For Immediate Release—Friday, June 30, 2006
Mary E. McCrank
Media Relations Officer
Richard F. Smith, Distinguished Teaching
Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, dies at 77
GENESEO, N.Y.—Richard F. Smith, Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at the State University of New York at Geneseo, died Thursday morning at his home in Geneseo. He was 77.
Smith came to Geneseo in 1965 from SUNY Albany, where he was a professor of chemistry from 1957-65. During his time in Albany, from 1962-63, Smith also served as a National Science Foundation Faculty Fellow at UCLA.
At Geneseo, Smith served as chair of the chemistry department and was a pioneer for working with undergraduate students in research, co-authoring 41 articles with the students for publication in professional journals. In 1974, Smith became the first chemist in the SUNY system to attain the rank of Distinguished Teaching Professor. He was the third Geneseo professor to earn this rank. Smith retired from Geneseo in 1993.
A native of Lockport, N.Y., Smith received his bachelor's degree from Allegheny College in 1950 and his Ph.D. in 1954 from the University of Rochester. After two years as a polymer chemist with Monsanto Chemical Co. in Springfield, Mass., where he was awarded 10 (co-authored) patents in polymer chemistry, he joined the staff of the Sterling-Winthrop Research Institute in Rensselaer, N.Y., as a research chemist, synthesizing new compounds for pharmacological screening.
He served as a member of the Petroleum Research Fund Advisory Board from 1981-83, and in 1987, Allegheny College awarded him its Alumni Gold Citation. In 2002, he reached his 50-year milestone as a member of the American Chemistry Society. He also taught as a visiting professor at Dartmouth College, Wesleyan University and Hobart and William Smith College.
In addition to his teaching and research in chemistry, Smith was active in the arts. He presented numerous solo piano recitals and performed in chamber ensembles on campus. He also served on the board of the Genesee Valley Council on the Arts and Friends of Music. In 1995, Smith received the Volunteer of the Year Award from the Genesee Valley Council on the Arts.
Smith took on numerous community arts projects throughout the years, including organizing creative writing workshops, compiling a directory of opportunities for young artists and worked with Geneseo Distinguished Service Professor of Music Jim Walker to develop an annual Friends of Music Orchestra concert, which involves high school students.
In addition to the piano, Smith enjoyed squash, tennis, swimming, reading, bicycling and independent and foreign films. He was an enthusiastic cyclist who explored the region with Walker and the late Charles R. "Randy" Bailey, Distinguished Service Professor of History.
Geneseo President Christopher C. Dahl said Smith was a critical member of the College community who helped pave the way for academic excellence in the field of science.
"With the death of Dick Smith, Geneseo has lost a truly distinguished faculty member and much-loved colleague. One of Geneseo's first distinguished teaching professors, Dick was a pivotal figure in the development of the College. As chair of the chemistry department, along with his colleague in physics, the late Robert "Duke" Sells, he firmly established our tradition of undergraduate research and excellence in science," said Dahl. "Dick was an accomplished chemist, an outstanding teacher and mentor and a man of wide-ranging cultural and intellectual interests. He was a fine pianist, as well as a distinguished chemist. The whole College community grieves the loss of this academic leader and wonderful human being."
David Geiger, professor of chemistry at Geneseo, said Smith was always there with advice, support and friendship.
"For many years, Dick was one of the pillars of the department. He was one of the first real advocates on campus for research involving undergraduate students. He had an incredible track record for obtaining funding and consistently had two or three supported students during the summer up until the day he retired," said Geiger. "His publication record with his students was remarkable. Personally, Dick was a wonderful mentor and was the kind of faculty member that set the bar in terms of teaching, research and service."
Smith is survived by his wife of 55 years, Eleanor "Lee" Smith (M.L.S.) '71; his son and daughter-in-law, Kenneth and Maureen Smith of Lakeville, N.Y.; daughters and sons-in-law, Marilyn and Walter Putter of Syracuse, N.Y., and Janet and Jon Goldberg, of Newton, Mass.; and grandchildren, Patricia, Leanne, Sean, Rosalie and Arnon. He is predeceased by his brother, Harrison.
Plans for a memorial service will be announced at a later date by Rector-Hicks Funeral Home, 111 Main St., Geneseo, N.Y. 14454. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Friends of Music/Geneseo Foundation, P.O. Box 284, Geneseo, N.Y. 14454 or to the Genesee Valley Council on the Arts, Livingston County Campus, Bldg. 4, Apt. 1, Mount Morris, N.Y. 14454.