1942-1969: G. Herbert Smith

G. Herbert Smith

Dr. George Herbert Smith was born December 15, 1904 and was called to the presidency in the wake of Knopf’s resignation and death. At 37 years of age, Smith was the youngest president-elect since Willis Hawley had served at the turn of the century and was the first layman to enter the office. Smith received his undergraduate degree from DePauw University and completed his graduate work at the University of Illinois. He arrived with a record of leadership in the Methodist church, a great deal of administrative and public relations experience and a commitment to ensuring Willamette University “continue[d] to be a student centered university, whose main purpose [was] the development of educated Christian men and women.” The second volume of Chronicles of Willamette is devoted entirely to Smith’s 27 years as president and details his many accomplishments some of which include: establishing the V-12 Navy program on campus during WWII; doubling the size of the faculty and increasing their salaries; growing the endowment to five times what is was upon his arrival; increasing the number of buildings from 11 to 30; supporting the petition of fraternities from local to national affiliation; and expanding the physical size of the campus from 18 acres to 52. “G. Herb” as the students referred to him, retired in the spring of 1969, after serving 27 years as president. He then served as the university provost for about a year before becoming director of The Collins Foundation. Smith died of cancer on September 4, 1980 in Laguna Hills, California.

Personal Data Sheet from the office of the president, circa 1965.