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