June 13-26, 2003
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Gregory Smith turned 14 June 9, the day he registered for classes to start his graduate studies at U.Va.
Gregory Smith turned 14 June 9, the day he registered for classes to start his graduate studies at U.Va.

Child prodigy now U.Va. grad student

By Lee Graves

Gregory R. Smith completed one goal May 31 when he received his bachelor’s degree from Randolph-Macon College at the age of 13. Now the child prodigy is aiming at another by jumping into the University’s graduate studies program.
Smith started the first of two summer classes Tuesday, the day after his 14th birthday. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in mathematics, the first of several doctoral degrees he plans to obtain.

“The University of Virginia has been my first choice all along,” Smith said in announcing his decision last week. “It has been my plan since I graduated from high school to apply to U.Va. for my graduate work. I am so excited to have this wonderful opportunity to study at one of our country’s best universities.”

U.Va. officials have been equally excited about Smith’s selection. Gene Block, vice presi- dent and provost, said, “Greg will be a wonderful addition to our graduate studies program. His record of intellectual achievement, combined with his dedication to international service, fit well into the U.Va. tradition. We realize that it’s important not only to challenge Greg academically but also to provide an environment where he feels at home among peers.”

Smith has been recognized as a prodigy since early childhood. Born in West Reading, Pa., he was solving math problems at 14 months and reading by age 2. The family moved to Florida, where he completed his K-12 education in five years, then to Virginia, where at age 10 he enrolled at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland. He graduated cum laude with a degree in mathematics and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and five other honor fraternities.

Along the way Smith has used the media attention generated by his blazing academic pace to become a vocal advocate for the pursuit of peace and for children’s rights around the world. He founded International Youth Advocates and has served as youth ambassador for the Christian Children’s Fund and youth spokesperson for World Centers of Compassion for Children. During the past year, he has traveled throughout the United States and visited six countries on four continents. Humanitarian aid efforts are benefiting orphans in East Timor and youth in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Smith is helping people in Rwanda build their first public library.

He has met with presidents, including former President Bill Clinton and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev, as well as Nobel Peace laureates, such as Ireland’s Betty Williams and South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu. His efforts have brought him before the United Nations Security Council and several state legislatures.

One of Smith’s goals is to create an international symbol for the child, so that child-occupied buildings in conflict zones can be marked and protected. In addition, he hopes to create recognized safe havens in embattled areas so children will have shelters sanctioned by international law.

“I believe all children are born pure and innocent and only act with violence because we teach them hate and violence,” he said. “There must be peaceful parenting to have a peaceful future. It is up to us to create an environment that makes it possible for children to resist the corruptions that take us down violent and immoral paths.”

Nominated in 2002 and ’03 for the Nobel Peace Prize, Smith has been tapped to co-chair the World of Children Awards with Muhammad Ali. He is among 43 students in the nation to receive scholarships up to $50,000 a year for six years from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation for his graduate studies.

Smith, who has a Web site at http://www.gregoryrsmith.com/, lives in Albemarle County with his mother, Janet, and father, Robert.

Don Ramirez, a neighbor of the Smiths who also is associate chair and professor of mathematics at U.Va., said Greg will be taking courses in real analysis and abstract algebra this summer.

“We are very happy to have Greg as a graduate student in mathematics,” he said.


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