A $1 billion decision


President R. Gerald Turner sat down for an exclusive interview with The Daily Campus following the board of trustee’s decision to raise the Second Century Campaign goal to $1 billion. (RYAN MILLER / The Daily Campus)

The SMU Board of Trustees voted unanimously Friday morning to raise the Second Century Campaign goal from $750 million to $1 billion.

“It’s pretty exciting when you consider there are only 34 other private universities that have ever [set a goal to raise] a billion,” President R. Gerald Turner told The Daily Campus in an exclusive interview. “It just puts us on another level. It really is a marker in terms of development of an institution when you can have a billion
dollar campaign.”

Among the schools on the $1 billion campaign list are Columbia, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, the University of Chicago and the University of Southern California.

Turner said the decision was based on three points. First, he said, was the success of the campaign to date and the continuing enthusiasm of SMU alumni and friends. The $750 million goal set in 2008 was hit in June, two and a half years before the 2015 deadline.

“As a result we started getting more confident,” Turner said. “I didn’t start expecting to raise it to a billion really until we started talking about it in June. It’s really nice when you consider how we started.”

The Second Century Campaign began on Sept. 12, 2008.

“The Lehman Brothers fell on that Sunday (Sept. 15),” Turner said. “At that time with the economy going into that recession, a lot of people were suggesting we not try to do a campaign. We were really worried about getting to $750 [million] for about two years.”

Turner said the second point of the decision was the commitment of the leadership of the board of trustees. The board’s five co-chairs, Caren Prothro, Ruth Altshuler, Gerald Ford, Carl Sewell and Ray Hunt have encouraged the board to consider the $1 billion goal for the past few months.

“When your leadership is encouraging, that gives you confidence,” Turner said.

The third point for the decision was the continuing slow improvement of the economy.

“Our friends and alumni have been very generous during a, starting off, very tough economic cycle that’s now improving,” Turner said. “I think if the conomy wasn’t slowly improving we wouldn’t [have raised the goal]. [In moving up the goal] there are quite a few assumptions in what the next two years will be like.”

The $47 million Moody Coliseum renovation and construction of the Residential Commons opening in fall 2014 are two large projects that need more funding and also played a role in the decision to raise the campaign goal.

Turner said the first step for the campaign is to get the word out. The campaign will be on the road to generate support. On Oct. 25, the Friday of Homecoming weekend, the campaign will be calling in all its national steering committee members. Turner said Oct. 25 will be “a big day for energizing all of the people who are working with us.”

Turner is also calling for student support at campaign events and by “giving their year.” He asks students graduating in spring 2014 to donate $20.14 through the Student Union.

The $1 billion goal is on a timetable to be completed by Dec. 31, 2015.

“I’m 100 percent confident [that we will reach it],” Turner said. “I totally believe we can and I think we can go past it a little bit too. But, that’s with the assurance that our leadership is going to continue to be very involved with us and the enthusiasm of our supporters will continue and that the economy will continue on its slope. If those three things continue to happen then we will get to a billion before Dec. 31.”

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