Friday, April 01, 2011

this Week in Texas Methodist History April 3

Cornerstone Laid for Kirby Hall at SMU, April 3, 1924

As SMU was ending its first decade of existence, the School of Theology finally found a home of its own, Kirby Hall. The cornerstone of that building was laid during the Fondren Lectures on April 3, 1924. The cornerstone was laid by three MECS bishops, Boaz, Moore, and Mouzon and Bishop Herbert Welch of the MEC. The philanthropist who made the event possible, R. Harper Kirby (1861-1928) also addressed the assembled group of clergy and laity. Kirby came for a distinguished line of Texas educators. His maternal grandfather, Richard Swearingen, had been one of the founders of Soule University. His mother, Helen Kirby, had been dean of women at the University of Texas for 35 years. The University of Texas also boasted a Kirby Hall, this one a women’s dormitory.

Kirby amassed a fortune in farming, ranching, real estate, timber, and oil and used that fortune to promote Methodist causes. He was president of the Anti Saloon League and in 1919 and donated $100,000 of this own money to the cause of Prohibition. The $100,000 Kirby gave to establish Kirby Hall was a fraction of the estimated $2,000,000 he gave to various causes.

With the cornerstone laying in April, it is hard to believe that the building would be open in time for the fall semester, 1924, but it was—at least the third floor, the only floor that was finished at the time which had its first class on Sept. 24.

Kirby Hall is now Florence Hall and now is part of SMU’s Dedman School of Law, but the name Kirby Hall lives on in another building as part of Perkins School of Theology.


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