It was standing room only at Southern Methodist University‘s Caruth Hall this morning, when it was announced that Rich and Mary Templeton had committed $5 million for research at SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering. The institution’s “largest endowment research gift ever,” according to SMU President R. Gerald Turner, the commitment includes $4 million for an endowment and $1 million for operations to create the Templeton Endowed Research Excellence Fund at the Lyle School.
The Templetons’ “flexible” gift is a major boost for SMU’s externally sponsored research, Turner said, and will support the school’s most consequential research needs. The commitment will enable a variety of projects, from postdoctoral researchers to doctoral and graduate student stipends, equipment, and supplies.
The monies from the Templeton gift “will come in over time,” explained Marc P. Christensen, Ph.D, dean of the Lyle school. But “the [$1 million] operational part will get started immediately.” The gift will allow the school to pursue “blue-sky projects,” officials said, by providing seed funding for promising research ideas, for example.
The 93-year-old engineering school at SMU was renamed for alumnus and SMU trustee Bobby B. Lyle in 2008. Rich Templeton, who’s chairman, president and CEO of Dallas-based Texas Instruments, is a member of the SMU Board of Trustees and serves on the executive boards for the Lyle School and the Cox School of Business. His wife Mary is a philanthropist and community volunteer.
The $5 million gift was only the Templetons’ latest to SMU. The couple ponied up $2 million to the Lyle School to establish the Mary and Richard Templeton Centennial Chair in Electrical Engineering in 2014. That’s the same year their son, Jim Templeton, graduated from SMU with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.
Jim wasn’t among those attending today’s announcement event in Caruth Hall’s Mary Alice and Mark Shepherd Jr. Atrium. But Jim’s sister Stephanie Templeton Boggs was, along with her husband, Matt Boggs, and their young son Campbell. With SMU-red-and-blue balloons lending a festive touch, the Shepherd Atrium was packed tight with guests including school faculty and students as well as SMU board members such as Carl Sewell, Caren Prothro, Mike Boone and Jeanne Phillips.
During the formal program, which was kicked off by Brad E. Cheves, SMU’s vice president for development and external affairs, Steven C. Currall, the university’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, called the Templeton gift “a milestone” that heralded “the dawn of a new era” for the school. Rich Templeton joked that, believe it or not, today was not Mary’s favorite day so far this year. “I’m not suggesting it was the day I told her I was going back to work,” he added with a chuckle. (Following a brief retirement, Templeton returned to TI as president and CEO in July after his anointed successor abruptly resigned.)
Mary’s favorite day of 2018 was actually Valentine’s Day, Rich disclosed—when their grandson Campbell was born. That drew plenty of laughter and applause and even more later, when Campbell was formally presented with a tiny SMU T-shirt. Cracked Brad at the program’s conclusion: “Campbell, thank you for your commitment to attend SMU!”
* Photo provided by SMU Photography