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Lester L. and Roberta D. Smith Background

Lester Smith & Dr. Kris Bosworth

Lester L. and Roberta D. Smith have long been benefactors to the College of Education. Formerly of Peoria, Illinois, the Smith’s have lived in Tucson over 30 years. In Peoria, Lester was the owner and president of Home Comfort Products, a company that manufactured and sold wholesale aluminum and plastic products for homes. Lester is a graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Il. and holds an honorary degree from that university as well as from the University of Arizona.

Although never an educator, Les and Bobbie were strong supporters of education as a means to help young people make healthy life style choices and steer clear of use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. While in Peoria, Lester helped found the Youth Farm which was a boys’ home. Since living in Tucson, Les and Bobbie initially funded a Smith Prevention Project in the 1980’s in conjunction with the University of Arizona College of Education. He is also been a long time funder and supporter for the Smith Speakers Bureau in the U of A athletic department. In the late 1980’s, Lester became disenchanted with the work and the accountability of the Smith Prevention Project in the College of Education and withdrew his funding. When Dean John L. Taylor came to the College of Education, Dean Taylor was able to re-engage the Smiths’ in the mission of the college. Dean Taylor’s proposal was to create an endowed chair in prevention and education rather than project specific activities. Dean Taylor argued that having a person on the faculty with strong, committed background in prevention and a community orientation would generate numerous projects that would facilitate the Smiths’ mission.

The Smiths provided additional support to the College. In 1999, as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board, Lester Smith challenged the Dean and the Board to raise $500,000 which he would match with a million dollar pledge.

Not only was Lester financially supportive of College of Education activities, he was involved in the projects that he supported. He meant frequently with the Endowed Chair and was often seen in the halls talking to faculty and students. He was particularly impressed with Project SOAR and often would drop in on Friday afternoons when Project SOAR trainings occurred.

In addition to his support of the College of Education, he was a benefactor the Sidewalk Sunday School in Tucson, the Methodist Church and Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Il., plus funding numerous other charities. Les was a member or Sigma Chi Fraternity, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, a mason and 32nd Degree Scottish Rite, Shriners, The Jesters, Skyline Country Club, Christ Church United Methodist, plus many others.

Lester Smith passed away at the age of 90 in November of 2003. His wife remains gravely ill at this time. He has one daughter, Deanna and a grandson, Dru, both of whom live in the Tucson area.