A Lasting Legacy of Activism and Philanthropy
Beth K. Smith (’76 BLOCH), University of Missouri-Kansas City alumna and adjunct professor, died April 20, 2017 at the age of 96.
Smith was a philanthropist and social entrepreneur who dedicated her life’s work to public service. Since becoming a Kansas Citian in 1948, Smith’s impact has been felt in various areas of the Kansas City metro as she raised her voice in efforts to improve race relations and women’s empowerment.
Throughout the 1960s Smith worked as a civil rights advocate, pushing for fair housing and working with the Kansas City Human Rights Commission and Panel of A
merican Women. In 1980 she co-founded the women’s networking club Central Exchange alongside Kansas City philanthropist Marjorie Powell Allen and 10 other originating members. She also co-founded the Women’s Employment Network and the Women’s Foundation.
In 2008 Smith was awarded the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Kansas Citian of the Year award given to “people whose civic contributions and achievements reflect the insight, creativity and consciousness necessary to build and maintain a quality city.”
Smith received her bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and a master’s in public administration from UMKC, where she taught leadership and management courses as an adjunct professor at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management. During her tenure at UMKC, Smith co-founded, and served as a senior fellow within, the Bloch School’s Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership. The Bloch School holds the Beth K. Smith/Missouri Chair in Nonprofit Leadership
“Beth Smith was a pioneering leader in vital fields, from women’s rights to social entrepreneurship, as well as a dedicated educator,” said UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton. “She left indelible marks, on her community as a whole, and on the lives of countless individual students.”
Smith was a Lifetime Member of the UMKC Alumni Association. In 1996 she was awarded a UM System Presidential Citation Service Award, given to individuals who demonstrated outstanding and continuing service to the University of Missouri and its campuses. In 1998, she received the UMKC Alumni Service Award for her outstanding loyalty, commitment and service to the university.
In 2002 Smith was presented a Bloch School Entrepreneur of the Year award, the Marion and John Kreamer Award for Social Entrepreneurship, for her many accomplishments in the Kansas City non-profit sector.
She was married for 50 years to the late Edward A. Smith, a founding partner of the Smith Gill Fisher & Butts law firm, which later merged into Bryan Cave. The UMKC School of Law holds the Edward A. Smith / Missouri Chair in Law, the Constitution, and Society.