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SMU Cox School of Business receives $11.5 million gift

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An $11.5 million gift from Aurelia and Brad Heppner ’88 and family to SMU’s Edwin L. Cox School of Business will strengthen the school’s commitment to fostering the leadership skills of tomorrow’s executives and investing in groundbreaking research that impacts the business world, SMU said in a news release.

The Heppners have committed $10 million to establish the Heppner Family Commons, creating a new hub for collaboration among members of the Cox community, and a centerpiece of the future Cox School renovation and expansion project.

Additionally, $1.5 million to support Cox faculty research will be received from the Heppner Endowments for Research Organizations (HERO).
“With this gift, the Heppners will give SMU students the space to work together with each other and with our faculty, making critical connections and sparking inventive ideas,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “We also thank HERO for supporting the pioneering research of Cox faculty.”

“SMU’s Cox School of Business is a vital part of Dallas’ thriving business community,” Heppner said. “We are proud to invest in the next generation of business leaders who are building their skills in the Cox School, and in faculty who conduct ambitious research.” 

Heppner is the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of The Beneficient Company Group LP, and is a recognized leader in the alternative investment industry, where he has founded 10 alternative investment companies.

He has also served as an adjunct professor for private equity in the M.B.A. program at Texas Christian University.
Originally from Kansas, Heppner was a founder and previous director of his hometown’s community foundation and currently serves on the board of the Cox School of Business. He earned a master’s of management degree from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University and a BBA, B.B.S. and B.A. from SMU, where he was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and student government. 

Aurelia Heppner is the enterprise program manager of The Beneficient Company Group or “Ben.”  In addition to her role at Ben, she is the co-founder of Heppner Endowments for Research Organizations (HERO), a nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of life for Texans through the conservation of Texas habitats, academic fieldwork, and investment in the arts.

Since the inception of HERO in 2010, she has worked to define and drive the relationship between Ben and the charitable endowment. The result is both an expansive philanthropic footprint for Ben as a leading company, and an impressive roster of partnerships and deep relationships between HERO, Texas universities, and K–12 educators to provide funding for academic research.

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