Bobby Lyle boosts a future-focused model for the SMU Lyle School of Engineering


By Kim Cobb

Dallas entrepreneur and educator Bobby Lyle has designated $10 million from a previous commitment to power a new strategic vision for his namesake Lyle School of Engineering at Southern Methodist University.  The future-focused model will provide funding and organization that will allow the school to respond quickly to opportunities for research and innovation.

With the new possibilities for targeted investment, SMU will be able to incubate fledgling academic and research initiatives that could produce significant results.

“Bobby Lyle’s vision, then and now, speaks to the core needs of engineering education to prepare students to solve problems, drive the economy, and change lives through problem-driven research and real-world experience,” says SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “We celebrate Bobby’s leadership and commitment to the future of the Lyle School and SMU.”

The Lyle Future Fund will provide seed capital to bridge the gap between a new idea’s conception and the point where it can draw external funding. Well-qualified projects will receive significant backing for up to five years, long enough to establish a leadership stake in a promising emerging field. By partnering with thought leaders and industry captains at the vanguard of emerging research, the Lyle School will be able to select strategic investments for the greatest impact based on market needs.

To take advantage of opportunities with transformative potential, Dr. Lyle’s investment will support the school’s Future Fund by establishing endowments for Accelerating Emerging Research and Accelerating High Tech Business Innovations. The fund also will support two additional strategic portfolios: Transforming the Engineering Education Experience and Transformative Technology for Social Good.

“Researching and prototyping new ideas must happen quickly to be competitive, while traditional fundraising takes time,” Dr. Lyle says. “This transformational plan allows engineering school researchers to be nimble in the fast-changing tech landscape.”

Since his commitment in 2008, Dr. Lyle has remained engaged in the engineering school as a mentor, connector, and advocate for the school, designating funds to endow key faculty positions, including the Bobby B. Lyle Endowed Centennial Distinguished Chair in Cyber Security to tackle these complex and growing issues, the Bobby B. Lyle Endowed Centennial Chair in Engineering Entrepreneurship to advance engineering entrepreneurship education, and the Bobby B. Lyle Professor of Engineering Innovation, currently held by Lyle School Dean Marc Christensen, who oversees the school’s enterprising culture.

Dr. Lyle also has directed financial support to Lyle School scholarships, the Lyle School Research Impact Fund, SMU Fund for Lyle Engineering, TEDxSMU, and the construction of Caruth Hall. Throughout the last 11 years, the Lyle School has followed Dr. Lyle’s lead and developed impact- and solution-focused education by establishing the Hunter and Stephanie Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity, the Hart Center for Engineering Leadership, the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education, and the Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security.

Bobby Lyle has worked as an engineer, corporate executive, entrepreneur, civic leader, professor, and academic administrator during his distinguished and multifaceted career. He has served as an SMU trustee for over 30 years and is a member of the Lyle School of Engineering Executive Board.

The founder of Lyco Energy Corporation in 1981, Lyle has been a leader in the petroleum and natural gas industry for more than 25 years, exploring throughout the United States. In 2005, he established Lyco Holdings, a private investment firm. During his professional career, Lyle has helped found a number of private companies and joint ventures, and he was instrumental in the development of the Dallas Galleria and the InterFirst Bank-Galleria.

Lyle graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana Tech University, received a graduate degree in Engineering Administration from SMU, and earned a doctorate from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He served as a professor and administrator in what is now the Edwin L. Cox School of Business, ultimately serving as dean ad interim and as executive dean. He was also the convening co-chair of the Engineering Steering Committee for The Second Century Campaign..

SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering, founded in 1925, is one of the oldest engineering schools in the Southwest. The school offers eight undergraduate and 29 graduate programs, including master’s and doctoral degrees, through the departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Computer Science; Electrical and Computer Engineering; Engineering Management, Information and Systems; and Mechanical Engineering. Lyle students participate in programs in the unique Deason Innovation Gym, providing the tools and space to work on immersion design projects and competitions to accelerate leadership development and the framework for innovation; the Hart Center for Engineering Leadership, helping students develop nontechnical skills to prepare them for leadership in diverse technical fields; the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education, developing new methodologies for incorporating engineering education into K-12 schools; the Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, combining the innovative forces of Lyle and the Cox School of Business to integrate their expertise, resources and guidance to develop technology prototypes and create viable business plans; and the Hunter and Stephanie Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity, combining technological innovation with business expertise to address global poverty.