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Child Prodigy To Attend University Of Virginia For Ph.D. In Mathematics

June 4, 2003 -- Thirteen-year-old Gregory R. Smith completed one goal Saturday when he received his bachelor’s degree from Randolph-Macon College. Now the child prodigy is aiming at another by enrolling in the University of Virginia’s graduate studies program.

Smith intends to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics as the first of several doctoral degrees. He plans to take two summer courses and will be at the University for orientation on June 9, his 14th birthday.

“The University of Virginia has been my first choice all along,” Smith said.

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 are equally excited about Smith’s selection. Gene Block, vice president 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 (with minors in history and biology) 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 tireless 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.”

The precocious wisdom of his message, plus his gifted intellect and humble manner, have made him a favorite among media. He has appeared four times on “The Oprah Show,” been profiled twice on “60 Minutes” and been on the cover of numerous periodicals. His graduation from Randolph-Macon was covered by the major networks, and he continues to field a steady stream of interviews for domestic and international print and broadcast media.

Nominated in 2002 and 2003 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 lives in Albemarle County with his mother, Janet, and father, Robert.

Contacts: Lee Graves, (434) 924-6857 or Carol Wood, (434) 924-6189

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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Last Modified: Wednesday, 04-Jun-2003 09:14:10 EDT
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