In late April, celebrated energy expert and philanthropist William S. Spears made the largest gift by a non-alumnus in the history of SMU, a commitment that will establish the William S. Spears Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership in the SMU Cox School of Business. One of the largest gifts in the history of SMU, Spears’ investment will encourage business creation, leadership development and economic growth, strengthening areas that are critical to the future of the Dallas business economy.

“William Spears is renowned throughout the energy industry; his knowledge and dedication have led to innovations throughout the country,” says SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “We are honored that he leveraged his ingenuity and purpose to champion our University’s faculty and students, bolstering the future of industry and discovery in Dallas.”

At the heart of the Spears Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership lies the Spears Accelerator, offering a range of support services and funding opportunities for the conception, creation and development of new businesses, services and products. Through external partnerships, the accelerator will help students, faculty and local industries strengthen their research and development processes — ultimately speeding the creation of valuable new products. Additionally, the accelerator will create new revenue streams for the University, benefiting its students, faculty and programs.

The Spears announcement was the last University event in the Fincher Building’s EY Gallery prior to the start of the renovation and expansion project.

“I’m proud to partner with SMU for this exciting new initiative, and I look forward to seeing the creativity and opportunities the Spears Institute will inspire throughout Dallas and beyond,” says Spears, Cenergistic founder and CEO. “I feel honored to be counted as a member of the Mustang community, and I hope that, through this gift, the Cox School will be a positive driver for pioneering innovation and enterprising development across Dallas.”

The Spears Institute will facilitate student success through new leadership programming, scholarships and internships for SMU Cox School of Business students. Unique, specialized curricula in the Spears Entrepreneurial Leadership Program for MBAs and BBAs will prepare students to become innovative corporate leaders through real-world experiences and academic coursework in areas such as new product and process development and the generation of venture capital. The highly competitive Spears Scholars Program will attract and retain future leaders who will contribute to the economic vibrancy of the region. These meritorious undergraduate and MBA students will pursue their academic and professional goals in the North Texas business climate. Through the Spears Interns Program, the students will gain unique insights and opportunities for personal and professional growth in other global cities such as New York; Washington, D.C.; London and more.

“The Cox School of Business is a pioneer in the business education field, known for training outstanding business leaders and innovative thinkers,” says Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson. “Now, through the Spears Institute, Dallas and SMU can expand our thriving partnership and make our city an even more dynamic hub for entrepreneurial activity.”

The Spears Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership will be led by an executive director who will hold an endowed position. The executive director’s experience and business industry insights will be crucial to the development of the institute and its programs, maximizing the impact of the Spears Institute regionally and nationally. To bolster Cox School faculty research initiatives, the Spears Faculty Fellows Program will support the development of innovative curricula and programming.

(Left to right) John Spears, Candye Spears, William S. Spears, SMU President R. Gerald Turner, Cox Dean Matthew B. Myers and Robert Dedman Jr., immediate past chair of SMU Board of Trustees.

The Spears Institute will also create the Spears Speaker Series, bringing to Dallas high-profile leaders and business experts from a variety of personal and professional backgrounds. Their unique perspectives and insightful knowledge will benefit SMU students, faculty and the broader community.

“The Spears Institute will accelerate groundbreaking innovation at the Cox School by expanding student potential and broadening faculty outreach,” says Matthew B. Myers, dean of the Cox School of Business. “Through our partnership with William Spears, the SMU Cox School will strengthen its ability to prepare our students to tackle grand challenges, spark bold new ideas and become industry front-runners.”
With his gift to the multiyear $1.5 billion campaign for impact, SMU Ignited: Boldly Shaping Tomorrow, Spears joins the company of the largest donors in University history. Other donors who have shaped the University and its growth include the Dedman family and The Dedman Foundation; Gerald J. Ford, ’66, ’69, and Kelli O. Ford and The Gerald J. Ford Family Foundation; Roy M. Huffington, ’38; Nancy Ann Hunter Hunt, ’65, and Ray L. Hunt, ’65; Bobby B. Lyle, ’67; The Meadows Foundation;

David B. Miller, ’72, ’73, and Carolyn L. Miller and The David B. Miller Family Foundation; the Moody Foundation; Joe J. Perkins and Lois Craddock Perkins; Carl Sewell, ’66, and Peggy Higgins Sewell, ’72; Harold C. and Annette C. Simmons, ’57; and the Garry Weber Foundation, among others.

“William Spears provides a powerful example of how our community is strengthening the landscape of education and business development through investments in SMU,” says Brad E. Cheves, vice president for Development and External Affairs. “SMU Ignited continues to receive broad support from alumni and civic and business leaders throughout North Texas, and this gift illustrates the vital role that premier private universities like SMU play in the education and business landscapes.”

William S. Spears and Candye Spears, who completed her Master of Arts in Dispute Resolution from SMU in 2007.

More about William S. Spears

William S. Spears is a renowned civic and financial leader, known throughout the region for his work in the energy sector, the many boards on which he has served and his dedication to excellence in the education field. Introduced to SMU through his wife, Candye Gould Spears, ’06, and stepdaughter, Meghan Bartos, ’05, both SMU alumni, Spears’ gift to the Edwin L. Cox School of Business builds on a long legacy of philanthropy across the country and a lifelong passion for business excellence that stretches far beyond the University.

Spears earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Oklahoma State University, which established the Spears School of Business in 2004. He additionally holds an MBA from Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a Doctor of Business Administration from H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University.

He has more than 40 years of experience in public school, college, university, large church and health care energy management. Launching his career into the utility management industry was Spears’ invention of the nation’s first utility savings program, designed to solve a budgetary shortfall in the Wichita Falls, Texas, school board on which he served. Following this, Spears founded Cenergistic in 1986, a Dallas-based energy conservation company of which he is the CEO. Since its establishment, Cenergistic has garnered national praise and recognition in providing health care, religious and educational institutions with cost-effective energy solutions that reduce energy usage.

Spears has served the community throughout his career, supporting civic and cultural causes including the American Cancer Society; Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.; Lincoln Forum in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; Oklahoma State University; North Texas Council Boy Scouts of America; North Texas Easter Seal Rehabilitation Center; Southwestern Medical Foundation; Ulysses S. Grant Association; and Young Life, among others.

In addition to these causes, Spears is the founder of the Christian Businessman’s Committee, founder and president of the Times Publishing Company Charities and founder and president of the Red River Civil War Roundtable.