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03 January, 2010

Hebrew U. mourns passing of dedicated leader, philanthropist Robert H. Smith

Robert H. Smith
Robert H. Smith

One of the Hebrew University's most dedicated supporters, Robert H. Smith, passed away on December 29, 2009, at the age of 81.

Mr. Smith was a generous philanthropist, business leader and advocate for the Jewish people. A highly successful real estate developer, his professional achievements were matched by his dedication to humanitarian and Jewish communal causes. He fostered the strength of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel and the American Jewish community in many ways.

''Bob Smith was a dedicated family man who also embodied the value of community leadership and responsibility,'' said Hebrew University President, Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson today. ''His impact will long be felt by generations to come – whether young students being educated at the schools, universities, and cultural institutions he championed, or people in developing countries living healthier lives thanks to technologies made possible by his support. The Hebrew University community in Israel and abroad deeply mourns his passing – he shall be missed by us all.''

Robert H. Smith served as Chairman of the University's Board of Governors from 1981-1985 and was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by the University in 1984. He served as president of the Washington D.C. chapter of the American Friends of the Hebrew University, and along with his beloved wife Clarice and his children and grandchildren, frequently visited Israel and the university.

He was the driving force behind the establishment of the Robert H. Smith Institute for Plant Sciences and Genetics in Agriculture at the Hebrew University’s Rehovot campus. This vanguard interdisciplinary research facility became the model for a broader expansion that is reshaping the future of sustainable agriculture in Israel and worldwide. Recently, the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Agriculture was officially rededicated as the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment in his honor.

Robert Hilton Smith was born July 21, 1928, in Brooklyn, New York. His family moved to Washington in 1942, and he graduated from Anacostia High School in 1946, the same year his father formed the Charles E. Smith Construction Co. He joined the firm after graduating from the University of Maryland in 1950.

He took over his father's businesses in 1967 and ran them for many years with his brother-in-law. Together they transformed the construction firm into a multifaceted real estate corporation, eventually becoming Washington's largest commercial real estate landlords.

In recent years, Mr. Smith devoted his attention to philanthropy - donating hundreds of millions of dollars to universities, museums and historic landmarks.

He is quoted as saying once that, ''The person who is afraid to take risks and make mistakes will never achieve everything of which he or she is capable. One of the five greatest mistakes you can make in life is to be continually afraid you will make one.''

He is survived by his wife Clarice, their children David Bruce Smith and Michelle Smith, his sister Arlene R. Kogod, and their grandchildren Michael Smith Liss, Stacey Smith Liss, Alexandra Smith and Max Smith.



Downloadable File: RobertHSmith.doc

 

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