May 1, 2008

Joining Caren Prothro are (from left) Vice President for Development and External Affairs Brad Cheves, Provost Paul Ludden, Chair of Biological Sciences William Orr and President R. Gerald Turner.

With a $3.6 million gift to establish the
C. Vincent Prothro Biological Sciences Initiative, Dedman College has its first endowed chair in this field of science.

The gift from Caren Prothro and the Perkins-Prothro Foundation will provide $2 million for a Distinguished Chair of Biological Sciences, whose work will be supported through a $1 million Endowed Research Fund. Named in honor of Prothro’s late husband, a longtime SMU supporter, the gift also will provide $500,000 for a Graduate Fellowship Fund and $100,000 for an Undergraduate Scholarship Fund.

Caren Prothro, a member of the Dedman College’s Executive Board and of SMU’s Board of Trustees, says that her late husband understood the importance of science education for advancements in research and health care. “Our family is investing in what we consider to be a potential center of excellence at SMU, taking an already outstanding department to the next level of scientific teaching and research.”

The Prothro Initiative is expected to attract additional grant funding and “strengthen SMU’s connection with the larger scientific and medical community in the Dallas area,” says Dedman Interim Dean Caroline Brettell.

A distinguished chairholder can be a rainmaker – someone who “attracts other faculty and top-notch graduate students and elevates the ranking of the department,” she adds.

The Department of Biological Sciences, chaired by William C. Orr, attracts the largest number of SMU’s undergraduate majors in the natural sciences. Of the current 126 biology majors and 21 biochemistry majors, many are preparing for careers in medical fields or scientific research. The department also offers research-oriented M.S. and Ph.D. degrees; 16 graduate students are currently enrolled.

Research by the 11-member faculty focuses on genetics and developmental biology, aging and metabolism, the biochemical characterization of protein structures and functions, the role of chromatin in transcriptional gene regulation, and infectious diseases.