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Community service pioneer Levi Smith dies
Community service pioneer Levi Smith diesFebruary 08, 2007SU News ServicesSUnews@syr.edu
Levi Smith, founder of Syracuse University’s Thursday Morning Roundtable (TMR), the Onondaga Citizens League and the Institute for Retired Professionals, died Wednesday, Feb. 7. He was 88. Smith was assistant dean for community service at University College of Syracuse University from 1965 until his retirement in 1998.
Prior to his tenure at University College, Smith was assistant supervisor of adult education for the New York State Education Department and assistant dean of the evening division and director of the Institute for Civic Education at the University of Akron. He completed three years of postgraduate work at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.
Smith, a devoted leader and advocate of civic and public responsibility, had the opportunity to work with many government officials and agencies. During his years at the New York State Education Department in Albany, Smith served with Eleanor Roosevelt on a number of public forums. He kept a picture of the first lady on his office wall.
He established many award-winning public service programs, including Thursday Morning Roundtable (1965), the Onondaga Citizens League (1978), the Institute for Retired Professionals (1972) and the Syracuse Youth Roundtable (1991). He was also a leader of the Community Luncheon Club and the Community Leadership Conference.
Smith led many special projects related to social issues and received much recognition for his work, including awards from the National University Extension Association and the National University Continuing Education Association, the SU Chancellor’s Citation for Exceptional Service, the Onondaga Community College Distinguished Citizen Award, the American College Testing Program, the Central New York Chiefs of Police Association, the International Institute of Municipal Clerks, the New York Association of City and Village Clerks, the AFL-CIO, The Post-Standard Achievement Award and the TMR Award for Meritorious Service to the Community. Onondaga County proclaimed April 18, 1980 — the 15th anniversary of TMR — Lee Smith Day.
In 2002, the Levi L. Smith Civic Education Award was created to honor an outstanding citizen or organization that has contributed to the field and practice of civic education in Central New York. Smith was the recipient of the first award established in his name.
SU Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor commended Smith for his active involvement in public service. “Lee’s commitment to community engagement was the motivation for his work at Syracuse University and University College,” says Cantor. “Thursday Morning Roundtable is a valued Syracuse University tradition because of Lee Smith.”
Bea Gonzalez, interim dean of University College, worked with Smith for almost 15 years. “Lee Smith mentored young talent,” says Gonzalez. “He understood the importance of grooming leadership. I’m one of those lucky enough to be a recipient of his mentoring.”
Onondaga County Executive Nicholas J. Pirro says, “Onondaga County mourns the loss of an outstanding advocate, statesman, educator, author and friend. Lee Smith was a devoted pioneer for civic education and community service, and his contributions to University College, Thursday Morning Roundtable and the Onondaga Citizens League are but a few of the areas that were touched by his professionalism and kind human spirit.”
The family is planning a memorial service. Details will be announced.