Dr. Albert E. Smith, retired president of Florida Memorial University, died Nov. 17. He was 81. Born in a Christian home in Sioux Falls, S.D., to the late Calvert Smith and Ethel Johnson Smith on Oct. 24, 1932, he loved to claim Chicago as his home, where he attended elementary and high schools.
He married Sadie Burris Smith 57 years ago and they had three children, Robyne Wilkerson, Angela Luster and Albert Clayton Smith. “Our beloved husband and father was a leader who believed that instilling the principles of faith, honor, hard work and equality in our young people will make this great country even better, said Sadie Burris Smith.
“We, his family, will always miss him and our hearts ache today, but we are extremely proud of the legacy that he left behind.”
That legacy includes serving 13 years as president of Florida Memorial College – as it was known as during that time. “The future of our young men and women was always at the forefront of every endeavor that he undertook,” said Sadie Burris Smith. “He had a tremendous love for the people of South Florida and a very special love for Florida Memorial University.”
In the Spring of 1993, Albert Smith was selected to serve as the 10th President of Florida Memorial College. He served in this capacity until he retired in June 2006 and was named President Emeritus.
During his tenure as president of Florida Memorial and through his visionary efforts, the college was elevated to University status, over $83 million in grant funds were awarded, student population increased from 1,300 to over 2,200, and the “Rising to New Heights” $35 million Capital Campaign was completed. These funds were generated and used for the campus beautification program, renovations and new building construction.
“Dr. Albert Smith led Florida Memorial College through a progressive and unprecedented period of growth. His vision was realized in the achievement of University status, expansion of the campus infrastructure, new academic programs and creative resource development,” said Interim Florida Memorial University President Roslyn Clark Artis.
“Al Smith was the embodiment of our motto: ‘Leadership, Character and Service’ and he has left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of the trustees, staff, faculty, students and alumni at Florida Memorial.”
Al, as he was fondly called, graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, N.C.; a Master of Science degree from George Williams College, Chicago; and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Pittsburgh.
Smith’s early professional career included a brief stint as a minor league baseball player with the Saint Louis Cardinals; a commissioned officer and company commander in the United States Army Medical Service Corps; a youth gangs worker and program secretary with the Y.M.C.A. of Metropolitan Chicago; varsity baseball coach and Student Union director at Knoxville College, Knoxville, Tenn.; and director of Athletics and the Student Union at North Carolina A&T State University.
In 1971, Smith was appointed executive assistant director of Athletics and associate professor of Education at Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Mich.
Following this appointment, in the fall of 1976, Smith was invited back to his undergraduate alma mater, North Carolina A&T State University, to serve as vice chancellor for Development and University Relations, professor of Education, and executive director of the North Carolina A&T State University Foundation.
He remained at North Carolina A&T State until the Spring of 1986, when he was named the sixth president of South Carolina State University, Orangeburg, S.C. Smith’s professional affiliations and publications are numerous. He was a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. and New Mount Olive Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale.
He leaves to cherish his memory, his devoted wife, Sadie Burris Smith; one brother, Dr. Calvert H. Smith (Carrie); one “special sister” Evelyn Jude (Robert); two daughters: Robyne Wilkerson and Angela Luster (James); a son Albert Clayton (Audrey); four grandchildren: Albert Clayton II, Courtney Smith Hayes (James), Carrington Luster and Trevor Luster; six great-grandchildren; three sisters-in-law: Evetta Burris Barrett, Legatha Burris and Mable Burris; and two brothers-in-law: Ray E. Burris (Carolyn), and Rev. Willie Gaskin; a host of nieces, nephews, ¬relatives; and countless friends.