Sept. 23, 2004 • Volume 13 Number 2
Former Financial Vice President John Smith Dies
A funeral Mass was celebrated Sept. 15 at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Sudbury for John R. Smith, an innovative and far-sighted financial executive who helped steer Boston College onto a sound financial path during his 21-year tenure as the University's vice president and treasurer. Mr. Smith died Sept. 11 after suffering an apparent heart attack while attending the BC-Penn State football game at Alumni Stadium. He was 81.
As the University's top financial officer from 1970 through 1991, Mr. Smith played a significant role in establishing Boston College as the thriving and financially sound institution that it is today.
When Mr. Smith was named Boston College's chief financial officer in 1970, the University was facing an uncertain financial future, with an endowment of just $5 million. By the time he retired from the position in 1991, the school had reversed its fiscal fortunes, built an impressive endowment, and received top bond ratings from major investment houses. Thanks to the foundation he helped to lay, BC is today one of the nation's 40 wealthiest universities with an endowment of $1.1 billion.
"John Smith was not only a key figure in the survival and flourishing of Boston College; he was one of the energizing personalities in the management team that directed the transition," noted BC Chancellor J. Donald Monan, SJ, who was president of Boston College during most of Mr. Smith's tenure as the school's financial chief.
"A superb financial vice president and treasurer, John's vision for education and for students and their families was far-sighted and broad-gauged," Fr. Monan said. "In his 21 years as CFO, John set in place the financial foundations and the guideposts that served to transform this University."
Among the wide range of financial innovations for which Mr. Smith was responsible was so called "depreciation funding," an accounting practice which he introduced in 1976, and which has since been ruled a requirement for all colleges and universities by the Financial Accounting Standards Board.
"John's introduction of depreciation accounting was 15 years before the FASB required all colleges and universities to do it," said Prof. Frank B. Campanella (CSOM), who served as the University's executive vice president while Mr. Smith was CFO.
"He was absolutely critical in that he really spent a lot of time strengthening the University's balance sheet, and that's what allowed us to borrow money and build our campus into one of the finest in the nation," Campanella said.
Mr. Smith was also the driving force behind the formation of the Massachusetts Higher Education Assistance Corp., which provides low-interest college loans to middle-income families.
A native of Bloomfield, NJ, Mr. Smith earned a bachelor's degree from Rutgers University and MBA from New York University School of Management. He was a certified public accountant and held professional positions with the Raytheon Corp., the Bendix Corp, Healthcare International and several public accounting firms before his appointment as Boston College's vice president and treasurer.
He was awarded an honorary doctorate of business administration by Boston College on his retirement in 1991. In the citation, the University declared Mr. Smith to be "a visionary benefactor to untold future generations of Boston College faculty and students."
Mr. Smith was the husband of Helen Topping Smith and the late Audrey McCarthy Smith. He is survived by five children, John C. Smith of Maryland, Thomas H. Smith of Framingham, Margaret E. Smith-Betar of Illinois, Robert C. Smith of New Jersey, and Richard Topping of Westboro. He is also survived by 15 grandchildren.
Donations in Mr. Smith's memory may be made to the John R. Smith Scholarship Fund, in care of the Boston College Development Office, Chestnut Hill, Mass. 02467. -Reid Oslin •