The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

A day in the life of President Turner

SMU President R. Gerald Turner working at his desk in the Presidential Office.
MICHAEL DANSER/The Daily Campus
SMU President R. Gerald Turner working at his desk in the Presidential Office.

SMU President R. Gerald Turner working at his desk in the Presidential Office. (MICHAEL DANSER/The Daily Campus)

He signs off on letters, his picture is easily recognizable to students and he keeps up the University’s fundraising.

You see him and you hear about him.  But do you really know what goes on in his day-to-day life? 

President Gerald R. Turner is an early riser, getting up at around 6 a.m. “I am a believer in breakfast,” he said.

He and his wife Gail usually eat cereal together, while reading the morning newspaper.  After the morning routine at home, he arrives at Perkins Administration building around 8 a.m.     

Turner said he considers his workday to be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.  His workweek typically ranges Monday through Saturday.

“Fall is seven days a week,” he said. 

Turner also mentioned that October and November are extremely busy months, but March and April are worse.  January and July happen to be the most relaxed months as far as his schedule is concerned.  

On average, Turner receives 80-120 e-mails per day.  However, there are “a quarter that I don’t have to answer,” he said.

As far as meetings are concerned, nine is just a typical amount for the number of staff gatherings Turner has to attend.  These range from thirty minutes to an hour.

“I have to stay on schedule.  It’s not fair to the person who’s next. Every one of them is important,” he said.

Turner meets with individuals to discuss fundraising for two to three hours a week. Every Monday, the President’s Executive Council meets with each vice president, the treasurer and the athletic department for an hour-and-a-half. 

Overall, there are 12 people who report to the president directly.

“We really depend on each other,” he said of his team.  “It’s important that they work well together.  We work hard on that.”

His core team ensures that affairs are mostly dealt with before they reach him.  Each person acts as a filter of issues and information.  Turner credits vice president Tom Barry as his primary filter.

While Turner is not sitting in on meetings or working in his office, he attends events around SMU or Dallas.  Such events include SMU football games, SMU Tate Lectures, Dallas Citizens Council meetings, luncheons and so much more.

There are “three or four things every night that we are invited to,” he said. “I do a lot of luncheons that are fundraising luncheons.”

Turner said that the provost, Paul Ludden, can attend these functions in his place.

As far as holding the president’s title, Turner explained that the main challenge of the job is “the diversity of problems and issues” among the faculty, staff, students and alumni. 

“There are so many diverse interests of the community and some of them are not compatible,” he said.  “The goal is to coordinate all the differing views and still get them to move toward a common goal.”

The president said he is proud of his team for improving the quality of the student body and the support for academic programs. 

“The things that help make the academic programs strong are the buildings and faculty.  The two go hand in hand,” Turner said.

In order to build on top of what he and his team have already established, Turner mentioned three goals that he wishes to accomplish before the end of his career at SMU. 

First, he wants SMU to rank in U.S. News Report’s top 50 schools, as opposed to being in the top 60.

“The major idea is for the whole university to move up as a whole,” Turner said.

Second, he wants the average SAT score of incoming SMU students to be 1300.  Lastly, he wants there to be at least 100 endowed chairs in professorship.

Certainly, Turner has a lot on his plate.  One moment he is meeting with the provost about academics, and the next, he is departing to attend a fundraising luncheon or to meet prestigious individuals like George W. Bush on campus.  This doesn’t even include tending to the stack of papers on his desk.

Smiling, Turner concluded, “No two hours are alike.”
 

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