Southern Methodist University master plan records
A Guide to the Collection
The 1960s marked the 50th anniversary of Southern Methodist University’s establishment and opening. In a paper written around 1961, President Willis M. Tate noted that SMU enjoyed a good reputation within the city and among its alumni as a center of higher learning. Many thought, however, that some sort of overarching plan for how SMU should develop itself in the future was needed. By undertaking a process of goal-setting and improvement of its academic offerings, SMU could eventually compete credibly with any private university in the country.
Many within Dallas saw the absence of a major private university in the city, as well as the general lack of well-known colleges and universities throughout the American southwest, as a problem that SMU could remedy. The pride that Dallasites and SMU alumni had for the school and what it had done in the first half-century of its existence was, at the same time, mixed with uncertainty as to where SMU was headed, and what it should be known for. As President Tate’s report noted,
Although alumni interest and support had risen, most alumni seemed to have a confused image of their alma mater, and their financial support was not and is not yet what it should be. The general public in Dallas (and in Texas) was divided on the idea of what SMU was and was trying to be and do; some thought that SMU was trying to be a ‘Harvard of the Southwest’ and was getting ‘too big for its britches,’ while others still saw SMU as a football social school of not much real academic substance. The Master Plan, if for no other purpose except to serve as a vehicle for clarification and definition of the University and its goals, was urgently necessary for all these groups. (original emphasis)
Also influencing the development of a university master plan was the growth in the number of people attending colleges and universities in the decades after World War II, especially those born after the war who reached college age during the 1960s. By this time, a college education was becoming more available to more people. This rise in the population, and the greater general prosperity, meant that institutions of higher learning nationwide would have to expand (and if necessary, refine) their operations to effectively handle larger numbers of students.
The SMU Master Plan Proposal, submitted in January 1962, argued that the school should use its upcoming 50th anniversary, and the changes taking place within American higher education, as an opportunity to identify its goals and areas of needed improvement. "The obligation," the proposal said, "of higher education in the United States has never been so great…That this University is presently in a dynamic period of development…only emphasizes the need felt for sound, specific, and creative planning."
In light of the recognized need for a high-ranking private university in the southwest that could prepare students to take on jobs in the rapidly expanding regional economy of the 1960s, the school needed to hire and retain top-notch faculty and high-performing students in greater numbers, as well as establish graduate programs in science and technology. As a draft of a request to the Carnegie Foundation for financial assistance in putting together a master plan stated, "Southern Methodist University is presently not meeting the need for a center of higher education where advanced graduate programs and sources of information and consultation are available." Further, "The general need for Southern Methodist University to be a primary intellectual resource for Dallas and the surrounding region is now very great and may well be a key factor in the future growth and progress of this area."
With all of this in mind, SMU began the process of creating a master plan in the fall of 1961 under the direction of President Tate. Many people, both within and outside the university, played roles in shaping the plan. The project was comprised of the President, several members of the administration, three professional staff members hired by the school in the drafting of the plan—all making up the Master Plan Steering Committee. Three prominent educators with national renown served as Senior Consultants for the project.
One of these consultants was Dr. Jesse Hobson. Hobson was appointed as a research consultant to the university in 1961. Hobson had previously served as director of the Stanford Research Center in Palo Alto, California. He received a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology, and was recognized for his background in engineering and research. After helping create the SMU Master Plan, Dr. Hobson remained at the university from 1963 to 1965 as SMU’s vice president for coordinated planning. His Master Plan papers comprise Series 2 (Boxes 4 and 5).
In addition, six prominent SMU professors took part in creating the master plan. The main author of the Master Plan was Marshall Terry, as a member of the Steering Committee. Terry served as an associate coordinator of the plan, and director of public relations. Six professors made up the Faculty Planning Committee, and nine faculty task forces were set up as well. Also involved were the Council of Deans and a Committee of Fifty, made up of citizens and groups not formally connected with the school: local and national figures, church members, and professional, cultural, and industrial groups. A Student Committee of Ten was also set up to give the student body an opportunity to offer their recommendations.
From the fall of 1962 through the spring of 1963, those involved in the project undertook a lengthy review of what SMU looked like at the time, followed by planning on what needed to be done in the future. The various task forces compiled reports on their respective areas of focus, the Faculty Planning Committee conducted hearings, and meetings were held by the President with the faculty to solicit their input on the master plan proceedings.
The Southern Methodist University Master Plan was officially approved by the faculty on May 10, 1963.
Containing 36 recommendations, the Southern Methodist University Master Plan was conceived of as a 4-year plan. The anticipated cost was $41,780,000; of that amount, $32,780,000 needed to be raised in the next several years.
The 36 recommendations listed in the approved Master Plan addressed issues such as: defining the purpose of the university as a liberal arts, research, and graduate institution; recruitment of the best students and faculty possible; reaffirming its status as a part of the Methodist Church; establishing guidelines for the desired size of the student body, set at 6,000 undergraduates by the 1968-1969 academic year; faculty salary; improvement of the School of Engineering and establishment of a graduate program therein; development of several more Ph.D. graduate programs, with an anticipated total of 8 such programs by 1968-1969; rearrangement of some university offices and creation of new administrative positions; growth of SMU’s endowment to $75,000,000; and $10,000,000 in funding for improvement and construction of school facilities (with this money being included in the final $41 million figure listed above).
One of the more innovative ideas proposed by the Master Plan was the creation of a University College, to be in place for the beginning of the 1964-1965 academic year. The purpose of the College was to provide an improved curriculum of basic, interdisciplinary courses, taught by faculty members from the entire university, to all incoming freshmen students.
The idea of the College would be to provide each entering undergraduate student with exposure to the different disciplines and areas of study within SMU, giving those students who were undecided on their major field of study a greater ability to choose one. Students who knew already what area of study they wanted to focus on would also have the option of beginning professional studies within the College. Once a student completed the course requirements of the University College, they could then enter one of the schools of the university to begin work in their major.
The Southern Methodist University Master Plan collection contains notes, correspondence, task force and various other university and education-related reports, findings from university committees, as well as drafts and final copies of the Master Plan. Although some bound reports are included that date from the years following release of the Master Plan (see Box 15), most of this collection relates to the planning and drafting of the plan from about 1961 to 1963.
The collection is arranged into 5 series. Series 1 (Boxes 1-3) holds reports compiled by the various Master Plan task forces, as well as reports pertaining to the different schools/educational divisions within SMU: Fine Arts, Education, Engineering, Perkins School of Theology, College of Arts and Sciences, etc.
Series 2 (Boxes 4 and 5) contains the Master Plan-related papers of Dr. Jesse Hobson. Hobson served on the Master Plan Steering Committee, which was headed by President Tate. He was originally appointed to the committee in 1961 as the Research Consultant to the President, and was later designated as Coordinator of the Master Plan. He was then elected to the position of Staff Vice President of SMU, and also served as chairman of the University Planning Council (mentioned briefly below).
Series 3 of the collection (Boxes 6-8) includes papers from the university committees/bodies that played a role in the creation of the Master Plan: Faculty Planning Committee, Steering Committee, Student Committee of Ten, Committee of Fifty, and Board of Trustees. In addition, papers from the University Planning Council are also included in this series. The Council was established in the fall of 1963 with the purpose of helping to implement the recommendations made in the Master Plan the previous spring.
Series 4 (Boxes 9-11) contains background information on the drafting, approval, and unveiling of the Master Plan: news articles (as well as a list of articles from the Dallas Morning News and Dallas Times Herald that pertain to the plan), papers written on the need for such a plan, and university news releases announcing the plan’s approval.
Series 5 (Boxes 12-14) holds bound reports related to various development issues of the university during the 1960s, as well as copies of the Master Plan: tentative drafts, bound copies of the finalized plan intended only for internal use, and copies in pamphlet form printed for general distribution.
Note: Users of the collection should be aware that the dates given for each series below represent the general range of dates from the records in that series. For all five series, the dates for the majority of the records is about 1961 to 1963. Some material is undated.
Access to Collection:
Collection is open for research use.
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Southern Methodist University Master Plan records, Southern Methodist University Archives, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.
Paul H. Santa Cruz, 2008.
Lara Corazalla, 2008.
Detailed Description of the Collection