Center for Presidential History to carry David Gergen legacy

Linda Wertheimer Hart and Milledge (Mitch) A. Hart III have endowed the leadership of SMU’s Center for Presidential History to honor CNN analyst and former White House adviser David Gergen.

David Gergen
Fareed Zakaria, retired U.S. Navy Admiral James Stavridis and David Gergen at the Sept. 5, 2023 Linda and Mitch Hart Lecture of the Tate Lecture Series.

DALLAS (SMU) – The leadership of SMU’s Center for Presidential History is being named in honor of David Gergen, whose long career includes service as a prominent journalist, advisor to four presidents, educator and political analyst.

Endowment of the David Gergen Director of the SMU Center for Presidential History is being made possible through a $1 million gift to SMU from longtime University benefactors Linda Wertheimer Hart ’65 and Milledge (Mitch) A. Hart III.

“SMU proudly salutes David Gergen for his incredible contributions to the country and for deepening our understanding of national and international political issues,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “It is a fitting tribute to him that the Center for Presidential History will be strengthened to serve our students, partners and community for decades to come.”

Gergen has a long-standing relationship with SMU, having served on 27 different occasions as a featured moderator at the University’s Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series, for which the Harts are sponsors.

“We are delighted to celebrate the work of our dear friend, David Gergen, by championing the world-class research and teaching conducted by SMU Center for Presidential History and its director,” said Linda Wertheimer Hart, vice chairman, president and CEO of Hart Group, Inc. “We are proud to partner with SMU to support the continuing momentum and future growth of the center.”

“David Gergen’s work demonstrates how better understanding the history of leadership in the United States of America gives us a brighter future,” said Mitch Hart, chairman of Hart Group, Inc. “His example inspired us to expand the impact of the SMU Center for Presidential History’s research, archival efforts and educational programming.”

David Gergen

The establishment of the Gergen directorship will further the efforts of the Center for Presidential History, which serves as a hub of current and innovative research on the U.S. presidency, including significant collaborations with the George W. Bush Presidential Center at SMU. The center aims to advance a broader understanding of the presidency and to act as a valuable resource for scholars, students, media and the general public. The Harts’ gift will ensure that the center and its Gergen Director will have the resources needed to train future leaders, engage with leading institutional partners and bring distinguished experts and international leaders to campus.

Gergen is widely recognized as a senior political analyst for CNN, a position he has held for more than two decades. He has a first-hand perspective on the presidency, having served as a White House advisor to Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Gergen recounted his experiences with them and offered his own insights in his New York Times bestselling books, Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership Nixon to Clinton and Hearts Touched With Fire: How Great Leaders Are Made.

Gergen also has worked as editor of U.S. News & World Report and a commentator on PBS NewsHour. He is the founding director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School.

The inaugural David Gergen Director of the SMU Center for Presidential History, Jeffrey A. Engel, has served as the center’s director since it was established.

“We are grateful for the Harts’ continuing generosity and excited to continue the incredible legacy of David Gergen,” said Engel. “This gift is a significant boon to our research and teaching initiatives and, in particular, to our ongoing effort to improve civic discourse across our campus and community.”

The gift to establish the Gergen directorship supports SMU Ignited: Boldly Shaping Tomorrow, the University’s multiyear $1.5 billion campaign for impact. The Harts’ gift increases the number of endowed academic positions at SMU, furthering its position among peer institutions across the country.

“By commemorating David Gergen’s achievements, the Harts continue to showcase the power that SMU donors have to create real-world impact far beyond our campus,” said Brad E. Cheves, SMU vice president for Development and External Affairs. “Endowed faculty and leadership positions are vital to extending the University’s excellence in teaching and research.”

About SMU

SMU is the nationally ranked global research university in the dynamic city of Dallas. SMU’s alumni, faculty and more than 12,000 students in eight degree-granting schools demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit as they lead change in their professions, communities and the world. Building on its history of excellence, the University has launched SMU Ignited: Boldly Shaping Tomorrow – a multiyear $1.5 billion campaign to empower students, to enrich teaching and research, and to enhance our campus and community.