The Washington State University Foundation honored emeritus professor of plant pathology and eighth president of Washington State University Samuel H. Smith (1985-2000) as recipient of the 2016 Weldon B. Gibson Distinguished Volunteer Award. The award was presented during the Foundation’s annual Recognition Gala, September 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 current 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.”

WSU President Emeritus Sam Smith receives the WSU Foundation's Gibson Volunteer Award during the Recognition Gala on Sept. 30, 2016.
WSU President Emeritus Sam Smith receives the WSU Foundation’s Gibson Volunteer Award during the Recognition Gala on Sept. 30, 2016.

A native of Salinas, California, 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. Smith was a NATO postdoctoral fellow at the Glasshouse Crops Research Institute in England as well.

A hallmark of the Smith administration was the 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 all of WSU’s graduates received their degrees during the period of 1985-2000 when Smith was president.

Under Smith’s leadership, WSU grew in size and stature. Its teaching, research, and public service activities received worldwide recognition. Strengthening undergraduate and graduate education, placing an international imprint on programs, and increasing opportunities for women and minorities were among his priorities.

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

From 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, Smith chaired the Board of Directors of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, the nation’s oldest higher education association. He also served on NASULGC’s Kellogg Commission on the Future of the State and Land-Grant Universities. The commission planned 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 Smith in 2002, the year the building opened on the Pullman campus. Smith continued to serve 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 Washington State University, 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 is 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 WSU Foundation to recognize individuals whose service on behalf of the Foundation can only be measured by the highest levels of achievement.