December 9, 2005 -- Carl W. Smith, one of the University of Virginia’s most generous supporters, died on Thursday, Dec. 8. He was 78.
A native of Wise and a 1951 graduate of the University, Smith and his wife, Hunter J. Smith, supported a variety of initiatives at the University during his lifetime. He served as a member of the Board of Visitors from 1980 to 1988, chairing its Finance Committee, and was a two-term trustee of the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration Foundation.
In 1997, Smith’s gift of $25 million was the largest single monetary contribution in the University’s history. The bulk of that unrestricted gift – $23 million – went toward the expansion of Scott Stadium while $2 million was pledged to the construction of a new football stadium at the University’s College at Wise. The area encompassing Scott Stadium is named the Carl Smith Center in Smith’s honor.
In addition, the Smiths' gifts have supported the schools of architecture, law, medicine and business; the Children's Medical Center; the performing arts center; the University's marching band; and the Jefferson Scholars program.
“Carl Smith came to the University of Virginia in the late 1940s and, in many ways, never left,” said University of Virginia President John T. Casteen III. “He created a life here with his beloved wife Hunter and made Charlottesville his home. His devotion to all aspects of the University is legendary, in particular his unabashed enthusiasm for athletics.
“He was overjoyed at the naming of the Carl Smith Center and often was spotted walking the construction site as the expansion of the stadium came to fruition. While Carl Smith's name is engraved in stone in the clock tower overlooking Scott Stadium, it also will reside in the hearts of those in our community who knew and cared deeply about him. Carl's death is a great loss, and we share in his family's grief.”
Added Gordon F. Rainey Jr., a member of the Board of Visitors and chairman of the University’s $3 billion campaign: “The University has lost a dear friend in Carl Smith. Carl and Hunter Smith’s record of service and generosity to the University, over many years, has been an inspiration to the entire University community. We will miss him very much.”
In 2004, Smith retired as the head of AMVEST Corp., the international company that he founded in 1961. He was elected director emeritus of the Charlottesville-based firm, which specializes in coal mining, natural gas production and finance.
Smith was a director of the National Mining Association, as well as a director of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.
He received his degree in economics from the College of Arts & Sciences in 1951. The recipient of an athletic scholarship, he was an offensive guard for the Cavaliers football team. He often recalled how he balanced his time between a quiet corner of Alderman Library and the playing field in Scott Stadium.
His support of the University’s athletic program was based on his belief that academics always took precedence. When he made the historic $25 million gift, Smith said: “I think the University is going about this in the right way. Many schools put sports first as they aim for national standings in athletics. Here, academic programs have consistently been ranked among the best in the country. Our sports programs are now following their lead.
“The University’s goals include achieving excellence in a broad spectrum of sports, and that includes team sports as well as club sports and intramurals. I hope this will encourage others to step forward to support all athletics programs at U.Va.”
Craig Littlepage, director of athletics at Virginia, said that Smith’s love for the University knew no bounds.
“Of all the people who have touched Virginia athletics – from student-athletes to coaches, administrators and alumni, none had a greater love for the University than Carl Smith,” Littlepage said. “His impact on our programs will be felt forever, and the Carl Smith Center will be a lasting legacy of the good he did for the University and Virginia football. The collective thoughts of those associated with the Department of Athletics will be with Hunter and the family.”
Among the Smiths’ other gifts was an endowment fund that has been used, in combination with a 2003 grant from the Getty Grant Program, to evaluate more than 100 sites on the Grounds as part of a historic preservation master plan. Carl Smith served as chairman of the Jeffersonian Restoration Advisory Board, which oversaw efforts to preserve the University’s historic buildings.
Smith is survived by his wife of 53 years, Hunter J. Smith; three children, Carl Vicars Smith, Stuart Peyton Smith, and Hunter Smith Croson; and one grandson, Corey Carter Croson.
A memorial service will be held at the University of Virginia Chapel at 4 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 12, 2005 followed by a reception at Alumni Hall.