September 11, 2009
DALLAS (SMU) — SMU’s Perkins School of Theology began a significant new chapter when it dedicated Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall, and renovations to Kirby and Selecman Halls, on Friday, Sept. 11. Prothro, who embraced and then expanded her family’s support for SMU during a lifetime of philanthropy and leadership, died May 23 in Wichita Falls.
"My mother believed with all her heart in the importance of learning and the power of knowledge,” said daughter Kay Yeager. “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.”
The Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall, a 20,000-square-foot Perkins School of Theology facility that is the centerpiece of a revamped theology quad, is an exclamation point to that legacy. (See time-lapse video of the hall's construction below. )
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 Mrs. 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.
“Elizabeth Prothro 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.”
Mrs. Prothro was a member of SMU’s class of 1939, earning a Bachelor of Arts in government and political science. She later served as an SMU trustee from 1972-87 and was named a trustee emerita in 1991. She was a founding member of the boards of Perkins School of Theology and Colophon/Friends of the SMU Libraries and later served on the Texas Committee of The Campaign for SMU.
Among her many honors are the SMU Distinguished Alumni Award in 1978 and honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 1996. She and her husband, Charles, who died in 2001, jointly received SMU’s Mustang Award in 1996 in recognition of their longtime service and philanthropy to the University. The Perkins-Prothro family, including Mrs. Prothro, was honored in 2004 with the Medallion of Merit from the Texas Methodist Foundation for their contributions and service to the Foundation and The United Methodist Church.
“She 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,” said William B. Lawrence, dean of SMU’s Perkins School of Theology. “It is appropriate that we honor her on this day.”
An environmentally friendly building, Prothro Hall is eligible for LEED Certified Certification. The building houses facilities for education and community uses, including 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.
A private university located in the heart of Dallas, SMU is building on the vision of its founders, who imagined a distinguished center for learning emerging from the spirit of the city. Today, 11,000 students benefit from the national opportunities and international reach afforded by the quality of SMU’s seven degree-granting schools.