To create and impart knowledge that will shape citizens who contribute to their communities and lead their professions in a global society.
Southern Methodist University’s mission is to be a leading private institution of higher learning that expands knowledge through research and teaching. Among its faculty, students and staff, the University develops skills and cultivates principled thought and wisdom. The University is dedicated to the values of academic freedom and open inquiry and to its United Methodist heritage.
To fulfill its mission, the University strives for quality, innovation and continuous improvement as it pursues the following goals:
Southern Methodist University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097; telephone number 404-679-4501) to award baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees.
Perkins School of Theology of Southern Methodist University is accredited by the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) in the United States and Canada (10 Summit Park Drive, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15275-1103; telephone number 412-788-6506) to award M.Div., C.M.M., M.S.M., M.T.S. and D.Min. degrees.
The primary mission of Perkins School of Theology, as a community devoted to theological study and teaching in the service of the church of Jesus Christ, is to prepare women and men for faithful leadership in Christian ministry.
Perkins School of Theology affirms its relationships to the community of learning that is Southern Methodist University, to the universal church (inclusive, ecumenical and global), to the United Methodist Church specifically and to its particular geographical and cultural setting in the southwestern United States.
These relationships are sources of strength and avenues of service for the school as it pursues its twin tasks of theological reflection and theological education to the glory of God.
The school of theology has been an integral part of Southern Methodist University since the latter’s founding. It grew out of a movement led by Bishop Seth Ward of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, to establish a theological school west of the Mississippi. Dr. E.D. Mouzon, dean of the Theological Department of Southwestern University and later bishop, became its first dean in 1914. With the opening of the University in the following year, the school of theology began its work as the church’s official theological school for the region west of the Mississippi. When ownership of the University was vested in the South Central Jurisdiction of The Methodist Church at the Uniting Conference of 1939, the school of theology became the official theological school of that jurisdiction.
Dean Mouzon was followed by Deans Hoyt M. Dobbs (1917), Paul B. Kern (1920), James Kilgore (1926), Eugene B. Hawk (1933), Merrimon Cuninggim (1951), Joseph D. Quillian Jr. (1960), James E. Kirby (1981), Robin W. Lovin (1994) and William B. Lawrence (2002).
Originally housed in Dallas Hall, the school occupied Kirby Hall (which is now Florence Hall in the law school) from 1925 to 1950. Beginning in 1945, the University received a series of large gifts from Mr. and Mrs. J.J. Perkins of Wichita Falls, Texas, that made possible the relocation and expansion of the school of theology and provided major endowment for its support. Six of the eight buildings on the present site in the southwest corner of the University campus were provided by these gifts. The Board of Trustees responded by naming the school the Perkins School of Theology.
The new campus, occupied in 1950, consisted of the chapel, Kirby Hall, four dormitories (Smith, Perkins, Martin and Hawk halls) and Bridwell Library. Several years later, Selecman Hall was added.
Bridwell Library of the Perkins School of Theology is Southern Methodist University’s principal bibliographic resource for the fields of theology and religious studies. The library houses more than 350,000 volumes in religion and related fields. In addition to the broad general collection, Bridwell Library Special Collections holds approximately 50,000 rare books and manuscripts. Particular strengths of the Special Collections include theology, church history, textually and historically significant editions of the Bible, Methodistica, Wesleyana and early printing. To enhance public and scholarly awareness and appreciation of the collections, Bridwell presents exhibitions and hosts lectures, conferences and workshops.
Completed in 1950, the original Bridwell Library building was a gift of Joseph Sterling Bridwell and his daughter Margaret Bridwell Bowdle of Wichita Falls. In the 1950s and early 1960s, they also made it possible for Bridwell to begin acquiring rare books. In 1973, the philanthropic organization Mr. Bridwell founded, the J. S. Bridwell Foundation, funded the doubling of the size of the library building. In the late 1980s, another major Bridwell Foundation gift permitted the renovation of the library. At the same time, a gift from Charles N. Prothro in honor of his wife, Elizabeth Perkins Prothro, made possible the addition of exhibition galleries to the library building. Today the library facilities include computer lab and wireless service, reference and periodical reading rooms, graduate student carrels and special-needs stations.
A great many other gifts have supported the school in many ways over the years. Its vitality and growth are the direct result of the generosity of scores of dedicated persons.
Theological reflection and education for ministry are the purpose of the school. However, these imply a concern for the total development of people in the community. This concern is manifest not only in the classroom and library, but also in a wide range of activities and associations, which make up the life of the school.
Worship is a central element in the life of the school. Brief services of worship led by students and faculty are held daily. The principal worship services of the school are held on Wednesdays and Thursdays. These services are planned by a committee of faculty and students and include elements from the many worship traditions represented in the Perkins community. Community lunches are held Tuesday through Friday during the term. Common meals, celebrating holidays or highlighting special groups or themes, take place several times each year. Individual resident hall groups also get together for meals and social events.
There are a number of student organizations and groups. Every regularly enrolled student is a member of the Perkins Student Association (PSA), which assumes responsibility for those aspects of student life and government that are not directly under the jurisdiction of the Perkins faculty. An elected PSA council governs the association. Student representatives also serve on the standing committees of the faculty. Committees of the PSA council deal with social action, social life, ecumenical affairs, academic concerns and worship. Several active student groups are recognized and funded by the PSA council, including Black Seminarians Association, Los Seminaristas, the Order of St. Luke, Anglicans at Perkins, Soul Food, Interfaith Dialogue, Affirming Religious Community and the Order of St. Julian.
The Seminary Singers is a choral group open to all Perkins students, under the leadership of the Master of Sacred Music program. The group sings in the weekly chapel services and on other occasions throughout the year.
Special programming and events for the Perkins community, as well as other groups and activities for Perkins students and their families, are organized under the leadership of the PSA council and the director of Student Services.