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Chancellor Comments on Loss of Robert Smithwick

It is with deep sadness that I report to you that Dr. Robert Smithwick, whose great vision shaped the Foothill-De Anza district, passed away peacefully early this morning in his sleep. He was 92.

It is not an exaggeration to say that Dr. Smithwick is the father of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District. He participated in the first conversations among area school district trustees and superintendents that led to the creation of an independent community college for our local communities. In 1957 he became chairman of the first elected board of what was then called the Foothill Junior College District and continued his service on the board with distinction for almost 35 years.Until the past year or so, Dr. Smithwick had remained actively engaged in the life of the district, attending tenure receptions, graduations and other important events. He remained keenly interested in our colleges and his devotion to and pride in the district was always very much apparent.

I believe that Dr. Smithwick's values are deeply embedded in our district. Many of you knew him for much longer than I, but it didn't take long to see that he was passionately committed to the idea of excellence and opportunity for all. Since he set about establishing the district, some 1.2 million students have attended Foothill or De Anza. They are the true beneficiaries of his work.

In addition to leading Foothill-De Anza, Dr. Smithwick served on the board of the Fremont Union High School District, serving the two districts concurrently for a number of years. As a resident of Sunnyvale he engaged in a variety of volunteer activities and also worked in the Sunnyvale community for many years as a dentist, specializing in children's dentistry.

Always gracious, Dr. Smithwick was a fine gentleman who truly cared about his neighbors and devoted his life to serving others. In a 1996 interview, he recounted how for many years he'd made a habit of walking the campus during the first week of school to watch students register. "It really gives me a thrill to see what a difference in a lot of people's lives we've made over the years,'' he explained. "…We have made an enormous impact on this community."

Our hearts go out to Dr. Smithwick's children, Cathye and Michael. The Foothill-De Anza district, and the tens of thousands of students who have attended Foothill and De Anza to improve their lives, are powerful testimony to their father's work, love and dedication. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him, but his legacy lives on.

His family will hold a memorial service celebrating his life within the next few weeks and we let you know about the arrangements.

Linda Thor, Chancellor, Foothill-De Anza Community College District


Posted March 22, 2012