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J. Eugene Smith Biography

J. Eugene Smith, 1905 - 2000
President of Eastern Connecticut State College, 1947 - 1966

Dr. J. Eugene Smith, distinguished educator, former Eastern Connecticut State College president, and friend, was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in June 1905 but spent most of his early years in Manchester, New Hampshire. He was the son of the Reverend and Mrs. James Wilson Smith. From Washington and Jefferson College, he received his A.B. in 1927 and his A.M. and Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1930 and 1943 respectively.

After teaching at Mt. Pleasant Township Vocational High School, Hickory, Pennsylvania, and at Guilford High School, Guilford, Connecticut, he joined the faculty at Windham High School in 1935. He then moved down the hill to Willimantic State Teachers College (now Eastern Connecticut State University) in 1937 as an instructor in social sciences. He married Eva Began in 1936.

From 1937 to 1947, Dr. Smith became an assistant professor, then professor, and ultimately president of the college where he served with distinction until his retirement from Willimantic State College in February, 1966. He was president from 1947-1966. The years of his presidency brought major changes to the college, including the addition of liberal arts and graduate programs, a new science building, and preparation of a Master Plan of Development.

In 1967, he returned to state service as Executive Secretary of the Board of Trustees for the four Connecticut state colleges, a position from which he retired in 1972.

The former J. Eugene Smith Library was named by an act of the General Assembly in his honor. The Eastern Connecticut State College Alumni Association further honored him at the time by presenting his portrait to the college. ECSU's new library was dedicated in Smith's honor on January 26, 1999.

Dr. Smith was a life member of several educational and historical associations, including Kappa Delta Pi, Delta Tau Delta, the American Association of School Administrators, the Connecticut Historical Society, the National Education Association, and the Connecticut Education Association.

He was the author of One Hundred Years of Hartford's Courant (Yale University Press, 1949), the first book moved from the old to the new J. Eugene Smith Library.

Dr. Smith was a former member of the Willimantic Rotary Club and chairman of Willimantic's committee for the country's bicentennial celebration in 1976. An excellent violinist, he enjoyed playing with the former Willimantic Symphony Orchestra in the 1940's and the 1950's.

Dr. J. Eugene Smith, Eastern Connecticut State University's second president, passed away at his home in Windham Center, Connecticut on April 20, 2000. Besides his wife, Eva (Began) Smith of Windham Center, he leaves a son, J. Philip Smith of Orange, Connecticut; a daughter, Janet Smith of Putnam; and five grandchildren. He also leaves a sister, Helen S. Knowles of Guilford. He was predeceased by another sister, Geraldine Bowen of West Hartford.

The Eastern community will long remember Dr. Smith for his ability to listen, reserve judgment and encourage faculty, students and staff to think through their problems and arrive at acceptable solutions. The J. Eugene Smith Library at Eastern Connecticut State University proudly carries his name.