The following is from the Jan. 28, 2007, edition of The Dallas Morning News.

SMU long benefited by family

By Robert Miller
The Dallas Morning News

The Perkins-Prothro family of Wichita Falls, whose financial support of Southern Methodist University's Perkins School of Theology spans three generations, has given an additional $6 million to the school.

This latest donation will provide about half of the funds required to renovate two early 1950s classroom and office buildings, Kirby Hall and Selecman Hall, and to build a 28,000-square-foot building to be named in honor of Elizabeth Perkins Prothro.

The $6 million constitutes a combined gift from the Perkins-Prothro Foundation and Mrs. 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.

"Joe and Lois Perkins were founding contributors to SMU, and the Perkins-Prothro family has played a longstanding role in the university's development," said Dr. Gerald Turner, SMU's president.

"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."

Perkins dean William B. Lawrence said their generosity "is a vibrant testimony to the Christian faith" reflected in the words of clergyman and hymn writer Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley, founder of Methodism:

"It unites 'knowledge and vital piety,' " Dr. Lawrence said. "These leadership gifts and the new building named for Mrs. Prothro reaffirm that Perkins School of Theology remains committed to higher learning and real experience as essential elements in the preparation of leaders for Christian ministry.

"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."

On the blueprint

Construction will begin in September on the building, to be located at the southern end of the Theology School quadrangle, just north of Highland Park United Methodist Church.

Dr. Turner said the building will house facilities for education and community uses, including a 3,200-square-foot auditorium for public events, plus spaces for dining services, a student computer lab, a dedicated student commons, preaching lab, classrooms, seminar rooms and lecture halls.

In addition, the redesigned building complex will include two cloistered spaces for outdoor activities.

Family tradition

The latest gift from the Perkins-Prothro family to the theology school continues a family tradition of support that began with Joe and Lois Perkins and continued to the late Vin Prothro, son of Elizabeth and Charles Prothro, and his wife, Caren Prothro.

Vin Prothro played a major role in the 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.

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 the Perkins School of Theology, including its highly acclaimed Bridwell Library.

Elizabeth Prothro and her late husband, Charles, who died in 2001, 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 the Bridwell Library in fall 2006. Charles Prothro provided the Galleries previously in honor of his wife on their 50th wedding anniversary.

Trustee, owner, honoree

A member of SMU's class of 1939, Mrs. Prothro earned her bachelor's degree in government and political science.

She was a member of the SMU board of trustees from 1972 through '87 and was named a trustee emeritus 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, which surpassed its goal by raising $542 million from 1997 to 2002.

Mrs. Prothro has been honored by her alma mater with the SMU Distinguished Alumni Award in 1978 and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 1996. Also in 1996, Elizabeth and Charles Prothro received SMU's Mustang Award, which recognizes longtime service and philanthropy to the university.

Mrs. Prothro is vice president and a trustee of the Perkins-Prothro Foundation and the owner of the Perkins-Prothro Co., which was founded in Wichita Falls just before World War II by her father and husband to manage their oil, natural gas and cattle ranching interests.

Perkins School of Theology was one of SMU's three original schools that opened in 1915. One of five university-related theological institutions of the United Methodist Church, it offers master's degrees in several fields and doctoral degrees in ministry and religious studies.

Today, Perkins enrolls students from several denominations and has alumni serving in all 50 states and more than 30 countries.

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