Preparing Leaders For Faithful Service: $6 Million Gift To Launch Perkins Theology Building Program

A gift of $6 million 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.

“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,” says President R. Gerald Turner.

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Elizabeth Perkins Prothro

In addition, 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.

As the lead gift, the new $6 million Perkins-Prothro commitment will provide half of the funds to be sought for the 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,’” says Perkins Dean William B. Lawrence. “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 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 latest gift from the Perkins-Prothro family to the Theology School continues a family tradition of support spanning three generations – from Joe and Lois Perkins to the late Vin Prothro, Dallas business leader and son of Elizabeth and Charles Prothro, and Vin’s wife, Caren Prothro. Vin Prothro played a major role in extensive renovation of Perkins Chapel, which was completed in 1999, the year before his death. Caren Prothro, a Dallas civic leader, has been a member of the SMU Board of Trustees since 1992.

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The new addition will be located on the south end of the Perkins School of Theology quadrangle, just north of Highland Park United Methodist Church, between Bishop Boulevard and Hillcrest Avenue.

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.

Elizabeth Prothro and her late husband, Charles, provided gifts totaling $7 million to Perkins School of Theology in 1997 as part of The Campaign for SMU. These gifts included funds for endowed scholarships, renovation of Perkins Chapel and a permanent collection of rare Bibles and related works spanning eight centuries. The collection was exhibited in the Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Galleries of Bridwell Library in the fall of 2006. Charles Prothro provided the galleries previously in honor of his wife on their 50th wedding anniversary.

For more information, visit smu.edu/prothrogift2007.

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