Caren H. Prothro began her tenure as chair of SMU’s Board of Trustees on June 1 and is a co-chair of The Second Century Campaign. Mrs. Prothro also served as chair of the board’s Academic Policy, Planning and Management Committee, was a member of the “Time to Lead” campaign executive committee and has served SMU on numerous other boards and committees. Her late husband, C. Vincent Prothro ’68, served as co-chair of the Perkins School of Theology capital campaign and was the son of Elizabeth Perkins Prothro ’39. Campaign Update spoke to Mrs. Prothro about her new role as board chair.
Campaign Update: You, your husband and your husband’s family have an extraordinary tradition of service to SMU. Why did you feel it was important for you to continue that tradition?
Prothro: The relationship between my husband’s family and SMU dates back virtually to the University’s beginning. And though I am not a graduate, I discovered SMU to be a great source of enrichment, whether I was taking noncredit courses or enjoying a performance at the Meadows School. I have had the good fortune to serve on a number of boards at SMU, and both the work I have done and the friendships I developed have been very satisfying. Under the extraordinary leadership of Gerald Turner, SMU is in the process of taking a quantum leap forward, and I am excited about being a part of that.
CU: What priorities do you regard as keys to SMU’s future?
Prothro: My predecessor, Carl Sewell (’66), did so much to emphasize bringing students who enhance the learning environment to the campus and setting a goal of achieving an average SAT score of 1300, and we’re going to build on the momentum we have attained as we continue that effort. The other part that I want to hammer away on is the campaign goal of reaching 100 endowed faculty positions, including more faculty who can draw top research dollars. I am also hopeful that there will be a renewed focus on Dedman College, the heart and soul of SMU, and an emphasis on investment in faculty, research and graduate fellowships.
CU: SMU’s history is integrally connected to the history of Dallas and North Texas. How do you see SMU’s ongoing role as a resource for the city and region?
Prothro: High on the Hilltop by (retired SMU Professor) Marsh Terry (’53) traces the strong ties between Dallas and SMU, and describes SMU’s many contributions to the growth of the city. So many of Dallas’ civic leaders were educated at SMU, and we have to continue to produce leaders who will contribute to the city’s progress. Dallas, like SMU, is in the process of moving to the next level. We have the extraordinary arts infrastructure that has been built over the last two decades and is attracting international attention. We have great medical centers. We have all of the global business activity that has made the city so dynamic. SMU is going to be an important partner in helping shape what the city will become in the next 20 years.
CU: As a campaign co-chair, how would you describe the campaign’s potential impact on SMU’s next 100 years?
Prothro: The campaign is helping us to be the best we can be, and supporting our drive to be an international leader in education. I was delighted to learn that SMU had moved up to number 56 in the new U.S. News and World Report rankings. It means we’re building on something that we’re already doing quite well. There is a sense that we are on the cusp of something great. We have all of the elements in place to be a university with a global presence and influence. The University and the community will both be better off if we can meet our goals. With the help of alumni, parents and friends around the world, I know we can.