Houston Couple Gives $6 Million to Engineering, Football
March 19, 2009 — As an alumnus of Lamar University and a member of the LU College of Engineering advisory council, Dan F. Smith has helped guide the college into a new era of growth, administrators said.
His support for the college took on extra meaning Thursday, (March 19, 2009) when he and his wife, Sandra, announced a $6 million gift to the university. The gift, which comes during the university’s Investing in the Future comprehensive campaign and raises giving totals to more than $54 million, will support both the college and the university’s efforts to reestablish its football program, officials said.
Lamar’s engineering college will receive $5 million from the Houston couple, and in celebration of their generous philanthropy, the chemical engineering department will be named the Dan F. Smith Department of Chemical Engineering officials announced in the atrium of the Cherry Engineering Building before an appreciative crowd.
The couple also gave $1 million to the university to assist in reinstating its football program. The university recently announced that 25 student-athletes have signed a National Letter of Intent to play football at Lamar beginning in the fall of 2009. Lamar will begin playing a full exhibition schedule in 2010 and conference play in 2011.
In recognition of the gift, the press box at the stadium will be named the Dan F. and Sandra A. Smith Press Box. The renovated press box will include a presidential booth with seating for 25; a kitchenette; a media center with seating for 32; a TV broadcast booth; two radio broadcast booths; restrooms; two camera decks, two coaches booths; scoreboard booth, and public address booth.
“This is a special day for Lamar University and for the College of Engineering,” said James Simmons, president of Lamar. “For Dan and Sandy, today is a continuation of their support of Lamar University.”
Simmons recognized the couple’s support of engineering scholarships at the university, as well as his service on the college’s advisory council, and on the university’s campaign cabinet.
“This generous endowment will provide the opportunity to make great strides in the development of intellectual capital and cutting-edge research,” Simmons said.
Jack Hopper, dean of the college of engineering, said: “Dan Smith has been a long-time huge supporter of the college of engineering in many ways. This generous endowment will provide the opportunity to make great strides in the chemical engineering department. This gift will give the department a high profile across the nation because of the name recognition of Dan Smith.”
There are fewer chemical engineering programs in the U. S. than other engineering disciplines, Hopper said. Very few “have the distinction of being named due to very generous philanthropic endowments of their graduates.”
Lamar’s chemical engineering department is home to the university’s first Ph.D. program and its growth has generated new construction on campus, a $7.8 million project adjacent to the Cherry Engineering Building that will begin construction this summer.
Smith, a 1969 graduate of the College of Engineering, was named a Distinguished Alumnus of Lamar in 2003.
“The importance of education has been there all along,” said Smith, who described himself as having grown up in a “wealthy” Port Arthur family “wealthy in the belief that education was very, very important.”
“My mother was a lifetime educator – the first of four educators in the family,” he said referring to his sisters, who, like their husbands, are all Lamar graduates. “I’ve been very fortunate, and part of being very fortunate is to give back. That is what today is all about.”
Lamar has been through some tough times, Smith said, “but it’s moving now like it’s never moved before. Just to be part of that is very, very exciting for us. What Jack has done with this department has been fantastic. The growth rate is great. I’d put Lamar engineering graduates up against anybody from any university.”
“But, most importantly, for this university to continue to grow – this is Texas – and you cannot do it without football.”
Athletic Director Billy Tubbs said Lamar welcomes the Smiths’ generous gift to the football program. “We not only want to start football, but we want to start it in a first-class manner. We’re ready to go, and your contribution is very important.”
Smith first put his chemical engineering degree to work at ARCO refinery in Port Arthur where he had participated in one of Lamar University’s first co-operative education programs. That, he said, “really got me started. It brought the value of education home because you could see how it applied day to day in business.”
He held numerous positions of increasing responsibility in two ARCO divisions and at its corporate headquarters before becoming a vice president of Lyondell Chemical Co. in 1985. Four years later, he was tapped Lyondell’s chief financial officer and executive vice president when the company went public. In 1996 Smith was named president and chief executive officer of Lyondell, one of the world’s largest chemical producers. He was elected chairman of the board in May 2007. Smith retired as president, CEO and chairman of Lyondell on January 31, 2008.
Before Lyondell was acquired by Basell in 2007, it was North America’s third largest, independent, publicly traded chemical company and a global leader in the manufacture of chemicals and polymers, the building blocks of countless products used around the world every day. With headquarters in Houston, Lyondell operated on five continents and employed 11,000 people worldwide.
Smith is presently board chairman of Kraton Polymers, a private company with production facilities in the U.S., Germany, France, The Netherlands, Brazil and Japan. He is also pursing an array of investment opportunities and sharing his talent and time with many worthy causes, officials said.