Investing in a culture of collaboration

Aurelia and Brad Heppner ’88 and family commit $11.5 million to the Cox School of Business

An $11.5 million gift from Aurelia and Brad Heppner ’88 and family to SMU’s Edwin L. Cox School of Business will strengthen the school’s commitment to fostering the leadership skills of tomorrow’s executives and investing in groundbreaking research that impacts the business world.


The Heppners have committed $10 million to establish the Heppner Family Commons, creating a new hub for collaboration between members of the Cox and SMU community, and a centerpiece of the future Cox School renovation and expansion project. Additionally, $1.5 million to support Cox faculty research will be received from the Heppner Endowments for Research Organizations (HERO).


“With this gift, the Heppners will give SMU students the space to work together with each other and with our faculty, making critical connections and sparking inventive ideas,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “We also thank HERO for supporting the pioneering research of Cox faculty.”

The Heppner Family Commons will serve as the collaborative heart of the Fincher Building in the Cox School of Business. It will provide an elegant place for students and faculty from all disciplines, as well as community members, to generate and share vibrant ideas that power innovation. The expansive, light-filled Commons will be a distinctive calling card for the school.


“SMU’s Cox School of Business is a vital part of Dallas’ thriving business community,” said Brad Heppner, a recognized leader in the alternative investment industry. “We are proud to invest in the next generation of business leaders who are building their skills in the Cox School, and in faculty who conduct ambitious research.”

As globalization and the speed of technological innovation continue to increase, businesses increasingly look to universities to produce graduates who can work with people of all backgrounds and weather rapid change. The Heppner Family Commons will provide a vital space for interpersonal learning outside the classroom.


“Resilience and collaboration fuel innovation,” said David Miller, chair of the Cox School Executive Board. “The Heppners’ gift will help Cox shape future business leaders, and we are grateful for their generosity.”

Expected impact

  • Increases students’ leadership skills by providing a hub for collaboration – a key driver of innovation
  • Strengthens interpersonal skills and resilience in the face of rapid change
  • Enhances the Cox School's 9-to-9 culture, where students learn from each other and from faculty outside the classroom
  • Supports faculty research that impacts business in Dallas and beyond


Matching the traditional collegiate Georgian architectural design of other campus buildings, the open-concept Commons will attract outstanding students, faculty and corporate partners. Furnished workstations and study rooms will strengthen the Cox School’s efforts to build a “9-to-9 culture” where students choose to stay on campus from morning to night – because they benefit significantly from the teamwork and problem-solving they do between classes. Students will find a second home in the vibrant gathering spaces where they will relax between classes, work on team projects and share coffee and ideas with their professors.


“Cox facilities must support contemporary pedagogy, which emphasizes engaged learning and collaboration,” said Matthew B. Myers, Cox School dean and Tolleson Chair in Business Leadership. “We are grateful to the Heppners for empowering our students to build the skills top employers look for.”

The Heppner Endowment for Research Organizations (HERO) has committed $1.5 million to support Cox faculty research that pursues leading-edge ideas. HERO finds and funds innovative ways to make life better for individuals, families and communities in Texas and beyond. It is a public-private initiative of The Beneficient Company Group, LP, its clients and its founders. HERO identifies Texas university research programs to be designated as beneficiaries of trusts established by clients of The Beneficient Company Group, LP.


“The Heppners’ generosity will have a tremendous impact on the Cox School of Business for years to come,” said SMU Vice President for Development and External Affairs Brad E. Cheves. “Countless students and faculty will benefit from their investment in collaborative problem-solving and important business research.”

“The Heppners are giving students the space to collaborate and spark inventive ideas.”

Brad Heppner is the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of The Beneficient Company Group, LP, which empowers individual and smaller institutional investors with a platform built to offer a simple, rapid and cost-effective way to access liquidity from their alternative assets. Prior to Beneficient, Mr. Heppner was the majority owner and chairman of the Crossroads Group. A recognized leader in the alternative investment industry, he has founded 10 alternative investment companies, including PEN Indemnity Insurance Company, Ltd., the Crossroads Group, LP, Constitution Capital Partners, LLC and Capital Analytics.  Earlier in his career, he held several positions at Goldman Sachs, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur charitable foundation, and Bain & Company. He has also served as an adjunct professor for private equity in the M.B.A. program at Texas Christian University.


Originally from Kansas, Mr. Heppner was a founder and previous director of his hometown’s community foundation and currently serves on the board of the Cox School of Business. He earned a master’s of management degree from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University and a BBA, B.B.S. and B.A. from SMU, where he was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and student government.


Aurelia Heppner is the enterprise program manager of The Beneficient Company Group, LP, or Ben.  In addition to her role at Ben, Mrs. Heppner is the co-founder of Heppner Endowments for Research Organizations (HERO), a nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of life for Texans through the conservation of Texas habitats, academic fieldwork, and investment in the arts. Since the inception of HERO in 2010, Mrs. Heppner has worked to define and drive the relationship between Ben and the charitable endowment. The result is both an expansive philanthropic footprint for Ben as a leading company, and an impressive roster of partnerships and deep relationships between HERO, Texas universities, and K–12 educators to provide funding for academic research.


Prior to Beneficient and HERO, Mrs. Heppner was a senior business development manager for Maxsys Solutions, LLC, a leading placement and recruiting firm focused on the technology sector.


As an active member of the Dallas, Texas, community, Mrs. Heppner serves as a sustaining member of the Junior League of Dallas and as an active member of NCL Silver Star. She has also piloted a number of other programs for nonprofits and educational institutions in and around the metroplex.


Throughout her career, Mrs. Heppner has also dedicated herself to her family as a proud working mother.


Originally from France, Mrs. Heppner grew up on a sailboat, traveling the world with her French parents, then relocating to Texas to attend SMU on an academic scholarship. She holds a B.A. in business and marketing from the University of Texas at Dallas.


The Heppners have five children, one of whom attends SMU.