The life of Elizabeth Perkins Prothro was built on faith, family and philanthropy. Her legacy of thoughtful leadership and generous support is evident at SMU and other institutions of higher learning across the country, as well as myriad religious and cultural organizations. Her contributions established countless scholarships, faculty positions, rare collections and spaces for worship, art and education.
Born in Dallas in 1919, Elizabeth Perkins grew up in Wichita Falls and graduated from Wichita Falls High School in 1935. She attended Sweet Briar College in Virginia and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in government and political science from SMU in 1939. She married Charles Nelson Prothro of Wichita Falls in 1938. They had four children: Joe N. Prothro, Kay Prothro Yeager ’61, C. Vincent (Vin) Prothro and Mark H. Prothro ’72, as well as 10 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.
Mrs. Prothro served as a member of the SMU Board of Trustees from 1972–87 and was named a trustee emerita in 1991. She was honored by SMU with its Distinguished Alumni Award in 1978 and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 1996. That same year, she and her husband received SMU’s Mustang Award, which recognizes longtime service and philanthropy to the University.
Mrs. Prothro and her family have enriched the lives and learning of generations of SMU students. She was the daughter of the late Joe J. and Lois Craddock Perkins, who endowed SMU’s Theology School in the 1940s. The school was named in their honor in 1945.
In addition to the new Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall we celebrate today, Mrs. Prothro contributed significantly to many aspects of University life, including support for Bridwell Library, Dedman School of Law, Meadows School of the Arts and Perkins School of Theology. A gift from the Prothro family toward the 1999 renovation of Perkins Chapel revitalized this sacred space, which serves as the center of the University’s worship and the school’s teaching and outreach.
Bridwell Library, which includes The Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Galleries, houses a collection of rare books given by Mrs. Prothro and her late husband, Charles, that reflects her longtime love of the Bible and the history of its transmission and translation.Mrs. Prothro touched countless lives and ministries. More than a decade ago, the Prothros provided a challenge gift to support scholarships and internships at Perkins School of Theology, and the gift was multiplied by others throughout the South Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church. The Prothro family also has given generously in support of outstanding faculty, establishing a fund to support chairs in preaching and Old Testament interpretation.