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Dr. Joseph Grady Smoot

Photo courtesy Center for Adventist Research.

Smoot, Joseph Grady (1932–2018)

By Dennis Pettibone

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Dennis Pettibone, Ph.D. (University of California, Riverside), is professor emeritus of history at Southern Adventist University. He and his first wife, Carol Jean Nelson Pettibone (now deceased) have two grown daughters. He is now married to the former Rebecca Aufderhar. His published writings include A Century of Challenge: the Story of Southern College and the second half of His Story in Our Time.

Joseph Grady Smoot was president of Andrews University and also served on the faculty of Columbia Union College (now Washington Adventist University) and Pittsburg (Kansas) State University.

Early Years

Joseph Grady Smoot was born in Winter Haven Florida on May 7, 1932. His parents were Robert Malcolm Smoot (1902-1934) and Vera Eaton Smoot (1898-1969).1 Grady grew up in a Methodist home, but converted to Adventism as a young man.2 He was only two years old when his father passed away. After his mother remarried, the family moved to Tennessee, where he attended Tullahoma High School and played on the high school football team.3 His mother, by then a Seventh-day Adventist, persuaded him to attend Southern Missionary College (now Southern Adventist University).4 He worked 30 to 35 hours a week to earn his college expenses.5 He was the Student Association president (1953-1954), editor of Southern Memories, the SMC annual (1953) and senior class president.6 He graduated summa cum laude7 in 1955.8 In 1955, he married Florence Katherine Rozell (1930-1957).9

Early Teaching Years

After graduation, Smoot began his teaching career at Kentucky Intermediate School in Lexington. In 1956 he became principal of Louisville Junior Academy.10 Tragedy struck the following year when, on May 29, 1957, Florence died in an automobile accident.11 Two years later, on June 24, 1959,12 he married Irma Jean Kopitzke (1923-1999).13

Smoot received his master’s degree from the University of Kentucky.14 His only child, Andrew Christopher Smoot, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, August 22, 1961.15 Soon after this, Grady, his wife Irma Jean, and newborn baby “Chris” headed to Takoma Park, Maryland, where Grady took up his duties on the faculty of Columbia Union College (CUC).16

Smoot worked at CUC from 1961 to 1968,17 starting out as a history teacher. Then for three years he was academic dean. Smoot obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky in 1964.18 Focusing on 18th-century American studies, his dissertation topic was “Freedom’s Early Ring: The Northwest Ordinance and the American Union.”19 During his lifetime, he published nearly 700 other scholarly publications.20

Andrews University

On September 1, 1968, Smoot became dean of Graduate Studies at Andrews University,21 a position that he held for one year.22 He was promoted to vice president for Academic Affairs in 1969. In this position, he worked to upgrade the professional standing of Andrews University in the greater academic community. He did this by promoting faculty development and supporting academic freedom. During his tenure, the number of professors with doctoral degrees increased.23 With the regional accrediting association’s approval, he launched doctoral programs in theology, ministry, and education24 and secured accreditation from professional accrediting bodies in various academic disciplines on both the graduate and undergraduate level.25

He accepted the position of president of Walla Walla College in 1978, but resigned before taking office in order to continue working at Andrews University, this time as president.26

Among his accomplishments as president was expanding Andrews University Press, which had been established with a shoestring budget in 1969. During the Smoot administration a permanent director was appointed, and the press became a competitive publisher of scholarly literature. He also expanded the university’s affiliation with overseas colleges, enabling their students to receive accredited degrees. The affiliation program, which began when he was academic vice president, involved careful monitoring of the affiliated schools’ quality of education by Andrews University faculty. Smoot was also the prime mover in establishing the University of Eastern Africa in Kenya and participated in the creation of the Institute for Prevention of Addictions.27

Smoot enjoyed interacting with students and had an “open door” office policy. Regarding Andrews University personnel, he believed that a leader should care for his faculty and staff, “fight for them and do the best he could for them.” His son remembers that he was “always ready to help for those who were in need.”28

Smoot endeavored to make Pioneer Memorial Church a place where students would feel accepted and spiritually uplifted and strengthened. To this end, he helped to secure a dynamic preacher, Dwight Nelson, as the church’s pastor.29

Pittsburg State University

After he left Andrews in 1983, Grady Smoot was hired by Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas as vice president of Development and Public Affairs.30 In this position he established a public radio station for the university, secured “one of America’s finest concert organs,” and launched the university magazine. He organized the Pittsburg State University Foundation and raised $8 million for a university endowment fund and $6 million for the university’s Kansas Technology Center. “I am a great believer in philanthropy,” he said. “It’s been my life.”31

His fundraising efforts were not limited to the university. He created the Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas32 and the Pittsburg Public Library Foundation. He was a fundraising consultant for the Stilwell Heritage and Educational Foundation.33 A columnist for the Pittsburg Morning Sun wrote in 2013, “Smoot is recognized as an outstanding fundraiser for worthy projects,” then quoted him as saying, “I’ve raised probably $300 million in my life.”34

Meanwhile, Smoot remained committed to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Ron Graybill reported in December 1991, “Smoot says nothing has changed in his relationship to the church except that now, of course, he and his wife worship as lay persons rather than as leaders.”35

Retirement

After he retired from Pittsburg State University in 1998, Smoot continued to be involved with both the university and the Pittsburg community. At the university, in retirement, he held the titles of assistant to the president as well as vice president emeritus.36 In the community he continued to raise funds for local charities. He also served two four-year terms as a member of the Pittsburg public library board of trustees. In 2004 he was president of the Pittsburg Public Library Foundation. He also served on the board of trustees of the Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas.37

Grady Smoot remained devoted to his family. “He loved his grandchildren,” says his son Christopher,38 who remembered, for example, the time his father flew all the way to Bangladesh to help celebrate his granddaughter Hannah’s birthday.39 Sadly, his wife Irma Jean passed away on January 18, 1999, just a few months after her husband’s retirement. She was 75 years old.40

Death

Joseph Grady Smoot passed away on January 5, 2018. He was 85 years old. Survivors included his son, Andrew Christopher Smoot, generally known as Chris; four grandchildren, Hannah, Haley, Eric, and Heidi Smoot; and a brother, Wayne McNutt.41

Two services were held in his memory. One was on January 17, 2018 at the Timmons Chapel on the campus of Pittsburg State University. Among the participants were two Seventh-day Adventist pastors: Carlos Ancheta of the Fox Valley Church in Wisconsin gave the opening prayer and delivered the homily, and Rod Scherencel had the Scripture reading and gave the closing prayer.42 Smoot’s other memorial service was held at the Fox Valley Seventh-day Adventist church. John McVay, president of Walla Walla University, officiated.43

Joseph Grady Smoot cared deeply for those around him and was committed to the search for learning.44 At the Wisconsin memorial service his words were read, “Education is the key to preparing for an interesting and productive life.”45 Grady Smoot’s life was certainly both interesting and productive.

Sources

“Academic Dean of Andrews University Named President of Walla Walla College.” Canadian Union Messenger, March 1, 1976.

“Andrew Christopher Smoot.” Prabook.com. Accessed June 24, 2021. https://prabook.com/web/andrew_christopher.smoot/560383.

“Former Andrews University President Joseph Grady Smoot Dies at 85.” Adventist World, January 10, 2018. Accessed June 27, 2021. https://www.adventistworld.org/former-andrews-university-president-joseph-grady-smoot-dies-85/.

Gardner, Elva B. Southern Missionary College: A School of His Planning. Revised by J. Mable Wood. Collegedale, TN: Southern Missionary College Board of Trustees, 1975.

Graybill, Ronald. “Where Are They Now? The Movers, The Shakers, And The Shaken.” Spectrum, December 1991.

“Irma Jean Kopitzke Smoot.” Findagrave.org. Accessed June 24, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/54760609/irma-jean-smoot.

“In Remembrance: Dr. Joseph G. Smoot, 1932-1918.” Memorial Card, Timmons Chapel, Pittsburg State University, January 17, 2018.

“Joseph Grady Smoot.” Findagrave.org. Accessed June 23, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/54760551/joseph-grady-smoot.

“New Faculty Addition to A.U.” North Pacific Union Gleaner, June 10, 1968.

“Obituary – Florence Smoot.” From Tampa Bay Times, June 7, 1957, 42. Newspapers.com. Accessed June 24, 2021. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/34741854/obituary-florence-k-rozell/.

Patrick, Nikki. “Patrick’s People: Grady Smoot Has Had a Hand in a Lot of Local History.” The Morning Sun. Accessed June 10, 2021. https://www.morningsun.net/article/20130315/News/303159923.

Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. Second revised edition. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1996. S.v. “Andrews University.”

Smoot, Andrew Christopher. “Family Life Sketch – Dad’s PSU Memorial Service.” Unpublished manuscript, in the author’s private collection.

Smoot, Andrew Christopher. “Life Sketch of Joseph Grady Smoot.” Unpublished manuscript, in the author’s private collection.

Smoot, Andrew Christopher. Obituary of Joseph Grady Smoot, Unpublished manuscript, in the author’s private collection.

Smoot, Joseph Grady. “A Moment in Time: Stories for My Grandchildren: Ambrose Suhrie.” Unpublished manuscript, in the author’s private collection.

“Smoot Named President of Andrews University.” Lake Union Herald, May 4, 1976.

“We Are Saddened by the Loss of CFSEK Founder, Grady Smoot.” Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas, southeastkansas.org. Accessed June 10, 2021. https://southeastkansas.org/post.cfm/we-are-saddened-by-the-loss-of-cfsek-founder-grady-smoot.

Notes

  1. “Joseph Grady Smoot,” findagrave.org, accessed June 23, 2021, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/54760551/joseph-grady-smoot.

  2. Andrew Christopher Smoot, interview with the author, June 23, 2001.

  3. Nikki Patrick, “Patrick’s People: Grady Smoot Has Had a Hand in a Lot of Local History,” The Morning Sun, accessed June 10, 2021, https://www.morningsun.net/article/20130315/News/303159923.

  4. Andrew Christopher Smoot, interview with the author, June 23, 2001.

  5. Joseph Grady Smoot, “A Moment in Time: Stories for My Grandchildren: Ambrose Suhrie,” unpublished manuscript in the author’s private collection.

  6. Elva B. Gardner, Southern Missionary College: A School of His Planning, revised by J. Mabel Wood (Collegedale Tennessee: Southern Missionary College Board of Trustees, 1975), 268, 281, 284.

  7. Patrick, “Patrick’s People.”

  8. Gardner, 327.

  9. “Joseph Grady Smoot,” findagrave.org.

  10. “New Faculty Addition to A.U.,” North Pacific Union Gleaner, June 10, 1968, 1.

  11. “Obituary – Florence Smoot,” from Tampa Bay Times, June 7, 1957, 42, newspapers.com, accessed June 24, 2021, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/34741854/obituary-florence-k-rozell/.

  12. Andrew Christopher Smoot, unpublished obituary of Joseph Grady Smoot, in the author’s private collection.

  13. “Irma Jean Kopitzke Smoot,” findagrave.org, accessed June 24, 2021, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/54760609/irma-jean-smoot.

  14. “New Faculty Addition to A.U.”

  15. “Andrew Christopher Smoot,” prabook.com, accessed June 24, 2021, https://prabook.com/web/andrew_christopher.smoot/560383.

  16. Andrew Christopher Smoot, interview with the author, June 23, 2001.

  17. Ibid.

  18. “New Faculty Addition to A.U.”

  19. Andrew Christopher Smoot, “Life Sketch of Joseph Grady Smoot,” unpublished manuscript in the author’s private collection.

  20. “In Remembrance: Dr. Joseph G. Smoot, 1932-1918,” Memorial Card, Timmons Chapel, Pittsburg State University, January 17, 2018.

  21. “New Faculty Addition to A.U.”

  22. “Smoot Named President of Andrews University,” Lake Union Herald, May 4, 1976, 16.

  23. Andrew Christopher Smoot, interview with the author, June 23, 2001.

  24. “Academic Dean of Andrews University Named President of Walla Walla College,” Canadian Union Messenger, March 1, 1976, 75.

  25. “Smoot Named President of Andrews University.”

  26. Ibid.

  27. Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia (1996), s.v. “Andrews University.”

  28. Andrew Christopher Smoot, interview with the author, June 23, 2001.

  29. Ibid.

  30. Stuart Price, “Grady Smoot Passes Away,” fourstatehomepage.com, January 10, 2018, accessed June 10, 2021, https://www.fourstateshomepage.com/news/grady-smoot-passes-away/.

  31. Patrick, “Patrick’s People”; “We Are Saddened by the Loss of CFSEK Founder, Grady Smoot,” Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas, southeastkansas.org, accessed June 10, 2021, https://southeastkansas.org/post.cfm/we-are-saddened-by-the-loss-of-cfsek-founder-grady-smoot; Ronald Graybill, “Where Are They Now? The Movers, The Shakers, And The Shaken,” Spectrum, December, 1991, 23.

  32. “We Are Saddened…”

  33. Patrick, “Patrick’s People.”

  34. Ibid.

  35. Graybill, 23.

  36. “Andrew Christopher Smoot,” prabook.com, accessed June 24, 2021, https://prabook.com/web/andrew_christopher.smoot/560383.

  37. “We Are Saddened…”

  38. Andrew Christopher Smoot, interview with the author, June 23, 2001.

  39. Andrew Christopher Smoot, “Family Life Sketch – Dad’s PSU Memorial Service,” unpublished manuscript in the author’s private collection.

  40. “Irma Jean Kopitzke Smoot,” findagrave.org.

  41. “Former Andrews University President Joseph Grady Smoot Dies at 85.” Adventist World, January 10, 2018. Accessed June 27, 2021. https://www.adventistworld.org/former-andrews-university-president-joseph-grady-smoot-dies-85/.

  42. “In Remembrance: Dr. Joseph G. Smoot, 1932-1918” Memorial Card, Timmons Chapel, Pittsburg State University, January 17, 2018.

  43. Andrew Smoot, email to the author, June 23, 2021.

  44. Ibid.

  45. Andrew Christopher Smoot, “Family Life Sketch – Dad's PSU Memorial Service,” unpublished manuscript in the author’s private collection.

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Pettibone, Dennis. "Smoot, Joseph Grady (1932–2018)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. July 01, 2021. Accessed January 27, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=GHR7.

Pettibone, Dennis. "Smoot, Joseph Grady (1932–2018)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. July 01, 2021. Date of access January 27, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=GHR7.

Pettibone, Dennis (2021, July 01). Smoot, Joseph Grady (1932–2018). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved January 27, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=GHR7.