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Southern Methodist University – SMU History

Located in an enclave of Dallas, Texas Southern Methodist University (commonly referred to as SMU) has a rich history on its University Park campus where the institution was first established in 1911. A private college founded by and still affiliated with the Methodist Episcopal Church the school has a population of about 11,000 with about 55% of those enrolled being undergraduates. Despite a charter date of April 11, 1911 administrative issues kept the first class from starting until 1915.

The genesis for the Methodist Church becoming interested in the new university being discussed for the Dallas area was a direct result of a 1914 Tennessee Supreme Court ruling which revoked church authority from influencing the southern private school of Vanderbilt University (located in Nashville, Tennessee). After suffering a court ordered defeat in Tennessee the church shifted its attention to the formation of a Methodist university in Dallas while also investing resources into Emory University in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

The creation of modern day SMU was a direct result of earlier failed attempts to transplant neighboring university Southwestern University (Georgetown, Texas) to the Dallas/Fort Worth area. In the early twentieth century when then Southwestern University president Robert Hyer was unsuccessful in moving the school he presided over from Georgetown, Texas to Dallas (the two cities are about 170 miles apart) he resigned from his position at Southwestern and spearheaded the effort 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 the north SMU remained on good terms with one another as they frequently competed in athletic contests and shared upper level administrators. The once friendly rivalry petered out when Southwestern went through a reorganization that transformed the school into a small liberal arts college.

Dallas Hall was the name given to the first official building on the SMU campus. The name Dallas Hall is in recognition of the $300,000 (a sizable sum in the early 1900s) that citizens of Dallas donated to lock in the location for the brand new university. Dallas Hall remains the centerpiece of the SMU landscape even to this day. The first building stands proudly as a symbol of the community’s willingness to take on personal sacrifice in an effort to bring education and culture to their community.

Robert Hyer, former Southwestern University fue president, became the first president of Southern Methodist University and one of his first notable acts as president was to select the school colors that are still flown to this day. In an attempt to associate his esteemed institution of higher learning with the most renowned placing of learning in the land Mr. Hyer selected “Yale blue” and “Harvard crimson” as the school’s two colors to adorn all items related to the university including logos, athletic apparel, and stationary. In a further effort to garner association with the prestigious Ivy League President Hyer named several streets in the area after accomplished schools including: Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth, Princeton, Tulane, Amherst, Villanova, and Marquette just to name a few.

In more recent history SMU was chosen in 2008 as the site for the Presidential Library for former President George W. Bush, a man who although not a SMU alum is in fact a Texas native. On the eve of entering its second century of existence those most familiar with Southern Methodist University are confident that the proud history of SMU will continue far into the future.

Southern Methodist University faithful are devout in their support of their school and prominently display SMU wallpaper

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