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April 16, 2001


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DALLAS (SMU) -- Former President George H.W. Bush will receive the Tower Center Medal of Freedom from Southern Methodist University's John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 24, in McFarlin Auditorium.

SMU President R. Gerald Turner will present the medal to Bush. The former president will then deliver a 30-minute address titled, "The Challenges of Building a New American Century." The event is free and open to the public. For more information about the Medal of Freedom event, call 214-768-2610.

The Tower Center Medal of Freedom recognizes individuals who have contributed to the advancement of democratic ideals and to the security, prosperity and welfare of humanity. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell received the first Tower Center Medal of Freedom in 1997, followed by former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1999.

The 2001 event is dedicated to the memory of C. Vincent Prothro, who died Nov. 16, 2000, and who served as chair of the Tower Center Board of Directors since 1998. In addition to his service to the Tower Center, Prothro co-chaired the capital campaign for the Perkins School of Theology, which bears his grandparents' name. He also served on the executive boards of the Meadows School of the Arts, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and the Edwin L. Cox School of Business. The Prothro family, including Charles and Elizabeth Perkins Prothro, Vin and Caren Prothro, and their family foundations, have given $8 million to the Campaign for SMU: A Time to Lead.

"As the recipient of an honorary degree from SMU in 1992, Mr. Bush is a member of the SMU family, and we are pleased that he will return to campus to receive the Tower Center Medal of Freedom," said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. "His public address will provide unique perspectives on international relations in the new century, and the Medal of Freedom will recognize the unique role he has played in shaping the global community. At the same time, Mr. Bush graciously helps us to pay tribute to the memory of another member of the SMU family, John Goodwin Tower."

Following the award ceremony, Bush and his wife, Barbara, will be the guests of honor at a private dinner hosted by Dallas Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones and his wife, Gene. Mrs. Jones is a member of the Tower Center Board of Directors and one of three co-chairs of the Tower Center Medal of Freedom event. Other co-chairs are Tom Hicks, chairman of the board, CEO and director of Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst; and Ray L. Hunt, president and CEO of Hunt Consolidated Inc. and SMU trustee. Dallas oilman Cary Maguire and his wife, Ann, are benefactors of the event. They are joined by a 58-member host committee comprised of corporate and civic leaders from throughout the southwest.

"President Bush honors the Tower Center and SMU by his visit to the campus," said Cal Jillson, director of the Tower Center and chair of SMU's Department of Political Science in Dedman College. "Freedom and opportunity in the world made great strides during his presidency and much of the credit belongs directly and personally to him."

The Tower Center Medal of Freedom event is the largest fundraiser for the Tower Center, which supports teaching and research programs in international and domestic politics with an emphasis on global studies and national security policy. The center sponsors several conferences a year, works with other international organizations such as the Dallas Council on World Affairs, and supports faculty research and travel. Each year the Tower Center Board of Directors awards undergraduate fellowships to SMU students interested in studying in Washington, D.C. or in U.S. embassies abroad. Another Tower Center program places SMU students in summer internships in the U.S. State Department. So far this year's event has raised more than $600,000 for the center.

Bush has spent most of his life in public service. During World War II, at 18, Bush was the youngest U.S. naval carrier pilot in the Pacific. Bush returned to the U.S. in 1944, received his degree from Yale University, and began a series of business ventures in Texas. In 1966, Bush followed his father, Prescott Bush, to Congress as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. A series of political appointments ensued, including service as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, U.S. envoy to China and director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

In 1980, Bush was elected vice president, and in 1988, he was elected the 41st president of the United States. He steered the United States through the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and Operation Desert Storm, bringing an end to the Gulf War conflict. Since leaving the White House, Bush and his wife, Barbara, have maintained residences in Texas and Maine and are active in the lives of their children and grandchildren.

The Tower Center was established in memory and honor of former U.S. Senator John Tower, who earned a master's degree in political science from SMU in 1953. He also taught in the Political Science Department after his retirement from the Senate. Tower represented Texas in the U.S. Senate from 1961 to 1985. He served as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and, after retiring from the Senate, as U.S. strategic nuclear arms negotiator with the Soviet Union in Geneva. Senator Tower and one of his daughters, Marian Tower, died in a plane crash in Georgia on April 5, 1991.