Decoration granted by King Felipe VI

From left: Julia Olmo y Romero, consul general of Spain;  Santiago Cabanas, ambassador of Spain to the United States; SMU President R. Gerald Turner; Linda Pitts Custard, SMU Trustee Emerita and chair, Meadows Museum Advisory Council
From left: Julia Olmo y Romero, consul general of Spain; Santiago Cabanas, ambassador of Spain to the United States; SMU President R. Gerald Turner; Linda Pitts Custard, SMU Trustee Emerita and chair, Meadows Museum Advisory Council

DALLAS (SMU) – SMU President R. Gerald Turner received the Encomienda de la Orden de Isabel la Católica, a decoration granted by King Felipe VI of Spain, at a February 18 ceremony at SMU’s Meadows Museum. The decoration recognized Turner for his extraordinary civil character and accomplishments that have benefited Spain.

The King of Spain serves as grand master of the order and Spain’s minister of foreign affairs is grand chancellor. Santiago Cabanas, ambassador of Spain to the United States, and Julia Olmo y Romero, consul general of Spain, presented Turner with the honor.

“Dr. Turner’s unwavering support of the Meadows Museum and steadfast support of Spain through his backing of numerous Spanish programs has enabled SMU to become a beacon for the promotion of Spanish culture in America,” said Janet Kafka, honorary consul of Spain for Dallas-Fort Worth.

SMU’s Meadows Museum is the leading U.S. institution focused on the study and presentation of the art of Spain. Turner’s support of the Meadows Museum has included vision, fundraising and support of artistic collaborations and scholarly activities throughout his 26 years as University president.

He led fundraising efforts, including a 1998 gift of $20 million from The Meadows Foundation, for construction of a new museum building on campus to showcase the collection and provide more space for special exhibitions and educational programs.  King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia were honored guests at the 2001 opening ceremonies for the new museum building. 

Since the 1998 gift, the museum’s collection has doubled, starting with the acquisition of an El Greco in 1999. The opening of the new museum building has enabled numerous collaborative exhibitions between the Meadows Museum and prestigious Spanish institutions, including the Museo del Prado and the Patrimonio Nacional.

Further fundraising efforts in 2006 resulted in a $33 million grant from The Meadows Foundation to the Meadows School of the Arts, the largest grant ever made by the foundation and the largest received by SMU at the time, which included $25 million for the museum for acquisitions, exhibitions, a director of education position, an expanded educational program and special initiatives of the museum director.

When the Meadows Museum celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015, The Meadows Foundation made yet another historic gift to SMU of $45 million, $25 million of which was designated to support goals and programs at the museum.

Under Turner’s leadership, the Meadows Museum also developed curatorial fellowships, offering scholars unique opportunities to research art of the Hispanic world, both at the museum’s world-renowned collection of Spanish art and with partner institutions around the globe.

In August of 2021, Turner was instrumental in the formation of the Custard Institute for Spanish Art and Culture at the Meadows Museum, working with donors Linda and Bill Custard as well as The Meadows Foundation to commit $6 million for the institute that will be dedicated to the study of Spanish art and culture.

In addition to Turner’s support of the Meadows Museum, his leadership has strengthened academic, arts and cultural ties between the University and Spain.

Undergraduate students and continuing education students at SMU are supported by a robust Spanish language program, which offers further cultural understanding through its Spanish and Spanish film clubs. SMU-in-Madrid was the University’s first study abroad program and remains its most popular program. Cox business students regularly participate in summer internships with businesses in Barcelona, Madrid and Seville.

Hundreds of Cox MBA students have visited businesses in Spain as part of the Global Leadership Program where businesses such as Telefónica, Santander, Repsol and Acciona regularly host students on their campuses. Other MBA students participate in student exchanges with partner IE University in Madrid and the Cox School also offers its online MBA immersion program to students in Madrid.

Turner has supported regular exchange programs for University deans, faculty members and department heads with counterparts in Spain. For those who haven’t traveled to Spain, thousands of SMU students and community members learned about the history and culture of Spain through the insight of the late legendary SMU history professor Luis Martín, who presented regular lectures. His insight continues through SMU’s Luis Martín Lecture Series in the Humanities.

Acclaimed Spanish pianist Joaquín Achúcarro holds the Joel Estes Tate Chair in Piano at Meadows School of the Arts. The University presented honorary degrees to Spanish art historian William B. Jordan in 1995 and to King Juan Carlos I of Spain in 2001. Renowned Spanish architect, engineer and artist Santiago Calatrava, whose iconic sculpture Wave sits below the Meadows Museum on Bishop Boulevard, was awarded the 2001 Algur H. Meadows Award for Excellence in the Arts by the Meadows School of the Arts. Calatrava then both delivered the commencement address and received an honorary degree at the May 2005 commencement ceremony.

The Order of Isabella the Catholic is a Spanish civil order granted to both Spaniards and foreigners in recognition of services that benefit the country. The Order was created on March 14, 1815, by King Ferdinand VII of Spain in honor of Queen Isabella I of Castile.


About SMU

SMU (Southern Methodist University) is the nationally ranked global research university in the dynamic city of Dallas. SMU’s alumni, faculty and over 12,000 students in eight degree-granting schools demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit as they lead change in their professions, communities and the world.


About the Meadows Museum

The Meadows Museum is the leading U.S. institution focused on the study and presentation of the art of Spain. In 1962, Dallas businessman and philanthropist Algur H. Meadows donated his private collection of Spanish paintings, as well as funds to establish a museum, to Southern Methodist University. The museum, which opened to the public in 1965, today is home to one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Spanish art outside of Spain. The collection includes medieval objects, Renaissance and Baroque sculptures, and major paintings by Golden Age and modern masters. Through the years, The Meadows Foundation has continued to provide generous support for the Meadows Museum and Meadows School of the Arts at SMU.