Southern Methodist University – History of SMU

Located in a Dallas enclave, Texas Southern Methodist University (commonly referred to as SMU) has a rich history on its University Park campus, where the institution was first founded in 1911. A private college founded by and still affiliated with the Methodist Episcopal Church. The school has a population of approximately 11,000, of which approximately 55% are students. Despite an April 11, 1911 charter date, administrative problems prevented the first class from launching until 1915.

The genesis of the Methodist Church’s interest in the new university being discussed for the Dallas area was a direct consequence of a 1914 Tennessee Supreme Court ruling ending the ecclesiastical authority of influencing the southern private school of Vanderbilt University (in Nashville, Tennessee) was withdrawn. After suffering a court-ordered defeat in Tennessee, the Church turned its attention to establishing a Methodist university in Dallas while simultaneously investing resources in Emory University in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

The formation of modern SMU was a direct result of earlier failed attempts to transplant neighboring Southwestern University (Georgetown, Texas) to the Dallas/Fort Worth area. In the early 20th century, when then-President of Southwestern University Robert Hyer was unable to move the school he ran from Georgetown, Texas, to Dallas (the two cities are about 170 miles apart), he resigned from his position returned to Southwestern and led efforts to start a new university that would eventually become Southern Methodist University.

Despite failed efforts to move Southwestern University, the school and its new rival to northern SMU remained on good terms, often participating in athletic competitions and sharing upper-level administration. The once friendly rivalry died down as Southwestern went through a reorganization that turned the school into a small liberal arts college.

Dallas Hall was the name of the first official building on SMU’s campus. Dallas Hall’s name is a recognition of the $300,000 (a sizable sum in the early 1900’s) that Dallas citizens donated to secure the site for the brand new university. Dallas Hall is still the heart of the SMU landscape today. The first building stands proud as a symbol of the community’s willingness to make personal sacrifices to bring education and culture to their community.

Robert Hyer, former president of Southwestern University, became the first president of Southern Methodist University, and one of his first notable acts as president was selecting the school’s colors, which continue to be flown to this day. In an attempt to associate his prestigious college with the most prestigious educational location in the country, Mr. Hyer chose “Yale Blue” and “Harvard Crimson” as the school’s two colors to adorn all university-related items, including logos, sportswear and stationery. In another attempt to connect with the renowned Ivy League president, Hyer named several streets in the area after successful schools, including: Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth, Princeton, Tulane, Amherst, Villanova, and Marquette, to name a few to name.

More recently, in 2008 SMU was selected as the site for the Presidential Library for former President George W. Bush, a man who is not an SMU graduate but is actually from Texas. On the eve of its second century, those most familiar with Southern Methodist University are confident that SMU’s proud history will continue well into the future.

Thanks to Rick Smits | #Southern #Methodist #University #History #SMU

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