Heppner Family Commits $11.5 Million to SMU Cox School of Business

An $11.5 million gift from Aurelia and Brad Heppner and family to SMU’s Edwin L. Cox School of Business will help the school foster the leadership skills of tomorrow’s executives and invest in groundbreaking research that impacts the business world.

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

The Heppner Family Commons will serve as the collaborative heart of the Fincher Building in the Cox School of Business.The expansive, light-filled Commons will be a distinctive calling card for the school. 

“SMU’s Cox School of Business is a vital part of Dallas’ thriving business community,” said Brad Heppner, a recognized leader in the alternative investment industry. “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.” 

As globalization and the speed of technological innovation continue to increase, businesses increasingly look to universities to produce graduates who can work with people of all backgrounds and weather rapid change. The Heppner Family Commons will provide a vital space for interpersonal learning outside the classroom. 

“Resilience and collaboration fuel innovation,” said David Miller, chair of the Cox School Executive Board. “The Heppners’ gift will help Cox shape future business leaders, and we are grateful for their generosity.” 

Matching the traditional collegiate Georgian architectural design of other campus buildings, the open-concept Commons will attract outstanding students, faculty and corporate partners. Furnished workstations and study rooms will strengthen the Cox School’s efforts to build a “9-to-9 culture” where students choose to stay on campus from morning to night – because they benefit significantly from the teamwork and problem-solving they do between classes. Students will find a second home in the vibrant gathering spaces where they will relax between classes, work on team projects and share coffee and ideas with their professors.

“Cox facilities must support contemporary pedagogy, which emphasizes engaged learning and collaboration,” said Matthew B. Myers, Cox School dean and Tolleson Chair in Business Leadership. “We are grateful to the Heppners for empowering our students to build the skills top employers look for.”

The Heppner Endowment for Research Organizations (HERO) has committed $1.5 million to support Cox faculty research that pursues leading-edge ideas. HERO finds and funds innovative ways to make life better for individuals, families and communities in Texas and beyond. It is a public-private initiative of The Beneficient Company Group, LP, its clients and its founders. HERO identifies Texas university research programs to be designated as beneficiaries of trusts established by clients of The Beneficient Company Group, LP. 

“The Heppners’ generosity will have a tremendous impact on the Cox School of Business for years to come,” said SMU Vice President for Development and External Affairs Brad E. Cheves. “Countless students and faculty will benefit from their investment in collaborative problem-solving and important business research.” 

Brad Heppner is the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of The Beneficient Company Group, LP, which empowers individual and smaller institutional investors with a platform built to offer a simple, rapid and cost-effective way to access liquidity from their alternative assets. Before Beneficient, Mr. Heppner was the majority owner and chairman of the Crossroads Group. A recognized leader in the alternative investment industry, he has founded 10 alternative investment companies, including PEN Indemnity Insurance Company, Ltd., the Crossroads Group, LP, Constitution Capital Partners, LLC and Capital Analytics.  

Originally from Kansas, Mr. 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, LP, or “Ben.”  In addition to her role at Ben, Mrs. Heppner 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.  

The Heppners have five children, one of whom attends SMU.

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at rachel.snyder@peoplenewspapers.com

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