Razorbacks pay tribute to Fred W. Smith

Fred W. Smith, former chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and longtime benefactor of the University of Arkansas and Razorback Athletics, passed away at age 84 late Sunday evening in Santa Monica, Calif.

“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,” Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Hunter Yurachek said. “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 has been changed forever. 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. 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.”  

Born in the Peno Bottoms of Oklahoma near Fort Smith, Arkansas, Mr. Smith had an extensive career in advertising and media before being named Chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation in Las Vegas. During his 43-year career at Donrey Media Group, Mr. Smith worked his way through the ranks to become President and COO and CEO of one of the nation’s largest privately held media companies.

Through his work with the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, Mr. Smith was instrumental in the university’s securement of several multi-million dollar gifts, 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; and the Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium expansion, the Jerry and Gene Jones Family Student-Athlete Success Center and the Student-Athlete Development program, within Razorback Athletics.

“You don’t have to walk far on our campus to see the impact Fred W. Smith has had on the University of Arkansas in so many different areas,” Vice Chancellor for Advancement Mark Power said. “He simply loved the university and Razorback Athletics. Our students, faculty and staff as well as our student-athletes, coaches and Razorback fans will continue to reap the benefits of the philanthropy of the Reynolds Foundation as well as his personal generosity for decades to come.”

In 2011, under Mr. Smith’s leadership, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation issued a $10 million challenge grant to help generate funding for a new football operations building for the University of Arkansas. In 2013, the $40 million Fred W. Smith Football Center was dedicated providing Razorback Football with a new 80,000 square foot home. 

On a personal level, Mr. Smith and his wife, the late Mary B. Smith, contributed to several initiatives at the university, including the Barbara Broyles Caregiving Legacy Fund, the Jerry and Gene Jones Family Student-Athlete Success Center and the Fred W. and Mary B. Smith Golf Center.

In 2001, he and his wife were awarded the distinguished service award as part of the University of Arkansas Sports Hall of Honor. In 2003, Mr. Smith was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Arkansas. In 2013, the Smiths were honored with the Chancellor’s Medal, in recognition of their extraordinary leadership and commitment to higher education at the University of Arkansas.

After 49 years of marriage Fred’s beloved wife, Mary, passed away in 2010.  In 2016, Fred married Maria Hearley and at the time of his death the couple made their home in Pebble Beach, California.  In addition to his wife Mary, Fred was preceded in death by his mother Erma Wells and his stepfather Paul Wells.  He is survived by his wife Maria Hearley-Smith, three children; Fred Wesley Smith, Jr. (Stacie), Deborah Smith-Magness, and Dr. Jonathan P. Smith (Amy) and four grandchildren.

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