Former UF professor, director wins national award for philanthropy
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Wayne Smith, a longtime supporter of the University of Florida and professor emeritus, has been awarded the Ruby C. McSwain Outstanding Philanthropist award by the National Agricultural Alumni and Development Association.
The award recognizes an individual or individuals with a record of sustained giving to support agriculture, agricultural higher education, Cooperative Extension, or land grant universities. This award also recognizes an individual for his/her role as an advocate for agriculture and natural resources and for their philanthropy in community organizations, religious institutions, art, environment and social services.
“I benefited from the support of others and the university which made my university education possible—opening up a world of knowledge and experiences for me,” Smith said. “Thus, I am grateful that we have the opportunity to pay back those who helped me and help those less fortunate.”
Smith, former director of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences School of Forest Resources and Conservation, has been an ardent supporter of UF and its work in agriculture and natural resources. A loyal donor for more than 40 years, Smith has supported 48 projects across 13 different units and departments. Within UF/IFAS alone, Smith has supported 28 funds that advance agriculture and natural resources.
“While his giving is exceptional, it is topped only by his passion for leaving things better than he found them,” said Christy Chiarelli, UF senior director of development and external affairs. “For example, Dr. Smith worked tirelessly for more than 25 years to raise funds to restore a turpentine still to be used as a teaching tool at our university forest. He personally prepared grant proposals and wrote more than 100 letters to potential donors.
“Under his leadership, close to $100,000 along with materials and artifacts were raised for this project. Thanks to Dr. Smith’s passion for UF and its work, the site with the turpentine still is restored to historic accuracy and was dedicated on April 1. This project would never have happened without the leadership of Dr. Smith.”
Smith is the longest-serving chairman of the UF/IFAS SHARE Council—a volunteer fundraising board that seeks private support for programs in UF/IFAS. He also served on the fundraising committee to rebuild the Austin Cary Learning Center after it was lost to a fire, Chiarelli said.
While his focus was on raising funds and procuring materials to build the building, he and his wife, Mitzi Austin, funded the outdoor deck, which was then named for them.
The couple have established the Wayne Smith and Mitzi Austin Forest Resources Law and Policy Professorship to bridge both of their professions—forestry and law, Chiarelli said. They regularly support the John Gray Fund for Excellence in Natural Resources and the Wayne Smith Student Leadership Fund in the SFRC.
In addition, Smith is a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow, and chaired his club’s Foundation Committee to raise money to address polio eradication and for other projects. The couple have sponsored a student in Guatamala with a three-year scholarship as part of their work with Rotary International, and annually support the Sunrise Rotary Club’s fundraising efforts to support local projects. They annually support programs that help provide healthcare for underserved rural residents and homeless needs in Alachua County.
“Dr. Smith is a true example of an individual who is strongly committed to the land grant system,” Chiarelli said. “He shows his commitment through his actions, deeds and support.”
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.