Pioneering scientist, physician and founding member of College of Medicine passes away
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Dr. Richard T. Smith, the first chairman of pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine, who distinguished himself throughout his career and his life, died June 14 in Gainesville surrounded by his family. He was 90.
Smith was one of the founders of the UF College of Medicine. He and his wife, Jean Smith, moved to Gainesville during Labor Day weekend in 1958 because they were attracted to the challenge of starting a new medical college.
As a scientist, his research contributed widely and significantly to what is known about many diseases and conditions. As a physician, he treated countless numbers of critically ill children in his lifetime — including the first patient admitted to Shands Hospital in 1958.
A recipient of the college’s 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award, Smith held many leadership positions throughout his career at UF. In addition to serving as the first chairman of pediatrics, he also served as chairman of the department of pathology for many years. He went on to become the first vice president of advancement and executive vice president of the UF Foundation, and also the first senior associate dean for research in the College of Medicine.
In 2003, Smith retired from research in the fields of immunobiology and tumor biology. He still served as a professor emeritus of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine and had been an active member of the College of Medicine Dean’s Leadership Advisory Council for the past two years.
Even in retirement, Smith continued to give back to the college. In the spring of 2013, the Smiths made a $1.2 million gift to create the Smith Family Scholarship, establishing a legacy at the College of Medicine that will influence UF medical students for generations. The scholarship, the College of Medicine’s largest merit-based scholarship endowment, is awarded annually to a rising third-year medical student. The first Smith Family Scholarship was awarded earlier this year. The honor will last in perpetuity and reward students who meet specific merit criteria set by a faculty committee.
He is survived by his wife, Jean; his sons Richard “Tom” Smith, a graduate of the College of Medicine, Joseph Smith and John Smith, also a College of Medicine graduate; and his daughter, Claudia Smith.
“Today, in the UF College of Medicine, we stand on the shoulders of those who created our medical school and fostered its development through the early years,” said Dr. Michael Good, dean of the College of Medicine. “Richard T. Smith was one of those great giants. We will miss him.”