DALLAS (SMU) — A gift of $6 million to Southern Methodist University from the Perkins-Prothro family of Wichita Falls will launch a building program for Perkins School of Theology. This is a combined gift from the Perkins-Prothro Foundation and Elizabeth Perkins Prothro, daughter of the late Joe J. and Lois Perkins, who endowed the SMU Theology School in the early 1940s. The school was named in their honor in 1945.

“Joe and Lois Perkins were founding contributors to SMU, and the Perkins-Prothro family has played a longstanding role in the University’s development,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner, “As we approach the centennial of SMU’s founding in 2011 and opening in 2015, we are especially grateful for this family’s vision and generosity through the years, which have helped to make Perkins School of Theology one of the nation’s leaders in theological education.”

As the lead gift, the new $6 million Perkins-Prothro commitment will provide approximately half of the funds to be sought in the building program. Plans include extensive renovation of two classroom and office buildings, Kirby and Selecman Halls, built in the early 1950s, and construction of a new building. The new 28,000-square-foot facility will be named in honor of Elizabeth Perkins Prothro.

“The continuing generosity of the Prothro family and the Perkins-Prothro Foundation is a vibrant testimony to the Christian faith that, in the words of Charles Wesley, unites ‘knowledge and vital piety,’” said William B. Lawrence, dean of Perkins School of Theology. “These leadership gifts and the new building named for Mrs. Prothro reaffirm that Perkins School of Theology remains committed to higher learning and real experience as essential elements in the preparation of leaders for Christian ministry. Their outstanding support will help Perkins School of Theology and SMU provide the finest facilities possible for preparing women and men with the learning and experience that they need to serve faithfully in the 21st century.”

The new building will be constructed at the southern end of the Theology School quadrangle, just north of Highland Park United Methodist Church. It will house facilities for education and community uses, including a 3,200-square-foot auditorium for public events, plus spaces for dining services, student computer lab, a dedicated student commons, preaching lab, classrooms, seminar rooms and lecture halls. The redesigned building complex will include two cloistered spaces for outdoor activities. Groundbreaking is anticipated in September 2007.

Including the new $6 million gift, the Perkins and Prothro families and their foundations have given more than $36.3 million to SMU since the first gift from Joe and Lois Perkins in 1913, two years before the University opened. Most of the family’s SMU support has been designated for Perkins School of Theology, including its Bridwell Library.

Perkins School of Theology was one of SMU’s three original schools that opened in 1915. One of five university-related theological institutions of The United Methodist Church, it offers Master’s degrees in several fields and doctoral degrees in ministry and religious studies. Today, Perkins enrolls students from several denominations, and has alumni serving in all 50 states and more than 30 countries.