A Courageous, Generous Gael

In MemoriamLast May, Saint Mary’s College lost one of its most significant benefactors, Contra Costa County lost a brilliant doctor, and our community at large lost a wonderful human being. But despite this great loss, the life of Dr. Richard William Smith ’62, known to his family and friends as Dick, continues on through his generous spirit and his legacy of love.

Smith came to Saint Mary’s College in 1958, and quickly became known across campus for his scholarly accomplishments and for being a deeply thoughtful young man who encouraged those around him to strive for success. At Saint Mary’s, Smith developed a passion for biology and began to plant the seeds for his career as a doctor, working closely with the school nurse at that time, Lizz McElligott. Seeing Smith’s potential and knowing that he and his siblings had survived both of their parents, McElligott told Smith that she would pay for whatever medical school costs he could not pay for himself. He went on to graduate at the top of his class at Creighton University School of Medicine in Nebraska and then serve as a physician during the Vietnam War. After McElligot passed away (Smith had paid her back before then), he established the Lizz McElligott Endowed Scholarship, paying McElligott’s generosity forward to help students in the same way that she had helped him.

And his generosity did not stop there. In addition to the McElligott Scholarship, Smith was also instrumental in setting up the Dr. Cory Endowed Scholarship for Biology at Saint Mary’s and from his will established an endowed scholarship in honor of his close friends Joe Siler ’62 and Dr. Kieran Fitzpatrick ’62.

As his high school classmate and fellow Gael Bob Potenza ’62 recalled: “The constellation of people close to Dick had become his lifetime extended family. He would delight in recounting each individual’s achievements.”

Smith had many interesting hobbies, including photography, geology, traveling and music. He was also an avid gardener, and was especially skilled at cultivating cacti and orchids. But as his close friend Fitzpatrick reminds us, “Dick’s greatest love was for people.” As Smith often said, “Gotta love ’em; they’re our species.”

— Casey McAlduff M.F.A. ’12

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