Benefactor Elizabeth Perkins Prothro died Saturday, May 23, 2009, at her home in Wichita Falls, Texas, at the age of 89. Texas has lost a beloved friend and community member, while all of higher education has lost a respected philanthropist and devoted advocate.
Services will be conducted at 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 26, at First United Methodist Church of Wichita Falls. A reception in the Prothro Family Atrium will follow the service. Private interment will be at Riverside Cemetery in Wichita Falls.
Prothro was born Sept. 7, 1919, in Dallas to Lois Craddock Perkins and Joe J. Perkins of Wichita Falls. She attended Wichita Falls public schools, graduating in 1935 from Wichita Falls High School, and attended Sweet Briar and Southern Methodist University, from which she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1939. She married Charles Nelson Prothro of Wichita Falls in 1938.
Elizabeth and Charles Prothro continued a family tradition, initiated by her parents in Dallas in 1913, of championing higher education. Major recipients of their generosity include Sweet Briar, SMU in Dallas, and the University of Texas in Austin.
She also made contributions to Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas; Baylor University in Waco, Texas; Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C.; and Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls. She served on the SMU board of trustees, executive board of Perkins School of Theology at SMU, and MSU board of regents.
At Sweet Briar, her family made possible the Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Natatorium, Prothro Hall in the Student Commons and one of the College's largest endowed scholarship funds, the Prothro Scholarship.
She also was a charter member of the Keystone Society when it was created in 2002 to recognize donors whose lifetime commitments to SBC have totaled more than $1 million, and she belonged to the Silver Rose Society, having been a College donor for more than 25 years.
In 2001, Prothro was one of 22 recipients of Sweet Briar's Centennial Award for making a significant impact on the College during its first 100 years, and she received the Distinguished Alumna Award in 2006.
Prothro also was a noted photographer whose work may be found in private collections, educational institutions, commercial settings and publications. Esteemed for her floral photographs, she served on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Board during the years the first lady was actively involved.
Prothro made possible the Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Photography Gallery at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas and was instrumental in providing the cornerstone gift and subsequent commitments for Ransom Center and the Prothro Theater at UT.
At SMU, Prothro and her family have contributed to endowed scholarships, fellowships and premier facilities. In addition, the university is home to her 485-volume collection of Bibles and related works spanning eight centuries. The collection grew from several volumes presented to Prothro by her husband in 1963 on their 25th anniversary.
Today, the collection is housed in the Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Galleries, a gift from her husband on their 50th anniversary, at Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology at SMU. Books from the collection have been exhibited at Sweet Briar, UT, Emory and Henry College, Southwestern University and Wichita Falls Museum and Art Center.
Her interest in Bibles spawned a broader interest in books and libraries, leading her to serve as president of Friends of SMU Libraries/Colophon and chairman of SMU Libraries Executive Board. A member of SMU Press, she served as editor of "SMU Reflections" (SMU Press, 1986) and also contributed photographs to the work.
Prothro was named recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award and honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by SMU, Doctor of Letters by Southwestern University, and the Award for Philanthropy by the Council of Independent Colleges. Her most recent honor was the naming of Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall at Perkins School of Theology at SMU in 2007.
Also a lifelong supporter of First United Methodist Church of Wichita Falls, Prothro was the first woman named chairman of the Official Board, in addition to serving on numerous committees. She held several positions in United Methodist Women, and taught Sunday school. Prothro and her husband were instrumental in construction of the Prothro Family Atrium at the church in 1997, among other contributions.
Other philanthropic interests in her city of residence included Wichita Falls Museum and Art Center, of which she was a founding member; and River Bend Nature Center, home to the Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Pavilion.
Prothro is survived by three children, Joe Prothro and wife, Dale; Kay Yeager and husband, Frank; Mark Prothro and wife, Dianne, all of Wichita Falls; and daughter-in-law, Caren Prothro of Dallas. Other survivors include grandchildren Kathryn R. Prothro, David Prothro and wife, Leslie; Nelson Prothro and wife, Jaclyn; Mary Perkins Prothro, Elizabeth Yeager, Linda Beltchev and husband, Alex; Vincent Prothro, Nita Clark and husband, Cullum; Holly Philbin and husband, Phillip; and Pat Prothro. Great-grandchildren include Reagan Lunn and wife, Ashley; Erica Green-Prothro, Christopher Prothro, and Katie Prothro; Lara Herreid, Yeager Edwards, Nicholas Beltchev, and Andrew Beltchev; Lillian Clark, Annabel Clark, and Charlotte Clark; Charles Philbin, Luke Philbin, and Mark Philbin. She also is survived by one great-great-grandchild, Parker Lunn.
She was preceded in death by her husband in 2001, their son, Charles Vincent (C. Vin) Prothro of Dallas in 2000, a younger sister, Dorothy Jo Perkins in 1926; and her mother and father in 1983 and 1960, respectively.
Honorary pallbearers are Ralph Bullington, Robert Priddy; nephews James J. Prothro and Charles B. Prothro, and all present and past employees of Perkins-Prothro Company.
In lieu of floral tributes, the family requests memorials be made to the First United Methodist Church Foundation, Wichita Falls, Texas; or Hospice of Wichita Falls.