos Executive Board and the Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series Executive Board.

Gov. and Mrs. Clements received the Mustang Award in 1995 for their longtime service and philanthropy to SMU.


Read more about Rita Clements.

# # #