• Donald "Don" Smith
  • Birth / Death: 1947-2022
  • Donald Smith

Don Smith was a long-time member of the Rutgers community.  After receiving his PhD from Rutgers in 1982, he became a faculty member in the Computer Science (CS) department, then serving as the Director of the Laboratory for Computer Science Research (LCSR), and finishing his career as the Vice President of the Office of Information Technology (OIT). In both his personal and professional life, Don was known for his kindness and his imperturbable approach to challenges.  When faced with adversity, he calmly confronted each obstacle with logic tempered by deep humanistic values, inspiring others along the way and cultivating optimism in the face of future problems that would surely be encountered.  As a computer scientist, his genuine curiosity and affinity for the discipline drove his research interests.  While at Rutgers, Don worked on multiple NASA-sponsored projects, lending his expertise and his specific blend of computational thinking to tackling problems such as the re-development of hypersonic inlets used in their aircraft.  He was an outstanding educator, consistently garnering some of the highest “teaching effectiveness” scores on student evaluations in a variety of courses and displaying his versatility by helping pilot innovative courses outside his area of expertise. As LCSR Director, he led the transformation of the CS Department’s computing infrastructure through several revolutionary technological changes, setting the foundation for the current organization. He also provided leadership for the entire department, mentoring many junior colleagues along the way. As OIT Vice President, he supervised the merging of IT systems when the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) was merged with Rutgers and the entry of Rutgers into the Internet2 community.  

Don was known as a fiercely loyal friend and exceptional teacher, and even more so, a dedicated father.  Tragically, he lost his wife -- the love of his life and mother of his children, in 1985.  There could not have been a greater loss dealt, and yet, Don poured himself into raising their daughters, whom he guided to become the strong independent women that they are today. Students and colleagues alike have recounted that one could rely on Don to provide the same level of guidance when they sought out his advice.

Don performed all of his work and provided leadership with dignity and integrity. Yet, he maintained a strong sense of humor throughout life, aptly applying it to situations where there seemed to be room for none.  Despite the intense demands of fatherhood, high-level research, and guiding the university through a time of intense technological development and structural changes, Don made time to embrace his interest in sports and the arts.  He was an avid soccer player, playing collegiately and in semi-professional capacity. He also enjoyed Classical and Jazz music and was sure to be present when any of his grandchildren had a performance scheduled.  Don is sorely missed – he left an indelible mark on all whom he encountered – and all for the better!