Southern Methodist University and the George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation cemented their partnership this afternoon, as the university’s president, R. Gerald Turner, and Don Evans, chairman of the foundation’s site-selection committee, signed thick binders of documents during a public ceremony at the university.
“This is a great day for SMU,” said Mr. Turner during the ceremony. “It’s a day to be savored and a day to be celebrated.”
Southern Methodist will be the host institution for Mr. Bush’s presidential library and museum. Like all other modern-day presidential libraries, the facilities will be administered by the National Archives and Records Administration, a federal agency. The university will also be the site of a conservative public-policy institute administered by the Bush foundation. The planned institute has been criticized by some members of Southern Methodist’s faculty and by liberal activists in the United Methodist Church.
Mr. Evans, a former U.S. secretary of commerce, said during a news conference after the ceremony that he expected construction of the facilities to begin in 2009 and to be completed within five or six years.
The library, museum, and institute “will be important institutions and centers for scholars to research the times in which President Bush served and the initiatives of his presidency,” Mr. Evans said.
At the news conference, Mr. Turner was asked about an activist campaign to challenge the library plans at a regional governance meeting of the United Methodist Church in July. Last year a body known as the Mission Council of the church’s South Central Jurisdiction granted the university permission to lease land for the library. The activists hope to win a vote to rescind that permission. If the activists do so — an unlikely prospect, in most observers’ eyes — then the matter might be turned over to the church’s judicial council. Southern Methodist’s charter requires that any uses of its land be approved by the church.
“In our understanding of the relationship between the university and the church,” Mr. Turner said, “we feel that in getting approval of the Mission Council, we got the necessary and sufficient approval to go forward with the lease. We’re proceeding on that basis.”
In a news release, the university said that it would have the right to appoint two members of the library foundation’s Board of Directors and at least one member of the policy institute’s Board of Directors.
A spokeswoman for Southern Methodist said that the full text of the agreements between the university and the library foundation would be released on Monday. —David Glenn