Celebrating the Life of Art Smith, 1929 – 2010

  1. Arthur Clarke Smith in his office in EECS Undergraduate Suite, circa 2002.
    Arthur Clarke Smith in his office in EECS Undergraduate Suite, circa 2002.
  2. EECS Department Head Eric Grimson opened the Oct. 29th gathering.
    EECS Department Head Eric Grimson opened the Oct. 29th gathering.
  3. Steve Senturia, Professor Emeritus in Electrical Engineering at MIT, spoke of his long friendship with Art Smith.
    Steve Senturia, Professor Emeritus in Electrical Engineering at MIT, spoke of his long friendship with Art Smith.
  4. Gerald Wilson, former Dean of Engineering, Professor Emeritus in the EECS Department and longtime friend of Art Smith
    Gerald Wilson, former Dean of Engineering, Professor Emeritus in the EECS Department and longtime friend of Art Smith
  5. Institute Professor and EECS colleague to Art Smith, Mildred (Millie) Dresselhaus
    Institute Professor and EECS colleague to Art Smith, Mildred (Millie) Dresselhaus
  6. J. Kim Vandiver, Dean for Undergraduate Research at MIT and Prof. of Mechanical Engineering
    J. Kim Vandiver, Dean for Undergraduate Research at MIT and Prof. of Mechanical Engineering
  7. EECS Professor Emeritus Paul E. Gray, friend and fellow squash player with Art Smith.
    EECS Professor Emeritus Paul E. Gray, friend and fellow squash player with Art Smith.
  8. Steve Banzaert playing the trumpet, accompanied by pianist Eileen Huang.
    Steve Banzaert playing the trumpet, accompanied by pianist Eileen Huang.
  9. Amy Smith, Senior Lecturer in the MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering and daughter of Art Smith.
    Amy Smith, Senior Lecturer in the MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering and daughter of Art Smith.
  10. Insitute Chaplain Robert M. Randolph gave the benediction for the Oct. 29 gathering.
    Insitute Chaplain Robert M. Randolph gave the benediction for the Oct. 29 gathering.
  11. Friends and colleagues of Art Smith and his family gather at the reception held in the Stata Center R&D lounge.
    Friends and colleagues of Art Smith and his family gather at the reception held in the Stata Center R&D lounge.

A ‘Gathering to Remember Arthur Clarke Smith’ and the many contributions which he made during his life to the MIT community and beyond was held at the Kirsch Auditorium, in the Ray and Maria Stata Center on Friday, Oct. 29, 2010. Art Smith died on April 23, 2010. (Read the MIT News Office obituary of April 26, 2010).

The Oct. 29 gathering for Art Smith included friends and colleagues from across the age and campus spectra of MIT and the wider community — all touched by Art’s caring guidance and friendship. Some of the tributes to Art Smith are included below and notes about Arthur Clarke Smith that appeared in the program follow. The gathering was introduced by EECS Department Head Eric Grimson and closed with a benediction by Institute Chaplain Robert M. Randolph. Music through the service was provided by pianist Eileen Huang and trumpet player Steven Banzaert.

Steven Senturia’s remarks on Art Smith

“I joined the EE Department, which is what it was called then, in 1966, working as a research staff member with George Pratt. Even as he hired me, George told me that my best pathway to survival was to get to know Art Smith. Indeed, Art even helped me set up my first lab, picking up the wrenches and helping tighten the plumbing connections for my water-cooled magnet. Over the years, from Arthur’s example and advice, I came to understand his very broad interpretation of the MIT Mission: to help build up everyone toward excellence – not just the students, but the junior faculty, administrative assistants, janitors, even deans and vice presidents.

Art and I became friends. He introduced me to the game of squash, which I played for many years. Our children overlapped in age. I became his next-door neighbor in Maine, and our families spent many happy days together.

But what I treasure most about my long-standing and rich relationship with Art is a piece of wisdom. I mentioned this at the Memorial Service in Lexington, but it bears repeating:

When my first experimental results started coming in, it was time to write a paper. As a scientific contributor to my start-up, it was appropriate for Art to be a co-author. I was a young turk, and I was “certain” that I knew what our results meant, so I wrote the word “undoubtedly” in the key interpretive sentence. Art flagged that word – and to paraphrase, he said something like: “You shouldn’t use gambling words in scientific writing. If you have to try to persuade by saying ‘undoubtedly,’ you probably don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Wow. I was dumbstruck. Nevertheless, I left the word in, and, of course, I discovered several years later that the ‘undoubtedly’ was totally wrong. The mantra of not using gambling words became part of my permanent mental arsenal. It was passed along (painfully at times) to every one of my students, it served me hugely as a journal editor and reviewer. It even became the center-piece of an editorial I wrote for one of my journals. It’s called “How to Avoid the Reviewer’s Axe.” If you look up this article, you will find the citation to Arthur C. Smith. An odd bit of his legacy, perhaps, but hugely important to many people he never even met, and that’s so consistent with Art’s view of his role as an educator. Thanks, Art.”

– Steve Senturia

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One Response to “Celebrating the Life of Art Smith, 1929 – 2010”

  1. Larry Stabile says:

    I knew Professor Smith as an undergraduate student, in 6.08 (Stat Mech and Thermo). I had heard that the course was difficult from fellow students, so I was a bit anxious before it started. Largely due to Art Smith, it was one of the best courses I took at the Institute. His lucid style, well-planned lectures, and thorough recitation classes made the subject matter very clear and interesting. To this day the concepts are still interesting and illuminating, though that class was many, many years ago. He is certainly one professor I will not forget, and in retrospect I would have been better off had I taken even more of his courses.

    Larry Stabile, EE ’74

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