WSU Foundation honors president emeritus Sam Smith

By Trevor Durham, WSU Foundation

sam-smith-headPULLMAN, Wash – The Washington State University Foundation honored emeritus professor of plant pathology and eighth WSU president Samuel H. Smith as recipient of the 2016 Weldon B. Gibson Distinguished Volunteer Award at the annual Recognition Gala Sept. 30.

“From leading WSU’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign to creating campuses in Spokane, Tri-Cities and Vancouver, Dr. Smith transformed the statewide presence and stature of Washington State University during his presidency,” said WSU president Kirk H. Schulz. “He continues to champion access to higher education for our state’s citizens—helping tens of thousands earn their degrees through his ongoing advocacy and partnership with WSU and many other organizations across the state.”

A native of Salinas, Calif., Smith earned his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in plant pathology from UC Berkeley where he also served as faculty. He holds honorary doctoral degrees from Nihon University in Tokyo, Japan, and Far Eastern State University in Vladivostok, Russia. He was a NATO postdoctoral fellow at the Glasshouse Crops Research Institute in England.

Sam Smith, WSU president emeritus, speaks at the WSU Foundation Recognition Gala on Sept. 30.

A hallmark of his administration was establishment in 1989 of WSU campuses in Spokane, the Tri-Cities and Vancouver to serve place-bound and job-bound students. Learning centers and award-winning extended degree programs, now called the Global Campus, further expanded access to the university. More than one-third of WSU graduates received their degrees during 1985-2000 when Smith was president.

Strengthening undergraduate and graduate education, placing an international imprint on programs and increasing opportunities for women and minorities were among Smith’s priorities.

He led Campaign WSU, the university’s first comprehensive fundraising effort that raised $275.4 million in private support, substantially more than its $250 million goal. The campaign transformed WSU’s ability to serve students and the state of Washington by supporting scholarships, faculty recruitment and retention, learning technology and statewide education.

In 1997-99, Smith served as chair of the executive committee of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, one of a series of leadership positions he held during a major reorganization of NCAA governance.

In 2000, he chaired the board of directors of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, the nation’s oldest higher education association. He served on NASULGC’s Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities, planning for change and improvement of state universities and land-grant colleges for the 21st century.

Smith concluded his presidency on June 8, 2000. As president emeritus, he established an office at WSU West in Seattle, where he and his wife, Patricia, live.

The Smiths continue to support the WSU Museum of Art. They attracted world-class artwork for display in the Samuel H. Smith Center for Undergraduate Education, named for him in 2002 when the building opened on the Pullman campus. He served in voluntary roles with the WSU Museum of Art Campaign Committee and WSU Equity and Diversity Fundraising Strategy Group.

In addition to his work and advocacy for WSU, Smith has been a leader in creating opportunities for students to pursue higher education throughout the state. He is a founding trustee of the Western Governors University, a member of the Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board and director of the Washington Education Foundation, which provides college scholarships and mentoring to low-income, high-potential students.

The Weldon B. Gibson Award, named for WSU Foundation founding chairman Weldon B. “Hoot” Gibson, is the premier award granted by the foundation to recognize individuals whose service on its behalf can only be measured by the highest levels of achievement.


News media contact:
Trevor J Durham, WSU Foundation, 509-335-2093,


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