Arthur Smith 1929-2010

Arthur Clarke Smith in his office as Undergraduate Officer in the EECS Department, circa 2002.

Arthur Clarke Smith in his office as Undergraduate Officer in the EECS Department.

Arthur Clarke Smith, MIT professor emeritus of electrical engineering, Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs from 1990 through 1995, and invaluable contributor to student life and learning at MIT and in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science for nearly fifty years, died on April 23, at the age of 81.

On the occasion of Art Smith’s stepping down as Dean in 1994, then MIT President Charles Vest noted (MIT News Office, Oct. 5, 1994): “Dean Art Smith is a wonderful colleague and a very effective advocate for students who has lent much to the special character of MIT. I have found him to be wise, perceptive and innovative in thinking about and acting upon student issues. I look forward to working with him throughout this school year, and surely will seek his counsel from time to time after he returns to the classroom.”

Also, then MIT Provost Mark S. Wrighton, who made the announcement, noted: “I am extremely pleased with the job that Dean Smith and his colleagues have done in building a combined effort in the areas of student affairs and undergraduate education. The Institute’s faculty and students have been extremely well-served by an extraordinary leader who has developed an exceptional team committed to building synergy between aspects of student life and the more formal aspects of undergraduate education.”

Arthur C. Smith

Arthur C. Smith

Before becoming acting dean, Professor Smith had involved himself deeply in student matters, chairing several committees dealing with student affairs and academic policy. When he appointed Professor Smith acting dean, former provost John M. Deutch, and Deputy Secretary of Defense at the time, referred to Smith’s “deep understanding of the institution and of the concerns of the students, developed over more than 30 years as a teacher, faculty leader, advisor and father of two graduates.”

Professor Smith received the BS degree in physics from the University of Kansas in 1951, the MA in physics from Harvard University in 1954 and the PhD in applied physics from Harvard in 1958. He came to MIT as an assistant professor of electrical engineering in 1959, became associate professor in 1963 and was promoted to professor in 1968. His work has included studies in thermoelectric energy conversion and semiconductor research. He is the co-author of two textbooks on electronic conduction in solids and the author of a chapter on transport.

Art Smith served as chairman of the Committee on Academic Performance (1972-74), the Committee on Privacy (1975-77), the Committee on Student Affairs (1979-81) and the Committee on Educational Policy (1983-85). He was a member of the Minority Student Issues group.

Professor Smith was chairman of the faculty in 1983-85 and received the Gordon Y Billard Award for distinguished service to the Institute in 1987. In 1984 two of his daughters received degrees from MIT, Amy the SB in Course 2 and Abigail the SM in Course 12.

As noted in a Feb. 25, 2000 article in the Boston Business Journal devoted to Smith’s daughter, Amy who had just won the $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, Art said: “She always had a different view of what was important in the world.” Art Smith’s significant role as father was cited as he moved his family to India for a year when Amy was in second grade to work at a university there. “I think that set a lot of things in motion for her. It’s very different from growing up in a Boston suburb,” Smith noted.

Smith was equally engaged in his home community, Lexington, MA, for which he served as town-meeting member for years and more recently a member of the town board of appeals, and was an enthusiastic member of the town band’s trumpet section. Art was fully involved in the activities at the Follen Church in East Lexington, running the annual Christmas tree sales and supporting the youth group and even cooking soup and baking cookies.

Art Smith, is survived by his wife, Wilma Ronco; three daughters, Abby, Amy and Tracy; and two stepsons, Will and Dan Ronco.

A memorial service was held April 28, at the Follen Church Sanctuary in East Lexington. A memorial celebration of Art’s life and his many contributions to MIT is in the works. Please watch for postings on the MIT homepage and the EECS homepage.

Donations may be made to Project Bread’s Walk for Hunger, to the Follen Church and alternatively contact Amy Smith (abs@mit.edu) who is also fielding inquiries about a fund that the family is establishing in Art’s name to support the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education at MIT.

Read more: MIT News Office, April 26, 2010: “Art Smith, former dean and EECS professor, dies electrical engineering professor made meaningful contributions to student life and learning.”

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