Baylor, UTD, SMU competed for George W. Bush Center bid
How SMU became the home of the Bush Center
Published: Friday, March 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 15, 2013 15:03
The story of how SMU was selected to become the home of the Presidential Center begins with a bid.
Baylor University was the first school to begin drafting a bid to house the presidential library.
“While we realize that a decision on the site of the George W. Bush Presidential Library is likely several years away, we feel it is important to formalize our process so we are in a position to deliver a well-conceived, well constructed and financially certain proposal,” former Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr. said in 2003.
Baylor’s close proximity to the Bushs’ ranch in Crawford was a key point in their proposal.
The university also stated:
“With the George H.W. Bush Library in College Station and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Austin, a George W. Bush Presidential Library at Baylor would create a triangle of presidential libraries within 90 miles of each other, positioning the region as the most important area in the country for presidential research.”
SMU began working on a bid just after Baylor University; however, the White House announced it would not be considering locations until President Bush was elected to a second term.
Following his re-election, the White House asked for six universities to submit bids.
The six that submitted bids, in addition to Baylor and SMU were Texas Tech, the University of Texas System, the University of Dallas and Midland College.
Texas Tech and Midland College later teamed up to form the West Texas Coalition.
The West Texas Coalition proposed that Texas Tech would house the presidential library and museum, while Midland College would be home to the Laura Bush Reading Center.
In addition to these six schools, the White House asked for one city to submit a bid, which the city of Arlington did.
There were pros and cons to all of these sites. Most of the pros were that a lot of these schools had large amounts of land
to build on.
SMU, however, is surrounded by homes, leaving it with little room to grow.
A flurry of legal battles ensued, but SMU finally obtained the space it needed.
In late 2005, nearly a year after the schools submitted their bids, the White House announced that SMU, Baylor, University of Dallas and the West Texas Coalition were the finalists.
The four schools headed to Washington, D.C. to pitch their proposed presentations to the library committee. A few weeks later, it was announced that Texas Tech had been dropped from consideration.
The Washington Post reported in 2006 that former commerce secretary and chairman of the presidential site-selection committee, Donald Evans, gave some bad news to the West Texas Coalition.
“This was a difficult decision for the committee. Your team has brought to light many important ideas, and it is our hope that the final selection and site will make you and the institutions you represent proud,” Evans said.
The same article reported that it seemed as if SMU looked to be the favorite. Not only is the school the alma mater of former First Lady Laura Bush, but also to Bush Adviser Karen Hughes and White House Counsel Harriet Miers. Miers was also an adviser to the library selection committee.
While SMU was settling its legal disputes in late 2006, it announced that it had entered “the next phase of deliberations” with the presidential library site selection committee.
Evans said in a 2006 statement sent to the three final schools that “The Selection Committee is taking another step in the President’s decision to select a site for the George W. Bush Presidential Library as we enter into further discussions with Southern Methodist University.”
SMU was the only school to have entered this next phase.
Nearly one week later the University of Dallas withdrew its bid.
University of Dallas planned that their proposed library would develop on the space of the former Cowboys Stadium in Irving.
“While we remain interested in hosting the library, after discussions with the committee and the city of Irving, which has been our partner and financial supporter, we have concluded that it is in the best interest of all concerned that we move forward with our withdrawal from the process,” University of Dallas President Frank Lazarus said.
One year later, on Feb. 22, 2008, SMU beat out Baylor and was chosen as the home for the 13th Presidential Library.
The university met with the George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation to announce on campus that the university board had unanimously approved the agreement to build the center, museum and public policy institute.
Bush sent a letter to SMU President R. Gerald Turner describing his choice.
“The SMU campus, given its beauty and location in an exciting urban setting, is an excellent site for the Library and related facilities,” Bush said.
The foundation said at the time that they were confident the center would be completed within five years.
Following the announcement, the foundation had a goal to raise $300 million for the construction and endowment of the library.
On Nov. 16, 2010 the George W. Bush Presidential Library broke ground on SMU’s campus.
Many members of President Bush’s former cabinet, such as Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney were in attendance.
President Bush spoke to the crowd of over 3,000 guests.
“To those of you who are not privileged to live in Texas, welcome to the great state. And welcome to one of the finest universities in the whole United States, Southern Methodist,” Bush said.
The eight-year saga comes to a close as SMU is less than 60 days away from the opening.