Former Mary Baldwin University Trustee H. Gordon Smyth — a motivating force for the college and Staunton for decades — passed away Sunday at age 84.
When Mary Baldwin President Pamela Fox assumed her position in summer 2003, one of the first visits she made was to meet Smyth and his wife, Mary Beth, a devoted and distinguished 1947 alumna of Mary Baldwin. Fox said she immediately recognized that Gordon was a key advisor and he remained so in the years to come.
“His laser insights, tempered by his twinkle-in-the-eye humor, offered guiding wisdom through our last visit only a few weeks before his death,” Fox said, adding that Smyth’s service on the Board of Trustees was truly transformational.
Smyth’s input guided the college through a period of expansion that included the opening of the Blackfriars Playhouse and the creation of its graduate program in Shakespeare and Performance. Fox recalled that Gordon and Mary Beth Smyth relished the afternoons they spent as all the new students at Mary Baldwin attended a play at the American Shakespeare Center during their first weekend on campus.
The Smyth’s contributions to Mary Baldwin were far-ranging. The Smyth Leadership Lecture Series brought students in direct contact with powerful female leaders such as Geraldine Ferraro, Benazir Bhutto (pictured above, with the Smyths), Cokie Roberts, Venus Williams, and many more. The Smyth Business Lecture series also brought key leaders to campus and opened doors to many students’ careers.
“Gordon epitomized good sense and generosity of spirit towards all around him and he gave unstintingly to the causes he loved: to his family, his community, and to Mary Baldwin University,” said Mary Baldwin President Emerita Cynthia H. Tyson. “During his period of service on the Mary Baldwin Board of Trustees he taught us much that stands as his legacy: business acumen; common sense; and enduring, selfless giving.”
The Smyths have also contributed generously to students in Nelson County and Charlottesville, where they lived, and have supported the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, Westminster Canterbury of the Blue Ridge Foundation, the Boys and Girls Club of Charlottesville, and the Presbyterian Church.
A graveside service was held December 7 at Rockfish Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Nellysford. A memorial service followed at South Plains Presbyterian Church in Keswick.