Volume 18 • Issue 2

University Mourns Loss of Former President Durwood Fleming

Southwestern continues to mourn the loss of Durwood Fleming, who served as president of the University from 1961 to 1981. He died in January.

During Fleming’s administration, the University’s enrollment grew from 691 to 1,000 students. Fleming oversaw integration of the University, the opening of a coeducational dormitory and the construction of many new residential buildings, several of which are still used today. He also deepened the liberal arts orientation at Southwestern and improved the quality of its faculty.

A native of Sulphur Springs, Texas, Fleming attended Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University and was ordained a minister in the United Methodist Church in 1940. After working at several small churches, he helped establish St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Houston, which became the largest Methodist church in the area.

Fleming’s close contacts and strong personal relationships with so many in the Houston community proved a financial boon to Southwestern after he became president. During Fleming’s tenure, Southwestern’s endowment grew from $5.25 million to more than $35 million, largely due to gifts from The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston. These gifts helped create numerous endowed chairs and professorships, initiated the Brown Scholars Program for students, and created the Brown Symposium, which is now in its 29th year.

According to Bill Jones’ To Survive and Excel: The Story of Southwestern University 1840-2000, “Fleming was one of the most student-oriented Presidents in Southwestern’s history. … During his administration, compulsory chapel and assembly were discontinued, all dress codes were removed, a Student Liaison Committee was set up to talk with Trustees at the time of each regular Board meeting, a modern student life program was inaugurated, and student housing was improved.”

“Durwood Fleming’s impact on Southwestern has been enormous,” adds President Jake B. Schrum, who was personally influenced by Fleming while he was an undergraduate at the University. “His insistence on combining superb academics with value-centered education and his far-reaching personal relationships, especially with Southwestern friends in Houston, continue to influence and support the way the University views its role in society and pursues its core purposes. History will smile on his positive life and his significant legacy. Southwestern owes him a deep sense of gratitude.”