Community / November 18, 2008

President Bush Recognizes Robert H. Smith For Philanthropy Supporting Humanities

College Park, Md. – November 18, 2008 – President George W. Bush awarded Robert H. Smith, a key benefactor and namesake of the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, with the prestigious National Humanities Medal for 2008 for his philanthropic contributions to the humanities. Smith received his award during a ceremony yesterday at the White House East Room. In total, nine distinguished Americans, one museum, and a philanthropic foundation were honored for their exemplary contributions to the humanities and were recognized for their scholarship, literary works, philanthropy, and preservation efforts.

Smith is recognized “for his profoundly wise stewardship and generous support of our nation’s premiere institutions of historical, artistic, and cultural heritage. He has been a farsighted benefactor and a civic leader for all seasons.”

A Virginia-based developer and builder, Smith is best known for founding the futuristic Crystal City mixed-use complex in Arlington, Va. In the last dozen years, he has been devoted to wide-ranging philanthropic projects.

“We are so honored to have Mr. Smith setting such an exceptional example as an involved member of our community – not just the business school community, but the greater community,” said G. “Anand” Anandalingam, dean of the Robert H. Smith School of Business. “He is a true inspiration for our students, the next generation of positive changemakers.”

Smith has supported significant projects at James Madison’s family plantation Montpelier in Virginia, Benjamin Franklin’s London townhouse, Thomas Jefferson’s beloved Monticello, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and Abraham Lincoln’s summer cottage retreat in Washington, D.C. He is dedicated to making them accessible to the public and his emphasis is on education and outreach, whether through visitor centers, scholarly resources, or professional development for teachers. He is also a former president of the National Gallery of Art, has provided major gifts to the Mayo Clinic for Alzheimer’s disease research, to Johns Hopkins to research the prevention of blindness, and to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem for an initiative to end world hunger.

“I am a firm believer that life is a two-way street. Giving back to institutions you believe in is part of that philosophy,” said Smith in a previous interview for the business school. “You don’t have to give millions of dollars. The important point is to participate at the level you are comfortable with. Financial success is not a destination; it is only part of the journey, enabling you to reach your ultimate fulfillment, and that is to give something back to help make a difference.”

In 1997, Smith, a 1950 accounting graduate of the University of Maryland, gave $15 million to fund the reinvigoration of the business school, now the Robert H. Smith School of Business, and continues to be an involved member of the university community. He also established the university’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, honoring his wife’s dedication to the arts.

The National Humanities Medal, first awarded in 1989 as the Charles Frankel Prize, honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities. It is the most prestigious award in the humanities. Over the last decade, including this year’s recipients, the National Humanities Medal has been awarded to only 107 individuals and nine organizations.

Medal recipients do not compete for this award but are specially selected by the president for their life-long achievements in their diverse areas of expertise. In addition to Smith, the president presented National Humanities medals to Gabor S. Boritt, scholar and Civil War historian; Richard Brookhiser, biographer and historian; Harold Holzer, scholar and Civil War historian; Myron Magnet, journalist and author; Albert Marrin, children’s book author; Milton J. Rosenberg, radio show host and scholar; Thomas A. Saunders III and Jordan Horner Saunders, philanthropists; John Templeton Foundation; and Norman Rockwell Museum.

Media Contact

Greg Muraski
Media Relations Manager
301-892-0973 Mobile 

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

Back to Top