CEO Hopes To Foster Entrepreneurship With Gift To SMU

Cenergistic CEO William Spears made the largest gift by a non-alumnus in the history of SMU to SMU’s Cox School of Business.

The amount of the gift wasn’t disclosed, but university officials say it’s one of the largest gifts in the university’s more-than-100-year history and will help establish the William S. Spears Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership in the Cox School of Business. Within the William S. Spears Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership, the Spears Accelerator, will offer 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 seek to help students, faculty and local industries strengthen their research and development processes in hopes of speeding up the creation of new products.

“William Spears is renowned throughout the energy industry. His knowledge and dedication have led to innovations throughout the country,” said 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.”

The Spears Institute will also seek to facilitate student success through new leadership programming, scholarships, and internships for SMU Cox School of Business students. Specialized curricula in the Spears Entrepreneurial Leadership Program for MBAs and BBAs will provide real-world experiences and academic coursework in areas such as new product and process development, and the generation of venture capital. 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.

“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,” said Spears. “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 Cox School of Business is a pioneer in the business education field, known for training outstanding business leaders and innovative thinkers,” said Dalls Mayor Eric Johnson added. “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. 

With his gift to SMU’s multiyear $1.5 billion fundraising campaign, Spears joins the company of the largest donors in university history, including 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,” said 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.”

Spears was raised in Lubbock and founded his company in 1986 and has since helped more than 1,500 clients save on their energy bills.

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

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