History of SMU

Business School

This page discusses the history of the Business  School of SMU.


SMU and the city of Dallas have been linked closely since the founding of the school. Because of this the School of Business has also been linked with city since its inception. The school was originally called the Department of commerce, Finance , and Accounts and began in 1920. Later it was called the Department of Commerce and was part of the College of Arts and Sciences. At the time he Dallas Chamber of commerce had recommended that a business school be established in Dallas and recommended that SMU be its home. It was housed in humble surroundings in the beginnings. The classroom   and office building was in one of three wooden buildings. The other two buildings housed engineering and chemistry.

Since the beginning of the school, it has always considered Dallas as a laboratory of business students and this has been the case for most of of his history. Three early presidents of the school, Hiram A. Boaz, Charles Selecman, and Umphrey Lee contributed to building the foundation for the business school.

Boaz served as vice president of the university under its first president Robert Hyer who came from Southwestern University. He was the president and a teacher there while Boaz was a student His job was to raise money for the school. The SMU Board of Trustees elected to succeed Hyer in 1920 as president because of his ability to do just that. He was an ordained minister and had been educated at Sam Houston Normal Institute and Southwestern University and was a trustee bef0re he became president. One of the conditions of his appointment as president was that he was to design a campaign to raise one million dollars. Under his leadership SMU had an endowment of $1.5 million dollars and was out of debt for the first time in its history. This came about mostly because of the wealth the Texas Methodist Church obtained after the discovery of oil in Ranger, Texas in 1917. Boaz had a very good working relationship with Texas Methodist bishop Moore.



Grayson and Radical Innovation 1968-1975

When Jackson Grayson Jr. was hired as dean of the business School in 1968 some of his guiding principles became clear in the fall of that year. He believed strongly in learning through experience and planned to focus on actual business problems. Working with actual problems would motivate the students, faculty to guide and business leaders to solve problems utilizing the resources at SMU. While this form of education offered many opportunities, it also presented potential problems. It had never been tried at a business school before.

At that time the business school accrediting association prescribed courses of study and degree requirements that offered little choice for the students. Grayson believed this had to change. At first this approach did not gain acceptance by the business faculty at SMU. They were concerned that SMU might lose its accreditation for its undergraduate business program. Grayson went on with his plans anyway. He allowed students to make their own choices regarding how to develop competence

In fact the school did lose unconditional accreditation and it was not returned until the term of Dean Alan B. Coleman from 1976-1981.

" Clearly, the period between 1968 and 1975 was one of the most interesting and innovative chapters in the history of the SMU School of Business Administration. There was a significant change in virtually every area of the school. Grayson stated in 1970 that the school would achieve its goal of innovating. The record substantiates that strategy.

Faculty changes were dramatic. The faculty more than doubled in size between 1968 and 1975, increasing from twenty eight to sixty members. In 1968 the school did not have an endowed faculty chair. By 1975 three chairs had been endowed to enable hiring of nationally know faculty. More importantly, expectations were changed. Quality teaching, which had always been important, continued its priority. However, the standards for teaching productivity were substantially increased. Faculty members were expected to produce the quality and quantity research demanded in the best business schools. By themselves, the change in expectations for teaching and research could be viewed as extraordinary, but the faculty had to contend with ongoing process of innovation that produced significant change. -----------

--------" The business school's relationship with the business community developed into a productive partnership. Business provided problems for the teams of students and faculty. Business leaders were extremely valuable in recruiting faculty but even more so in helping to grow the institute programs. The Management Briefing Series was one of the best of its kind and attracted internationally respected business leaders to speak. SMU's reputation for outstanding executive education owes much to the efforts of the members of the Foundation for Business Administration and the Associate Board. Ed Cox provided leadership during this period to raise funds in order to eliminate the school's debt to the university and generate an endowment of $3 million by 1975. The contributions of Will Caruth to establish the Caruth Institute and the Caruth Chair of Finance go far beyond the simple act of giving. He set an example for others and was an inspiration to everyone with his unflagging support."

Despite these achievements, fund raising was a major disappointment during Grayson's administration. It was one of the reasons he decided to leave the school.

Lack of change in accreditation was also a disappointment during his administration.

"Notwithstanding these ideas that might have been, Grayson placed the SMU Business School squarely on the road toward national prominence. His leadership as an innovator was unparalleled. His 1969 "Towards a New Philosophy in Business Education" is a visionary look into the future of business education. More inspiring was the fact that many of his ideas in that article were implemented in the SMU School of Business Administration, which firmly established Grayson's legacy as an innovator and gave inspiration to others who would be bold."


Coleman Years 1976-1981

" Fortune smiled upon the SMU School of Business Administration when Alan B. Coleman was hired as the Caruth Professor of Finance in the summer of 1974. Alan was the first person to hold a chair in the school of business, and his appointment was a coup for the school. He was internationally respected as a teacher, scholar, and administrator and served twelve years on the faculties of the graduate schools of business at Harvard and Stanford. Coleman did his undergraduate work at the University of San Francisco and earned two graduate degrees from Stanford University. He received his MBA in 1956 and his PhD in 1960. While he was in the PhD program he spent one year as research associate at IMEDE, which was founded as an international school of business in Lausanne, Switzerland. From 1960 to 1963, Coleman taught finance at the Harvard Graduate School of Business."

The biggest problem Coleman faced on coming to SMU was accreditation for the business school. He inherited this problem from the Grayson administration. After Grayson resigned, the AACSB granted the school a postponement of the scheduled accreditation visit until the later part of 1976. Coleman mounted a three pronged attack to stave off probation.

He persuaded SMU's central administration to cede full operational control of the part time undergraduate business degree program to the business school, added a number of full time faculty. Second, he requested a review by the AACSB of the school's programs and operations. Finally, in the biggest move of all, the Business School Assembly approved a revised undergraduate curriculum a few weeks before the visitation to the campus was to take place. The new curriculum included eight required courses that would meet the standards of the AACSB.  These actions combined were successful, and May 18, 1976, the school was informed that the undergraduate program was approved for continuing accreditation. The creditability crisis had been avoided.

SMU was also able to get a one year MBA program approved by structuring its curriculum to that similar to the undergraduate program. That is, certain basic coursework was required and the number of hours required for the degree was increased from forty two hours to forty eight hours. Many of the faculty voiced their opinion that a two year program for the MBA should be required to advance the school's reputation, but the forty eight hour program was approved by a slim margin. The new program was accredited by the AACSB in May 1979.

With these changes to the undergraduate and graduate programs of the Business School, a transformation from the Grayson's years was virtually complete. Extensive innovation was curtailed. The reports from the Visiting Committee of the AACSB indicated that the business school was perceived to be on a path toward improving quality.

Some of the faculty still thought that the school would lose some of its competitive edge by following the strict operating and philosophical guidelines of the AACSB. Coleman and the business community did not share this same opinion and Coleman set about implementing the model that had been effectively employed by The Stanford Graduate School of Business. Improvements in the quality of the faculty became a top priority. The school added five endowed chairs in 1977-1978 and almost $12 million in additional endowment.

Coleman mostly chose new faculty based on their quality and prestige. Six new faculty were approved in the fall of 1976. Their doctorates came from the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Indiana, the University of Chicago, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Massachusetts of Technology.

From meager beginnings of research the faculty of sixty reported 122 journal articles, 100 conference papers, 20 working papers, and 17 books between 1978 and 1980.

The Business Community

Coleman recognized the business community as an integral cog in his plans to improve the school. At the outset, he solicited the support of Dallas business leaders. His philosophy included the business community as active partner in the educational process where practical learning- in-action environment constituted the educational centerpiece of the school. The Foundation for Business was established in 1965 along these lines. It was chaired by Ed Cox, then Robert H. Stewart III, chairman of the board of First International Bancshares, and then by Charles H. Pastor, president of Republic National Bank. Pistor served until the end of Coleman's tenure.

The Caruth Institute of Owner-Managed Business was founded in 1969. It focused on entrepreneurs and the formation of owner-managed business. In early 1978 Caruth gave a gift of $250,000 a year to the institute for three years. It was directed by Neil Churchill, distinguished professor in accounting, appointed in 1981. John A. Welch was appointed director for entrepreneurship, and Jerry F. White was appointed associate director of  entrepreneurship. In 1980-1981 383 persons attended the Institute. Welch and White authored an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled " A Small Business is Not a Little Big Business"


The school hosted through its Management's Center a number of SMU Business School Management Briefings beginning in 1972 each year. A national or international prominent figure addressed these briefings. They were very popular and attracted 800-1800 audiences.  Some speakers who addressed the audiences were: Gerald Ford, George H. Bush, Paul Volker, Milton Friedman, John Swearingen, and David Rockefeller.

Another important organization was formed in 1975, The Affiliates Program. The affiliates met for a half-day sessions to hear experts in all areas of business and government.

Recognizing Entrepreneurs

An award was given by the school in 1976 to Robert H. Dedman, founder and CEO of Club Corporation of America, perhaps the most successful business of its kind. Lloyd H. Haldeman was honored in 1977 for his leadership as president and managing director of the Dallas Symphony, and John P. Thompson also received recognition as the innovative leader of the Southland Corporation most noted for its 7-eleven stores in the same year. In following years Lester a., Milton P. and Irvin L. Levy were recognized for their leadership of National Chemsearch Corporation. David Fox, Trammell Crow, Robert Cullum, and Charles Cullum also were given awards. The Cullums were instrumental in building the Tom Thumb grocery chain.

On May 1978 the business school of SMU was formally named the Edwin C. Cox School of Business in recognition for his long-standing contributions to the university and the school both financially and as a member of the SMU Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors.

The Herberger Years

Roy A. Herberger Jr. was hired as dean of the business school in 1982. He came with a very successful career as the associate dean for academic affairs at USC's school of business. His academic background and interests lured him in the direction of business. Because of this he felt that faculty research should revolve around practical business and social problems. He observed the school was underperforming relative to the talent base and the opportunities presented by the Dallas business environment.

He became unpopular with the faculty because of devotion to high quality and his desire to move the business school rapidly forward. He was also willing to take risks.  He had a desire to make all faculty professors of business rather than professors of narrow disciplines. He had extreme confidence in his ability to improve performance. He stated "There was no spark-no fire" in the business school. " My vision was that SMu could be in the top category of schools by developing a faculty devoted to teaching and research excellence. We had to fill some gaps in the faculty, and, of course, the physical facilities had to be dramatically improved.

His legacy was the outstanding facility that was constructed while he was dean. The primary facility when he arrived was the Fincher Building which had bee constructed in 1954 and was completely inadequate. In 1985 the business school built two new buildings and renovated the Fincher Building in a major way. Two Georgian style buildings were constructed. The first building was built primarily to serve undergraduates including classrooms and faculty offices. It was named in honor of Cary Maquire, president of Macquire oil company and chairman of the Cox School of Business Executive Board. The second was named in honor of the real estate developer, Trammel Crow. Crow was a member of the SMU Board Trustees.  This building was built primarily for the MBA program. Macquire had made a multi million dollar contribution to the school, and Crow made a $6 million contribution.

Representatives from SMU traveled around the country from Stanford to Harvard in searching for the best designs for the new facility. Because of the case method of instruction, twelve of the seventeen classrooms provided a tiered horseshoe style design. All classrooms had personal computers, VCR's, telephone, overhead projectors, master control panels, and the best acoustics. The facilities were completed in January 1987.

one innovation for the plan of the new buildings was the creation of a shared space in the center of the U-shaped three building design. They were linked through s common ground floor that also included the Business Information Center (BIC) and Georges Auditorium. The 165 seat auditorium was named after Bill Georges who funded it.

The BIC revolutionized the character and quality of education at the business school. It utilized a personal computer network that linked faculty, students, and the business community for teaching and research. ATT contributed in excess of $500,000 to make it a first class system. During the same period, Compaq Computer Corporation contributed seventy five Telecompaq computers. Twenty were given to the faculty, forty for the executive MBA's, and fifteen were located in the BIC. All of this together made the school's facilities as good as any business school in the country.

Herberger worked aggressively to improve the quality of the faculty and by 1989 approximately 50 percent of the faculty were new hires and about 20 percent were chair holders. These new hires were in a large part due to  turnover and so a large net increase was not achieved. The net increase was about the same as the net increase in endowed chairs. The number of endowed chairs almost doubled to a total thirteen between 1982 and 1986 with an additional two the following year. The total number of faculty rose from sixty four to seventy two.

When Albert V Casey , a recently appointed Post Master General, was given a chair it was one of the most noteworthy of the additions to the faculty. He filled Ann Cox Distinguished Professorship in Business Policy chair. He was  the retired chairman and chief executive officer of AMR Corporation and American Airlines.

The Cox school continued honoring distinguished entrepreneurs under Herberger. Among those recognized were Mary Kay Ash, Robert S. Folsom, and Henry S. Miller.

When newly elected Ken Pye was named president of SMU in June 1987, he announced that he would consider eliminating the undergraduate school of business. An intense debate between Pye and Herberger ensued. Although Herberger prevailed, it set up his resignation in 1988 when he took the president job at Thunderbird. Thunderbird was an international business school in the Phoenix area. He felt the job at Thunderbird would give him total control of the organization since it was not affiliated with a  university. John W. Slocum was appointed interim dean.

The Blake Years

David H. Blake joined SMU in January 1990 as dean of the Cox School of Business. He arrived from Rutgers-the State University of New Jersey where he served as dean from January 1983 through December 1989. Blake had earned his MBA at the University of Pittsburg and his PhD in political science at Rutgers.

He came to the SMU Cox School of Business because he felt he had more of an opportunity to make significant changes in the school and increase its reputation as a quality school. He made up his mind in a short time after arriving at SMU, that the school must  implement a two year MBA program. There were many who disagreed with him because of the success of the one year BBA, but he realized to move up in the rankings of business schools in the United States the school must offer  a two year degree. All of the schools ranked in the top twenty offered  two year MBA degrees. He also was determined to eliminate specialization in global education and make all courses global in nature.

His mission was to create a two year MBA program, internationalize the curricula, and move the Cox school forward in the rankings of major business schools in the country.

He had no desire to create a "cookie cutter" two year program. but to use innovation to give it a competitive advantage. Blake created a series of strategic alliances with schools around the world in order to participate in exchange student programs. This turned out to be a very successful enterprise through the International Exchange Program directed by Richard Stoller. The exchange program was to be an elective but an integrated component of the FTMBA  degree, the name given to the full time two year MBA program. The alliance included  ten  major business schools world wide  from  Mexico, England, France, Spain, Japan, Australia, Singapore, Belgium, Brazil, and Venezuela.

He initiated another requirement for students  that they had to pass both verbal and written communication assignments through the Business Leadership Center, The center was funded by Ed Cox, and headed by Paula Hill. The center was to help students graduate as business people ready to have an impact on organizations and assume leadership roles.

After enhancing the recognition and reputation of the Cox School, Blake left in December 1996 for personal reasons.. He spent some time trying to help run his wife's business, but in October 1997 he left Dallas to accept the position of dean of the Graduate School of Management at the University of California in Irvine.

Niemi's Drive toward National Prominence

Albert William Niemi Jr. became dean of cCox School in July 1967. Prior to coming to SMU, he had been dean at the University of Georgia in Athens for fourteen years and was dean of business at the University of Alabama, Birmingham from July 1996 until June 1997. He earned three degrees in economics. He earned his AB from Stonehill College, and his MS and PhD from the University of Connecticut.

Asked why he came to SMU Niemi stated:

"I really thought I could be an agent of change and accomplish a lot [at Cox]. Going to a small private [school] and an epicenter like Dallas, Texas was a whole new challenge"

He arrived two years after Gerald Turner arrived at SMU as president of the university. His orders from the president were to increase the visibility of the dean and Cox School in the business community.

Neimi fully understood that if the business school would get involved it would work to the benefit of the school. He beloved " an academic institution can never be better than the accomplishments of [alumni]". He believed that universities and businesses were in the people business, and the quality of students and faculty makes the reputation of the universities and the business schools. He recognized that Stanford and Harvard were what they were because they had outstanding students and faculty. Therefore there was a great importance put on getting funding to provide adequate support for the highest quality students and faculty.

Niemi understood that rankings of schools were considered important to students choosing what business school to attend, and he began at once to work on that mostly on the full-time MBA programs. His goal was to provide a significant to new life into the life and energy of the Cox school. This included communication activities which included national public relations programs. He believed that a large part of the reputation of the Cox School was the reputation of the SMU name.

He intended to make use of the great business environment in Dallas to promote executive education. In addition he wanted to more extensive globalization efforts. He also wanted to provide better career services for the graduate and undergraduate students. Finally, he believed that it was important to provide a PhD program for the Cox School even though it was both a human and financial strain on students. Only three out of the top fifty business schools did not have a PhD program. These were SMU, Tuck at Dartmouth, and Georgetown.

During his first one hundred days at SMU, Niema spent time meeting with one thousand constituents. He became highly visible to the key Dallas business people through scores of breakfast, lunch, and dinner meetings. He also conducted events outside of Dallas.

Faculty Excellence

Under Niemi's leadership from 1997 to 2005 the number of faculty increased from sixty two to seventy four. Thirty nine of the seventy four have been hired during this time. The Cox School has twenty endowed chairs. Four remain to be filled. When they are filled, about 25 percent of the faculty will hold a chair.

The faculty are responsible fifty percent for teaching and fifty percent for research and are graded in that manner. He hires faculty from outstanding schools who have shown potential to be top quality in researchers.

The Academy of Management Journal, co- authored by Niemi and published in 2000 conclude that Cox School ranked thirty seven in publications in the top two or three journals in each business school field between 1986 and 1998, and thirty fifth for the most recent period 1994-1998. Niemi stated "This performance is quite remarkable when you consider that the research rankings are not adjusted for the size of the faculty and we are competing with large public universities with two or three times more faculty".

Pursuit of Quality MBA Students

The average GMAT score for FTMBA students when Niemi arrived at SMU in 1995 was 600 and was not among the top fifty in the country. By 2003 the score had risen to and the Cox full time MBA had risen to 665 placing them in the top twenty five of the nation. This was an achievement the school could be proud of.

By early 2004, 80 percent of the graduate business school students were enrolled in weekend or evening programs, and the number of full time students had dropped by 20 percent. The professional (PMBA) enrollment increased significantly as did the executive  (EMBA) program. The overall enrollment had increased by 26 percent.

While the original rankings for business schools originally focused on full time students, the pollsters eventually began ranking part time students as well. Throughout the 1990's decade, the Cox School's EMBA program enjoyed a strong reputation as did the PMBA program. Cox ranks among the top twenty most selective programs in the nation for working professionals.

Key People working with Niemi

Niemi named the following people as those that are most key to him: Provost Ross Martin, Ed Cox, Cary Maguire, Carl Sewell, John Tolleson, Associate Dean Bill Dillion, and assistant to the dean Dee Powell.


***** Journey Toward Prominence by Thomas E. Barry and Eugene T. Byrne
      Edwin L. Cox Business Dallas, Texas 2007










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