In Memoriam: Brother Robert Smith, FSC, '35


Brother Robert Smith, FSC, a beloved educator who founded the Integral Program at Saint Mary's College 50 years ago, passed away on Sept. 12, 2006 at Mont La Salle in the Napa Valley. He was 92.

Brother Robert retired to Mont La Salle over the summer after teaching for 34 years at St. John"s College in Annapolis, Md.

Brother Robert, whose career was devoted to seminar-style teaching, modeled the Saint Mary's Integral Program on the one at St. John's College. In a 2005 article in the St. John's College Magazine, Brother Robert shared his enthusiasm for studying the great books of the Western tradition through seminar discussions.

"Each person is asking their own questions; that is the heart of education," said Brother Robert. "There's a new conversation every time. You see the repeated miracle, each year, of how students develop, with a renewal of life each time."

Born on July 14, 1914, in Roundup, Montana, Brother Robert was raised in Oakland and graduated from Saint Mary's College in 1935. While serving as a novice, he helped the Christian Brothers move their winery operations from Martinez to Mont La Salle in 1932. After teaching at Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento, Brother Robert joined the Saint Mary's College faculty in 1941.

Brother Robert, who earned his doctorate in philosophy in 1948 from Laval University in Quebec, was passionate about educational reform. At Saint Mary's, he introduced the seminar-style approach to learning and in 1956 was instrumental in establishing a four-year Great Books curriculum then known as the Integrated Program. He led the program until 1972, when he moved to Maryland to teach at St. John's.

"Brother Robert was one of the most influential of the Brothers in the curriculum at Saint Mary's College," said Brother Donald Mansir, chair of the Bishop John S. Cummins Institute and teacher in the Saint Mary's Integral Program. "A true son of Saint La Salle, a friend to hundreds of students, and an inspiration to many of the greatest minds of the last century, Brother Robert will be terribly missed."

Visitation is scheduled on Sept. 16 at 5 p.m. at the Saint Mary's College Chapel, 1928 St. Mary's Rd., in Moraga. The funeral Mass will be celebrated at 6 p.m., with a reception following in the Soda Center at Saint Mary's College.

Burial services will take place at Mont La Salle, 4401 Redwood Rd., in Napa on Sunday, Sept. 17 at 12:30 pm.

--Debra Holtz
Office of College Communications