November 25, 2009

Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall is the centerpiece of the revamped Perkins School of Theology.

SMU’s Perkins School of Theology opened an important new chapter with the dedication of the new Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall and renovations to Kirby and Selecman Halls September 11.

Dean William Lawrence called the day a celebration of “an overwhelming experience of grace and an abundance of gifts.”

Elizabeth Perkins Prothro ’39, who embraced and then expanded her family’s support for SMU during a lifetime of philanthropy and leadership, died May 23 in Wichita Falls, Texas.

“My mother believed with all her heart in the importance of learning and the power of knowledge,” said daughter Kay Prothro Yeager ’61. “She decided early in life to maintain a family tradition of enabling others to better themselves through higher education, a legacy both her children and grandchildren are continuing to honor.”

Including the $6 million lead gift for the new building, the Perkins and Prothro families and their foundations have given more than $36.3 million to SMU since the first gift from Prothro’s parents, Joe J. and Lois Perkins, two years before the University opened in 1915. Joe J. and Lois Perkins endowed the SMU Theology School in the early 1940s. The school was named in their honor in 1945. 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.

The 20,000-square-foot Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall is the centerpiece of a revamped theology quad. The updated area includes a courtyard with a labyrinth design that serves as a contemplative public space.

The environmentally friendly Prothro Hall is eligible for LEED certification, an internationally recognized green building certification system. The building includes a 2,200-square-foot great hall for public events, a refectory for dining services, a student computer lab, preaching lab, classrooms, seminar rooms and two lecture halls.

Lawrence noted that Elizabeth Perkins Prothro “honored us not only with her financial generosity, but also with her profound commitment to the treasured books, music and worship that are essential to transmitting faith to the next generations.”


Joe N. Prothro and Kay Prothro Yeager ’61 with a portrait of their mother, Elizabeth Perkins Prothro, unveiled at the dedication.

Prothro donated almost 500 volumes in more than 50 languages to Bridwell Library in 1996. “The Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Bible Collection at Bridwell Library,” a recent exhibition, featured selections that ranged from an illuminated manuscript (c. 1250) to a five-volume Dove’s Press Bible (1903-05).

“Elizabeth Prothro left an indelible mark on SMU and on all who knew her,” said 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.”

The dedication ceremony concluded with a special hymn, “Prothro Hall,” written for the event by adjunct professor John Thornburg and Carlton R. Young, professor emeritus of church music at Emory University and former director of the Sacred Music program at Perkins. The hymn was performed by students under the direction of C. Michael Hawn, professor of church music and director of the Master of Sacred Music program.