In 1949, during George F. Smith's senior year at Saint Peter's, his wife Patricia was expecting their first child and there were some complications with the pregnancy. Unbeknownst to Smith, J. Edward Coffey S.J., Dean of the University, arranged for an obstetrical specialist to care for the soon to be mother without charge. Smith, a World War II veteran attending the University on the recently established G.I. Bill, and his wife lived in New York City at the time, though the delivery was scheduled for the Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital in Jersey City. To aid the young couple, Dr. Perry Jackson of the Biochemistry Department offered a room in his home until the child was born and Joseph Murray, S.J. of the Biology Department assisted the Smiths with his support and guidance. Mrs. Smith gave birth to a healthy baby boy, and Saint Peter's has held a special place in the hearts and minds of the Smith Family ever since.
In the spring of 1999, Dr. Smith, a renowned geneticist working with the handicapped and mentally retarded, decided to give back to Saint Peter's in the form of a charitable gift annuity. Dr. Smith says, "Saint Peter's gave me an education, and I felt an obligation to pay back for that education. Giving the money as a charitable annuity was an easy and useful way of meeting my moral obligation to the school."
Dr. Smith credits the University's strong core curriculum with helping him excel in the study of genetics. "What was of great value to me...was the exposure to a liberal arts and sciences education. Studying philosophy, theology and the classics enabled me to think about ultimate causes. In my career, I have specialized in genetics, which was not taught in college or medical school during my time. However, the greatest strength of the Jesuit system of learning, and there are many, is its ability to change with the time..."
Thanks to the generosity of Dr. George F. Smith, and many of his fellow alumni, Saint Peter's is able to educate and nurture young minds for years to come.
Following in His Footsteps
Choosing a college for that baby born in the Margaret Hague Maternity Ward came down to Saint Peter's and Notre Dame, and after living in England, Michael Smith chose to follow his father's footsteps and attend the more metropolitan Saint Peter's.
Michael's experience was much like his father's. "There were always people who cared about you, and give support when you needed it. My father told me, ‘When you get to school, you must look up Father (George) Hilsdorf.' I started out as a Chemistry major and Father Hilsdorf was the chair of the department, so I immediately had someone I could talk with and get advice. Even after I changed my major to study pre-law, I would talk to Father Hilsdorf. When I decided to get married to a young lady from Saint Peter's, I talked to Father Hilsdorf."
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