A Deserving Dedication - Fall 2010 Ivy Leaf Magazine

Ivy Leaf - Fall 2010

A Deserving Dedication

By James Caltagirone '85, '87g


With the dedication of the Robert L. Smith Learning Resources Center, Penn State Altoona paid tribute to the late administrator who devoted nearly seven decades of distinguished service to the college's advancement, and honored his family — wife Margaret McCartney "Peg" Smith and children Thomas R. Smith and Dr. Margaret E. "Peggy" Smith — for their generous act of philanthropy.

Throughout his career as a Penn State Altoona administrator, Robert L. "Bob" Smith worked tirelessly to ensure that students pursuing their dreams were provided with every possible advantage. On campus, his name is synonymous with service. With the August 26, 2010, ceremony, it now graces a building housing an academic unit with a service mission.

Chancellor Lori J. Bechtel-Wherry fondly recalls Bob Smith's dedication to Penn State Altoona and states, "From my association with Bob, I am certain that he would be most pleased with this philanthropic tribute to him, as well as his family's ongoing service to our institution that was so dear to his heart."

The Smith's gift is especially meaningful coming from a family of humble means, eager to share the rewards of lifetime achievement with future generations of scholars.

"Through our gift to Penn State Altoona, our family hopes to provide the same type of educational opportunities to future generations of students that were provided to Tom and me by our parents," Peggy Smith says. "As beneficiaries of a college education, we all understand that a degree can make a substantial difference in one's ability to fulfill personal aspirations and contribute in meaningful ways to the betterment of society."

After her marriage to Bob in 1948, Peg Smith became an active participant in Penn State Altoona events, activities, and programs, serving as a visible ambassador on campus and in the community.

Reflecting on the family's selection of the naming opportunity for the Learning Resources Center, Tom Smith identified the defining quality of his father's career.

"My father's passion was to help students advance themselves," Tom observes. "He was passionate about Penn State Altoona. He exhibited that passion daily. We are proud that his name will forever be associated with a program that strives to enhance the academic achievement of each student at the college.

"We are a regular family that feels fortunate and excited to have an opportunity to make this gift to Penn State Altoona. Dad was extremely dedicated and spent a lifetime trying to make the college successful. Therefore, it is appropriate to have his name associated with the Learning Resources Center, so that students, in turn, can access and receive various support services to help them develop the complete education it will require to be successful in the world today. At the For the Future campaign kick-off at the Bryce Jordan Center, a gentleman told us that 'You will never make a more important gift in your lifetime than the one that you make toward education.' My mother, sister, and I wholeheartedly agree and are gratified that the gift will eventually be awarded in scholarships."

Bob Smith was the first employee of the Altoona Undergraduate Center (AUC) in 1939. Over the years, his roles were varied, and included registrar, financial officer, business manager, and associate professor. With the stewardship and fiscal responsibility of administrators like Bob, the AUC prevailed during challenging economic times. Bob was appointed interim director between the terms of several directors and retired in 1983 as Associate Director Emeritus. He also served on the college's Advisory Board as its treasurer for sixty-five years and was honored as Treasurer Emeritus in 2005, two months before his death on November 7, 2005.

The Robert L. Smith Learning Resources Center guides students along the path to success in the classroom. The center provides peer and professional tutoring and other academic assistance. A primary goal is to help students become independent learners. Students who are experiencing academic difficulties and those who just want to brush up on the basics or review important material are invited to avail themselves of the center's resources.

Over the years, Peg, Tom, and Peggy Smith — all former Penn State Altoona students — have earned distinction as dedicated volunteers who are actively engaged in campus life through their support of academic programs and involvement in alumni and Advisory Board activities.

A 1948 Penn State graduate, Peg Smith has served as a teaching assistant to several professors and devoted countless hours mentoring students. Her poetry has appeared in numerous publications. A retired school teacher and author of the book The Railroad Revisited, Peg was inducted into the Blair County Arts Hall of Fame in 2007 in the Literary Arts category.

As a volunteer leader for over two decades, Tom Smith has served in a variety of leadership roles for Penn State alumni affiliates in Blair County. A 1971 Penn State graduate, he has offered volunteer service on behalf of Penn State Altoona's Admissions Office and Division of Undergraduate Studies. A retired Altoona Area School District teacher and guidance counselor, Tom currently serves as vice chair of the college's Advisory Board.

The manager of Publications and Public Relations at Penn State's Information Technology Services, Peggy Smith has enjoyed a distinguished career at the University. She holds three Penn State degrees: a doctorate in Educational Theory and Policy, and bachelor's and master's degrees in English Literature. Peggy's research interests involve comparative and international education and business in the Caribbean and South America. She was a visiting professor at ESAN, a graduate business school in Lima, Peru, and a technical assistant for the U.S. Agency for International Development with the University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica.