UA philanthropist, namesake of football operations center dies in LA at 84

By: Bob Holt
Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2018
Arkansas' football center is named after Fred W. Smith.
Photo by University of Arkansas
Arkansas' football center is named after Fred W. Smith.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Fred W. Smith, whom the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville football operations center is named after, died Sunday night at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 84.

Smith, grew up in Fort Smith before moving to Las Vegas, and then in recent years lived in Pebble Beach, Calif. He had been suffering from heart disease.

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"He was fighting," Smith's son Fred W. "Wes" Smith Jr., told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "But his heart and lungs were weakened over the years."

Arkansas' Smith Football Operations Center opened shortly before the 2013 season.

Smith was chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, which made a $10 million matching donation in 2010 toward the $40 million cost of the Razorbacks' 80,000-square foot facility which includes a team locker room and coaches' offices along with team and position meeting rooms, a training room, a players' lounge and recruiting reception area.

Smith and his first wife, Mary, who died in 2010, were longtime benefactors for the UA.

Through the Reynolds Foundation, Smith donated $20 million toward the renovation of Reynolds Razorback Stadium that was completed for the 2001 season.

Smith also helped direct several multi-million dollar gifts from the Reynolds Foundation to the UA, including the Steven L. Anderson Design Center within the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design; the Reynolds Center for Enterprise Development in the Sam M. Walton College of Business; the practice facilities for the Razorbacks' men's and women's golf teams; and the Jerry and Gene Jones Family Student-Athlete Success Center.

"It is impossible to fully measure the positive impact Fred W. Smith made in the lives of thousands of Razorback student-athletes, University of Arkansas students and individuals throughout our state and the nation," Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek said in a statement. "Through his leadership in his role as the longtime chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and his extraordinary personal philanthropic commitment, our institution and our state have been changed forever."

The Razorbacks' football operations center was named in Smith's honor after a vote by the UA board of trustees. He never lobbied for his name to be on the building.

"Fred was a very humble man," said Kevin Trainor, Arkansas' associate athletic director for public relations who knew Smith for several years. "He preferred to work behind the scenes to make an impact. But it's hard to stay in the background when the impact is so large for our state.

"With so many gifts to various organizations, the Smith family's support really helped us move forward in a way we wouldn't have been to do without them."

The Razorbacks' golf facility at The Blessings is named in honor of Fred and Mary Smith.

Arkansas' women's golf team won its first SEC championship last week and several men's and women's golfers have gone on to professional careers.

"When you look at our women's team just winning the SEC title and the professional golfers we have on tour, it simply wouldn't have been possible without the support the Smiths gave and the opportunities they provided for our golfers," Trainor said.

Smith also made a personal donation of $250,000 to the UA in honor of then-Athletic Director Jeff Long in 2012 to show support for Long after he fired Bobby Petrino as football coach for off-the-field issues.

Smith was born Jan. 1, 1934, in Peno Bottoms, Okla., across the Arkansas River from Fort Smith, where he moved with his family when he was a year old.

Smith had a long career as an advertising and media executive, including 43 years with the Donrey Media Group, where he became the chairman and chief operating officer. He moved from Fort Smith to Las Vegas in 1961, but remained an Arkansas fan.

"The Smiths loved the University of Arkansas and this state dearly," Trainor said. "They were always enthusiastic about the Razorbacks, always enthusiastic about Arkansas.

"Even though they lived in Las Vegas for many years, they were carrying the Razorback flag in the desert."

Smith is survived by his second wife, Maria; his sons Fred W. Smith Jr., and Jonathan Smith; daughter Deborah Smith Magness; and four grandchildren.

Granddaughter Katie Magness is an Arkansas graduate and works in the athletic department.

"Fred's love of the Razorbacks was eclipsed only by his love for his family and his passion for improving the quality of life for others," Yurachek said. "The Razorback Family has lost a very dear friend. However, Fred W. Smith's legacy will continue to shape our program, our institution and the state he cherished for many years to come."

Sports on 05/01/2018

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