Newsroom

July 14, 2008

Longtime SMU benefactor Roy Huffington dies


Roy M. Huffington

DALLAS (SMU) — The Honorable Roy M. Huffington of Houston, a longtime benefactor of Southern Methodist University for whom an academic department is named, died Friday while traveling in Italy, according to officials.

"Roy Huffington served his country with distinction and was an innovator in his profession. He was devoted to his alma mater, and his association with SMU spanned seven decades, including service on the Board of Trustees. Along with his late wife, Phyllis Gough Huffington, he provided visionary support for our students, faculty and academic programs," said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. "We are grateful to have enjoyed a major campus celebration with him as he announced his most recent gift to SMU endowing the Department of Earth Sciences, now named in his honor. He will be remembered and missed for his wisdom, great spirit and inspiring presence, but his impact will continue long into our future."

Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday, July 20, in the Library of the Geo. H. Lewis & Sons Funeral Home in Houston. A memorial service will be conducted at 11 a.m. Monday, July 21, at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Houston.

One of SMUís oldest and most distinguished academic departments was renamed for Huffington in March in recognition of a gift of more than $10 million. The gift endowed the Department of Earth Sciences in SMUís Dedman College, now renamed the Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences.

"There are very few individuals in the history of SMU who had the long-ranging and far-reaching impact of Ambassador Huffington," said Brad E. Cheves, SMU's vice president for Development and External Affairs. "But it was the personal interest he took in individual faculty members and students that has touched our community the most. He passionately believed that by providing permanent financial support for students and faculty future generations of scholars would be able to pursue their own dreams and aspirations. The campus community has lost a true friend."

Huffington, who received his bachelor's degree in geology from SMU in 1938, had given SMU more than $20 million in the last two years and a total of more than $31 million over many years of support for the University. In fall 2006, he provided more than $10 million in endowments for faculty support and student scholarships at SMU.

Huffington was chair and CEO of Roy M. Huffington Inc., an independent, international petroleum operations firm based in Houston. His distinguished career included global oil and gas exploration, international business, and military and diplomatic service.

After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he spent 10 years with Humble Oil and Refining Company, now ExxonMobil. In 1956 he founded Huffco, an oil and gas firm that began exploration in Indonesia in the late 1960s. A major gas strike there in 1972 led to a 25-year joint venture between Huffco and the Indonesian government. In 1988 Newsweek magazine listed Huffington as one of 25 Americans "in the forefront of building bridges to the East."

Huffington sold Huffco to the Chinese Petroleum Corporation in 1990, when he added another dimension to his international activities as U.S. ambassador to Austria from 1990 to 1993. As ambassador, he worked to open business opportunities between the newly accessible Eastern bloc countries and the West. Upon returning to the United States following his term as ambassador, he renewed his involvement in oil and gas investment.

After earning his B.S. degree in geology from SMU in 1938, Huffington earned both M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in geology from Harvard University. His late wife, Phyllis Gough Huffington, earned her B.B.A. degree from SMU in 1943. Huffington has received distinguished alumni awards from SMU and the Harvard Business School. In 1990 he received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from SMU and delivered the Commencement address.

Huffington's first gift to SMU patterned after the Franklin Trust was $5 million in 1990 to establish an unrestricted Huffington Bicentennial Endowment Fund. A portion of that fund is paid annually to SMU for current unrestricted use, while the fund continues to grow. The fund, which is administered as part of SMU's endowment, now has a market value of more than triple its original value.

In addition to the Huffingtons' bicentennial funds, their gifts to SMU include endowed faculty chairs in Finance and Geological Sciences, and several endowed scholarship funds. A member of the SMU Board of Trustees from 1980-87, Huffington was named a trustee emeritus in 1991. In 1996 he and his wife received the Mustang Award for longtime service and philanthropy to the University.

Among the many other honors Huffington received were the Gold Medallion Oil Pioneer Award from the Indonesian government, the Grosse Goldene Ehrenzeichen Award (Grand Decoration of Honor in Gold) for services to the Republic of Austria, the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Henry Laurence Gantt Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement from the American Petroleum Institute.

He was also chairman emeritus of both the international Asia Society in New York City and the Salzburg Seminar in Salzburg, Austria


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