The Cox School was founded in 1920 as the Department of Commerce at SMU, at the request of the Dallas, Texas business community. In 1921, the Department was renamed the School of Commerce. In 1941, the Board of Trustees established the School of Commerce as a separate entity from the University, thereby creating the School of Business Administration. At the same time, the Trustees also approved the Bachelor of Business Administration degree (BBA). The graduate program began in 1949 with the approval of the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program.
In 1965, the SMU Foundation for Business Administration was created. Once again, the School worked in partnership with leading Dallas businesses, as this group of corporate advisers helped guide the School's direction and strategy. Today, this group is called the Cox Executive Board, and it consists of corporate executives, successful entrepreneurs, and civic leaders from around the world.
Renamed in 1978 in honor of Dallas businessman Edwin L. Cox, SMU Cox has in recent years solidified its position as one of the top business schools in the country and worldwide.