DALLAS (SMU) — The impact of a beloved SMU professor will continue for generations to come through a bequest from his wife. The $3.3 million bequest from the estate of Catherine Perrine, wife of the late English Professor Laurence Perrine, will fund scholarships and an endowed faculty chair in Dedman College’s Department of English.
A total of $1.5 million of the bequest will establish the Laurence and Catherine Perrine Endowed Chair in English, which will support a faculty position specializing in creative writing.
An additional $1 million will establish the Laurence and Catherine Perrine Endowed President’s Scholarship Fund to support at least two President’s Scholarships, SMU’s most prestigious academic scholarship. The President’s Scholars will be chosen from among Dedman College majors.
The remainder of the Perrine bequest will establish the Perrine Endowed University Scholarship Fund to provide scholarships for English majors, who will be known as Perrine Scholars in English.
As SMU approaches the centennial of its founding, in 2011, and its opening, in 2015, it is increasing resources for students, faculty, academic programs and the overall campus experience. The Perrine gift will support that effort.
“The Perrines have been an integral part of the University family for many years,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Through his teaching and scholarship, Dr. Perrine enriched the lives of SMU students over three decades, and Mrs. Perrine assured that his legacy will continue through her generous bequest. Planned giving, such as this, enables individuals to leave a lasting legacy to benefit future generations of students.”
In addition to her bequest, during her lifetime Catherine Perrine had established three annuities in which SMU became the beneficiary at the time of her death in 2006. She met her future husband when she was teaching freshman English at SMU from 1948 to 1950. Subsequently, she became active in civic affairs and statewide environmental planning, particularly water planning issues. She received many honors for her environmental activities, which included the Governor’s Water Task Force, Clean Water Council and Trinity River Corridor Citizens Committee.
After earning B.A. and M.A. degrees from Oberlin College and a Ph.D. from Yale University, Laurence Perrine began his distinguished career as a member of SMU’s English faculty in 1946 and was named the Daisy Deane Frensley Professor of English Literature in 1968. He gained a national reputation from his classic textbooks, Sound and Sense and Story and Structure, first published in the 1950s. Originally developed for use in Perrine’s poetry class, Sound and Sense became one of the most influential works in American education. Through his books, hundreds of thousands of high school and college students have learned to read works of literature with perception and appreciation. Updated versions of the Perrine textbooks are still in use.
Perrine was one of the founders of SMU’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter in 1949. In his honor, the chapter awards a Perrine Prize each year to a member of SMU’s undergraduate faculty in liberal studies “who embodies the ideals of Phi Beta Kappa and the tradition of excellence fostered by Professor Perrine.” Perrine retired as the Frensley Professor Emeritus in 1980 and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from SMU in 1988. He died in 1995.
“Whole generations of young people can attribute their enjoyment and understanding of literature to Laurence Perrine,” said Interim Dedman Dean Caroline Brettell. “His influence continues through this generous bequest, which will enable the Department of English to strengthen its creative writing program with a new endowed faculty position and allow Dedman College to attract some of the nation’s brightest students through additional scholarship opportunities.”
SMU added a creative writing specialization to its B.A. degree program in English in 1975. Since then, the creative writing program has produced a number of writers who are pursuing successful writing and teaching careers. The SMU Department of English also offers an M.A. degree and will begin offering a Ph.D. this fall.