Culture of Collaboration: 100 Year Cox School of Business Anniversary

A ceremony was held for Aurelia and Brad Heppner ’88 and their family for gifting $11.5 million to Southern Methodist University’s Edwin L. Cox School of Business in celebration of its 100th anniversary Oct. 8.

The Heppners were at the ceremony, which took place at Moody Coliseum, and Vice President for Development and External Affairs (DEA) Brad E. Cheves took the stage to announce the donation.

Many SMU board members were in attendance, alongside President R. Gerald Turner and his wife, Gail Turner.

Ten million dollars of the donation will go toward a new commons, the Heppner Family Commons. It will incorporate existing places in Cox, as well as new construction at SMU to create a special place to “advance business education” with the rapidly changing business market. This includes updated form rooms, new technology, and classes, as well as a focus on making it easier for students to collaborate and use research tools in the facilities to promote “entrepreneurial spirit”. The remaining $1.5 million will go toward faculty and staff improvements at SMU.

Dean Matthew Myers, the head of Cox, said this donation will help advance business education at SMU. He and Brad had discussed how this gift will help revitalize an old business curriculum at SMU, which has not seen much change in the last 35 years. A more updated business education program will make the content more relevant, regarding the business market today. Expanding on new education, Dean Meyers said the business school is trying to create a “9 to 9 collaborative environment”, where students and faculty are encouraged to use new resources and engage with each other inside and outside of class. The new commons area will include larger classrooms and more open spaces to encourage more hands-on learning. Dean Meyers said this donation is an investment in “next-gen” education at the business school and hopes The Heppner Commons will be the “new hub of Cox school activity”.

Brad, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The Beneficient Company Group, said he looks to follow his five year-board revenue plan, giving a fraction of his company’s accumulated gross revenue back to universities, including SMU, across Texas.

At the ceremony’s conclusion, the Heppners were presented with a framed copy of an advertisement, which will go in the business section of the Dallas Morning News.