A $15 million gift from Gina L. and Tucker S. Bridwell to SMU’s Cox School of Business will help fund the creation of the new Bridwell Institute for Economic Freedom. The research institute within the Cox School will examine and promote free enterprise in markets around the globe.
This new gift builds on the Bridwells’ legacy of support for SMU.
“Mr. and Mrs. Bridwell’s leadership and commitment to the University speak to the strength of their feelings for SMU,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “They believe that SMU shapes world leaders and want students to have the opportunities Mr. Bridwell did to learn on the Hilltop and make their mark on the world.”
Of the Bridwells’ $15 million gift, $7.5 million will transform the current William J. O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom into the new Bridwell Institute for Economic Freedom. The designation for the additional $7.5 million from Mr. and Mrs. Bridwell will be determined at a later date within the Cox School of Business.
“Tucker and Gina’s gift will enrich existing programs, impact our understanding of free enterprise in global markets and generate countless opportunities for SMU faculty and students,” said Matthew B. Myers, dean of the Cox School and Tolleson Chair in Business Leadership. “We are grateful for their belief in Cox and for their service to SMU over the years.”
The newly named Bridwell Institute for Economic Freedom continues and expands upon the original mission of its predecessor, The William J. O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom, “to study the impact of competitive market forces on freedom and prosperity in the global economy.”
Its mission is to foster the scholarly study and intellectual discussion of the nature, consequences, and causes of economic freedom in our local, state, national and international communities.
The O’Neil family reportedly endorses the new Bridwell Institute and its work to expand the impact and influence of the original Center. “We are forever grateful to William J. “Bill” O’Neil ’55 and his wife, Fay ’55, for their support of the O’Neil Center from 2008 to 2020,” added Dean Myers.
In support of its mission, the Bridwell Institute seeks to influence the academic debate by generating and sponsoring high-quality, peer-reviewed scholarship and research related to economic freedom; become a leader on the SMU campus by engaging students about the ideas of economic freedom through reading groups and other programs; elevate and enliven the discussion and debate about economic freedom in the wider DFW community; and encourage teaching about “free enterprise and its benefits” in schools in Texas and beyond through economic education programs.
“Tucker and Gina are remarkable civic leaders, whose history of giving back to the SMU community and to their hometown of Abilene is well established,” said SMU Vice President for Development and External Affairs Brad E. Cheves. “We are thankful that the Bridwells are honoring Tucker’s experience with Cox by funding important research and academic endeavors. This gift will celebrate Tucker and Gina’s commitment to giving back by ensuring educational opportunities for both Mustangs and the public.”
Mr. Bridwell is president of the Mansefeldt Investment Corporation and the Dian Graves Owen Foundation. Additionally, he manages MDJ Minerals, one of the largest private oil and gas mineral positions in the Permian Basin. He is a board member of publicly traded Concho Resources, Inc., in Midland, and First Financial Bankshares, where he serves as lead director.
Mr. Bridwell received BBA and MBA degrees from SMU’s Cox School of Business, and continues to provide visionary leadership to his alma mater. He is a member of SMU’s Board of Trustees and vice chair of the Cox School Executive Board. Recently, Mr. Bridwell led a $5 million tribute gift effort to honor fellow SMU alumnus and professional colleague Kyle D. Miller ’01, establishing an Energy Management Program and endowing a scholarship fund in Mr. Miller’s honor. Mr. Bridwell and his wife, Gina, have generously supported student scholarships as well as the Moody Coliseum renovation and the construction of the Indoor Performance Center. He served on the Cox School Campaign Steering Committee during SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign and was named a Cox School Distinguished Alumnus in 2006. SMU honored Mr. Bridwell with its Distinguished Alumni Award in 2018.
On the home front, Mr. Bridwell has been instrumental in Abilene’s economic development efforts and active in local and state politics, and has led several Bible studies over the past 30 years. His civic accolades include an honorary doctorate of humanities from McMurry University, Abilene Outstanding Citizen of the Year, and the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Boy Scouts of America.
Mrs. Bridwell served on the Governor’s Commission for Women, the Advisory Council of the Texas Conference for Women, as a Trustee for The Old Jail Art Center, The Grace Museum, and Hendrick Hospice Care. She was President of The Cotillion Club and The Alumnae Panhellenic Association and chaired The Pastoral Council of Holy Family Church. She is a graduate of Oklahoma State University. The Bridwells have four children, one of whom graduated from SMU.
“SMU has truly made living the American dream possible for me.” Mr. Bridwell said. “SMU is a place that encourages students to think and lead. This was true 50 years ago when I came to SMU as a freshman; it is still true today. Gina and I are excited to support Cox and see the future impact of the Bridwell Institute. We can’t wait to see how future Mustangs, using their SMU education, change the business landscape.”