A major benefactor of the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and a staff member of nearly 40 years recently passed away. Bill Smith, who served as special assistant to the president and was the impetus behind restarting the university’s baseball program, died on June 23 at the age of 92.
“We are devastated to hear that Bill Smith is no longer with us,” said President John Feaver. “His decades of selfless dedication to the university could not be summed up in several pages, much less a few sentences, but his work has impacted every student, parent and sports fan at USAO. Our Drovers’ recent appearance at the NAIA World Series, for instance, would never have happened without his incredible work to fund our baseball program.”
Smith came to USAO in 1973 as vice president for administration and was actively employed in various positions until retiring from his role as special assistant to the president in 2010. For his tireless efforts to reestablish the baseball and softball programs, he was named a member of the USAO Athletic Hall of Fame in January of that year.
In 1996, the 500-seat Bill Smith Ballpark was constructed in his honor after he donated a collection of baseball memorabilia to be auctioned for funding to restart the baseball program after an 18-year hiatus. Smith’s generosity also allowed USAO to begin a softball program as well as establishing the Bill and Pat Smith Scholar-Athlete Award to recognize exceptional student athletes.
The Bill and Pat Smith Scholar-Athlete Award seeks to honor students who excel in combining scholastic and athletic achievement while attending USAO. Two seniors, one male and one female, who have shown outstanding dedication to scholarship, citizenship and athletics are chosen to receive the award every April. Recipients must have lettered at USAO for at least two seasons of competition as well as holding a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. A committee chaired by the vice president for academic affairs selects students who USAO faculty and coaching staff have previously nominated.
For 52 years, Smith was heavily involved with the Babe Ruth League, a national organization supporting the development of baseball and softball programs for young people ages 5-18. His affiliation began in 1955 when he founded a league in Miami, Okla. He was the chairman of the board from 1983 until 2007 and was unanimously elected to their hall of fame in 2008.
Smith was born Sept. 4, 1925 in Cromwell, Okla. and served in the Marines during World War II, earning two Purple Hearts among other distinctions. He received his bachelor’s degree from Midwestern University in Texas and his master’s from Kansas State in Pittsburgh, as well as holding a professional administration degree from the University of Oklahoma. Smith lettered in baseball, basketball and football at Midwestern and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami. He worked for 16 years as a teacher, coach and administrator with the Miami Public Schools before his long stint at USAO.