Mary Gilmore Smith, a champion of women's equality, died at her home in Syracuse January 18, 2014. She was 106. A member of the Syracuse University Class of 1929, she had been the university's longest contributing graduate.
Passionate for her causes: education, opportunities for women, and literacy for all; steadfast for her university and her family; emphatic about informed and civil discourse; and devoted to lifelong learning, Mary endeared herself to countless friends with her feistiness and sense of humor.
She was born in Williamsport PA in 1907 and graduated from Williamsport High School. After graduating from SU, she taught high school for seven years in Pennsylvania, returning to SU in 1938 to obtain her master's degree in higher education administration and her Mrs. in 1940 when she married Edward Smith. She was hired as the first vocational counselor of women at SU and served as assistant to the Dean of Human Development. After teaching at Nottingham High School, she spent nine years as a counselor in University College's Women's Center. She retired from SU in 1972 and became program director at the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), a position she held until retiring in 1991, at age 83. In 1993, she began tutoring at the Learning Place, now the Newland Center for Adult Learning and Literacy, in Syracuse. She stopped tutoring at 101 only because of failing eyesight.
She received an Alumni Award from SU in 1972 and two Melvin Eggers Senior Alumni Awards: one in 1994 and the other as a board member of Eta Pi Upsilon. She received both the MCOA Rhea Echel Clark Award (1986) and the RSVP Ollie Owen Award for Outstanding Community Service (2000). In 2004, she was inducted into the archives of the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls.
Her husband, Edward Smith, a business law professor at SU died in 1963. Her son, Sheridan, died in 1989.
Surviving are her daughter, Elizabeth Smith Hakanson, of Syracuse; nephews Arthur (Nell) Gilmore of Virginia and Dale (Ann) Gilmore, of Indiana; niece Joyce (William) Warriner of Syracuse; granddaughters Heather Hakanson, of New Mexico, and Heidi (Frederick) Lundy of Cicero and numerous grand, great-grand nieces and great-great-grand nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held on Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 5:30 pm at Plymouth Congregational Church, 232 East Onondaga St Syracuse.
Contributions can be made to Plymouth Congregational Church, ProLiteracy, or the Newland Center.