In 2016, Hal Brierley had a vision for SMU Cox School of Business to advance knowledge of and improve business practice globally in customer engagement. That year, he and his wife, Diane, donated $10 million to launch the Brierley Institute for Customer Engagement at the Cox School. In 2019, the Brierleys continued their support of the Institute with an additional $5 million commitment.

The Brierley Institute is the first academic institute of its kind in the world. A community of graduate students, academics and corporate leaders, the Institute examines and explores why customers engage with brands and how that engagement drives loyalty and value. The Institute introduces proven strategies for establishing and sustaining profitable customer relationships, engineering behavior change and understanding the role consumer psychology plays. It addresses a critical and growing business need: capturing customer attention in what Brierley has described as “a time-starved, social media-obsessed environment.”

“We are grateful to the Brierleys for their foresight and additional gift to support curricular innovation, graduate scholarships and faculty leadership to address the issue of building and maintaining customer relationships,” says President R. Gerald Turner.

Brierley, who serves as executive-in-residence for the Institute, has been an industry-shaping visionary and leader in the field of customer engagement and marketing for nearly 40 years. The chairman and CEO of The Brierley Group LLC and founder and chief loyalty architect for Brierley+Partners has counseled scores of clients, including such iconic brands as American Express, AT&T, Hertz, Sony and United Airlines.

“I’m enthusiastic to have Dallas and SMU viewed as a center of excellence in customer engagement,” says Brierley, who serves on the Cox Executive Board. “SMU Cox stepped up to create effective curricula to teach tomorrow’s marketers the techniques essential to design and manage successful customer engagement programs.”

The Brierleys’ latest gift will support student consulting projects and competitive MBA curricula and scholarships, fund research by early-career faculty members and connect customer engagement professionals and corporations in the Dallas community and beyond.

“The Brierley Institute is a game changer for SMU Cox, providing support to companies like American Airlines, Chevron, Dallas Fuel, Kendra Scott and Synchrony Financial [and] enabling students to gain real-world project experience,” says Matthew B. Myers, Dean of the Cox School of Business and Tolleson Chair in Business Leadership. “I want to thank the Brierleys for their vision for the center and their continued support to make the vision a reality.”

SMU alumnus and parent Bart Schaller, BBA ’90, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Synchrony Financial, seeks innovation and new growth strategies to deepen customer engagement. Schaller says he values the Brierley Institute’s commitment to developing student and faculty understanding of customer engagement and creating loyalty and brand value. The company, which delivers customized financing programs across industries, has participated in four student marketing analytics projects so far, with more planned. “The student engagement enriches both us and our business partners,” says Schaller. “We’ve gained new insights and looked at business questions from a different perspective.”

“Hal and Diane Brierley have long been active in their support for Dallas and SMU, and the Cox School has benefited beyond measure from their financial gifts and the time that Hal Brierley has spent in the classroom with students,” says Vice President for Development and External Affairs Brad E. Cheves.