Tech innovation gets a $30 million boost, O’Donnell foundation supports SMU with a huge donation

Dallas, Texas – In a momentous announcement that underscores the burgeoning significance of data science and engineering in contemporary academia, Southern Methodist University (SMU) President R. Gerald Turner revealed on Wednesday that the O’Donnell Foundation, an iconic philanthropic institution based in Dallas with a rich history of munificent endowments, has bequeathed a staggering $30 million to the university.

This substantial monetary infusion is earmarked for the creation of 10 endowed academic chairs in the cutting-edge fields of data science and engineering, as well as for the amplification of research endeavors connected to these disciplines.

O’Donnell donation will be appointed between two institutional conduits of technological progress

Unveiled during a meeting of the university’s faculty, Turner elucidated that the funds will be apportioned equitably between two institutional conduits of technological progress: the newly christened O’Donnell Data Science and Research Computing Institute and SMU’s burgeoning initiative dedicated to digital innovation within the spheres of engineering and computer science.

The O’Donnell Foundation, initially established in 1957 by the late Peter O’Donnell Jr. and his late wife, Edith, has indelibly imprinted its legacy on the philanthropic landscape of Texas. Through a pioneering vision that catalyzed what has colloquially been termed “moon-shot advancements” across a swath of disciplines including, but not limited to, mathematics, science, computing, and the arts, the foundation has long been an influential impetus for transformative change.

O’Donnell foundation has donated more than $780 million over the decades

In an elucidative revelation from Peter O’Donnell Jr.’s published memoirs, it emerged that the cumulative value of their financial largesse over the decades ascends to an astronomical sum of $780 million—a largesse shrouded in humility, as the majority of their benefactions were disseminated under the veil of anonymity.

“Peter and Edith O’Donnell left a remarkable legacy of supporting education in North Texas and beyond,” Turner said in a statement. “This gift from their foundation is a milestone for us because it provides critical support for our decadelong strategy to strengthen SMU as a center for applying the latest technology to enhance innovation and learning.”

O’Donnell foundation donated $2 million to Data Science Institute at Southern Methodist University last year

In a continuation of its patronage which has indelibly shaped the trajectory of technological education and research, the O’Donnell Foundation last year bequeathed a substantial $2 million endowment, specifically targeting the directorial position of the Data Science Institute at Southern Methodist University (SMU). This move further consolidates the Foundation’s fervent commitment to fostering academic excellence in emergent fields.

Peter O’Donnell Jr., the scion of the O’Donnell family who passed away in 2021 at the venerable age of 97, cultivated the family’s affluence through a prodigiously successful investment brokerage venture. His late wife, Edith, who predeceased him in 2020 at age 94, was an equally instrumental figure in shaping the Foundation’s philanthropic ethos. Their fiscal altruism notably transcends SMU, extending its reach to other venerable institutions within the state of Texas. For instance, their groundbreaking challenge grant engendered the establishment of 32 One Million Dollar Chairs in science and engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. Not only did the couple contribute to the conception of the highly esteemed Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences there, but their benevolence has also manifested through more than $300 million in grants to UT Southwestern Medical Center, where edifices like a cutting-edge school of public health and a research institute focusing on neuroscience proudly bear the O’Donnell name.

Southern Methodist University, an elite, private educational institution boasting a student body numbering approximately 12,000, inaugurated an ambitious $1.5 billion fundraising campaign in 2021. Aimed at buttressing future research, augmenting scholarship funds, and facilitating infrastructural improvements, the campaign has been a magnetic draw for philanthropic magnanimity. Among the list of laudable endowments that have graced the college’s coffers in recent years are:

  • $100 million from the Moody Foundation in 2019.
  • $50 million from David and Carolyn Miller in 2019.
  • $50 million from Garry Weber Foundation in 2022.
  • $30 million from Jan and Trevor Rees-Jones in 2023.
  • $20 million from Rich and Mary Templeton in 2023.
  • $15 million from Marlyne Sexton in 2022.
  • $15 million from Bill and Liz Martin Armstrong in 2022.

According to metrics compiled by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the recent financial boon from the O’Donnell Foundation ranks as one of the most prodigious charitable contributions to have been recorded in the state of Texas this year, underscoring its continuing pivotal role in shaping the landscape of academic and medical research within the region.

Recently, Dallas billionaire Kelcy Warren donates $12 million to UT Arlington, the biggest single donation ever to the school.

Carlton Doyle

At his current position at the Dallas Metro, Carlton brings his extensive experience and sharp intellect to every story he covers. His writing is crisp and compelling, and his attention to detail is unparalleled. Whether he's delving into hard-hitting investigative pieces or writing about lighter topics, Carlton always brings his A-game.

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