DALLAS (SMU) — A challenge grant established by the Texas Methodist Foundation through the generosity of an anonymous donor will match all gifts, up to a total of $1 million, for the new building program of Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University.

“The Perkins building program will enable SMU’s School of Theology to provide expanded facilities and resources to enhance the education of future ministers and other church leaders,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “The challenge grant from the Texas Methodist Foundation will encourage additional donors to help us reach the goal of this important building program.”

The challenge grant from the Texas Methodist Foundation will be added to the lead gift of $6 million from the Perkins-Prothro Foundation and Elizabeth Perkins Prothro, which provided approximately half of the funds 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 to be named in honor of Elizabeth Perkins Prothro of Wichita Falls.

“The partnership among the Texas Methodist Foundation, the anonymous donor and Perkins School of Theology at SMU is a marvelous sign of the vital relationship that links together the mission of the theological school and the mission of the church,” said William B. Lawrence, dean of Perkins School of Theology. “We are very grateful for the immensely important work of the Texas Methodist Foundation and for the commitment to the finest theological education possible which this anonymous gift will help us to achieve.”

The new 28,000-square-foot 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.

“The Texas Methodist Foundation is always honored to help donors fulfill their dreams for ministry,” said Foundation President Tom Locke. “This generous challenge grant will have far-reaching effects. It will enable Perkins to realize its vision for shaping pastoral leaders for The United Methodist Church, and it will inspire others to invest in that important work as well.”

The Texas Methodist Foundation, located in Austin, was established in 1938 by a group of United Methodist clergy and laity representing the Church’s six Annual Conferences of Texas. Its purposes are to empower the Church in achieving its missions and to provide resources that enable United Methodists to advance Christian ministries through their gifts. The Foundation awards grants from endowments created by donors to support United Methodist programs in Texas.

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.