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Perkins-Prothro Gives Southwestern $3.5 Million For Lifelong Learning Center

Perkins-Prothro Foundation of Wichita Falls, Texas, has announced a gift of $3.5 million to Southwestern University in support of a new learning center.

The Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Center for Lifelong Learning will house the Paideia Program and the Farrington Suite, which will accommodate centralization of student services. The 49,000 square foot facility also includes space for Information Technology Services and faculty offices. It will be Southwestern’s first facility designed to meet “green building,” or environmentally sustainable, design guidelines.

Southwestern’s Paideia Program is a comprehensive program focusing on both academic and practical knowledge. The program, now two years old, builds strong connections between the classroom and the larger community. Paideia Scholars pursue the same rigorous academic curriculum followed by all Southwestern students and make an additional commitment to engage in significant leadership, service, intercultural and research experiences. The fundamental goal of Paideia is to instill a tradition of lifelong engagement in students, while preparing them for meaningful work that uses their talents and skills in deep and powerful ways. It also connects abstract knowledge with real world application. The first class of Paideia Scholars will graduate in 2006.

Southwestern’s President, Jake B. Schrum, described this gift as “a splendid endorsement of the Perkins and Prothro families’ belief that Southwestern, a United Methodist college, continues to prepare graduates who are ‘bright, moral, and courageous.’” Southwestern University’s relationship with the Perkins-Prothro families dates back nearly 100 years. Mrs. Lois Craddock Perkins attended Southwestern from 1908 to 1911. She would later move to Wichita Falls where she taught elementary school prior to her marriage to Joe J. Perkins in 1918.

Joe Perkins discovered oil on land he purchased for mining coal and began a lifetime of generous giving and philanthropy, especially in support of the Methodist church and its related institutions. The Perkins School of Theology at SMU was so named to honor the Perkins’ contributions to the church’s educational endeavors. In 1943, Joe and Lois founded the Perkins Lecture Series held at the First United Methodist Church in Wichita Falls. The Lecture Series, which continues today, brings speakers whose lectures further Christianity and benefit Methodism and the public at large.

The Perkins’ gifts to Southwestern University, which is affiliated with the United Methodist Church, have been numerous and have provided for the construction of the Lois Perkins Chapel in 1950 and support of the office of the University Chaplain, among other things. Their daughter Elizabeth Perkins Prothro and her husband Charles Prothro carried on that philanthropic tradition, particularly in support of education. Gifts from the Prothros and Perkins have provided for renovations to the chapel, library acquisitions, expansion of the Frank A. Smith Library Center and construction of the Red and Charline McCombs Campus Center.

Beyond its financial contributions, the family has also given significantly of its time to the University. Charles Prothro served on Southwestern’s Board of Trustees from 1952-1982. He was chair of the Board for 11 of those years. Continuing his father’s generous service to the University, Joe N. Prothro joined the Board of Trustees in 1982 and served until 1998. He now serves on the University’s Board of Visitors. The family’s philanthropic efforts have been recognized many times over the years. In 1944, Lois Craddock Perkins was awarded the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Southwestern University and received its Distinguished Alumna Award in 1970. The Council of Independent Colleges, of which Southwestern is a member institution, recognized the work of Elizabeth Perkins Prothro with its 2003 Award for Philanthropy.