Longtime SMU benefactor Elizabeth Perkins Prothro dies

Elizabeth Perkins ProthroElizabeth Perkins Prothro, a longtime SMU benefactor, died May 23 in Wichita Falls. Mrs. Prothro was the daughter of the late Joe J. and Lois Perkins, who were founding contributors to SMU in 1913, and later, in the early 1940s, endowed the SMU Theology School, which in 1945 was named in their honor.

“Elizabeth Prothro has left an indelible mark on SMU and on all who knew her,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Her contributions to this University and to its students, faculty and staff are truly historic. We join the Perkins-Prothro family in mourning her passing, but also in celebrating her extraordinary life.”

Services took place May 26 at the First United Methodist Church in Wichita Falls.

In January 2007, Mrs. Prothro, with the Perkins-Prothro Foundation, provided the lead gift of $6 million to help launch a building program for the Perkins School of Theology at SMU. The plans included the construction of a new 20,000-square-foot facility to be named Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall, in her honor. A ribbon cutting and dedication of the new building is scheduled for Sept. 11, 2009. SMU will honor Mrs. Prothro’s contributions with a celebration of her life following the September dedication.

Including the $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 her parents two years before the University opened in 1915. Most of the family’s support has been for Perkins School of Theology, including its Bridwell Library, but other gifts have been designated for the Perkins Administration Building and Perkins Natatorium.

Mrs. Prothro earned a Bachelor of Arts in government and political science from SMU in 1939. She and her husband, Charles, who preceded her in death in 2001, provided some $7 million in gifts to the Perkins School of Theology in 1997, including funds for endowed scholarships, renovation of Perkins Chapel and a permanent collection of rare Bibles and related works spanning eight centuries.

Mrs. Prothro was a SMU Board of Trustees member from 1972-87 and was named a trustee emeritus in 1991. She was a founding member of the boards of Perkins School of Theology and Friends of the SMU Libraries/Colophon and later served on the Texas Committee of The Campaign for SMU.

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