U.Va. College At Wise Receives Largest Gift Ever, A $3 Million Pledge To Complete Football Stadium
April 24, 2002
CHARLOTTESVILLE – The University of Virginia’s College at Wise today received its largest gift ever, a $3 million pledge earmarked for the completion of the school’s football stadium.
The gift, announced today by University President John T. Casteen III, is being given through the Richmond-based Community Foundation’s fund as advised by Carl W. Smith of Charlottesville. Smith is the founder of AMVEST Corp., an international company specializing in coal mining, natural gas production and finance.
In 1997, Smith, a native of Wise and a U.Va. alumnus who has been a longtime supporter of the University, pledged $25 million to the University’s athletics department. The bulk of Smith’s unrestricted gift — $23 million — was used to expand Scott Stadium in Charlottesville. The remaining $2 million was for construction of phase one of the first football stadium at U.Va.’s College at Wise in Southwest Virginia. It included construction of the field and extensive site preparation for phase two.
Both football complexes have been named for Smith, who was a lineman on the U.Va. football team in the late 1940s and early ’50s.
“Carl Smith’s commitment to the University of Virginia is deeply ingrained, beginning some 50 years ago when he came to Charlottesville from Wise County as a scholarship football player,” Casteen said. “Since then, he has been one of the University’s most generous benefactors, looking to support both academics and athletics. We continue to be overwhelmed by his generosity.”
He and his wife, Hunter J. Smith, have supported many University endeavors over the years. Previous gifts have been to the schools of architecture, law, medicine, and business, the Children’s Medical Center, and the Jefferson Scholars program.
This recent gift, intended to complete the Carl Smith Stadium at Wise, will cover stadium seating, lighting, restrooms, concession areas and a field house. Construction is expected to begin this spring and reach completion by September 2003. Early plans include having 2,600 new seats and the lights in place for the season opener this fall.
“The College at Wise deserved to have a first-rate field for its football program,” Smith said. “The school has done a fine job moving up in the academic rankings, and I’m pleased to be able to have had something to do with helping them to improve in the athletic arena.”
On the football field, the school has enjoyed seven consecutive winning seasons. Academically, it ranks ninth among the nation’s top public liberal arts colleges in the U.S. News rankings.
Steven H. Kaplan, chancellor of the College at Wise, said that it is thanks to Smith’s vision that the field, which sits on one of the most picturesque sites on campus, will soon be completed. “Carl and Hunter’s gift to complete the Carl Smith Stadium is a profound testament to their unwavering commitment to U.Va.-Wise and its future,” he said. “As the largest gift in the College’s history, it truly will transform our athletics programs as we move to make the entire stadium area into an athletics precinct.”
Throughout his career, Smith has remained close to the University, as well as to his hometown roots. Wise was home to his late grandfather, a prominent lawyer for whom Smith and his family endowed the University’s O.M. Vicars Professorship in Law in 1982.
Wise also is home to the College at Wise, founded in 1954 as a two-year institution to serve Southwest Virginia. It has since grown into a broad-based, four-year liberal arts college with 1,500 students, and is the University’s only branch campus. Over the past decade, Smith has made a number of gifts to help support the school’s football program, and in 1994 the school honored him with a student award in his name. The Carl W. Smith Award for Excellence is given each year to a senior football player who has demonstrated excellence in personal integrity, citizenship, academics, and athletics, and who serves as a role model for Southwest Virginia.
The importance of the well-rounded student is something Vicars ingrained in his grandson. “My grandfather wanted to educate everyone he knew, family and otherwise, becauseeducation was that important to him,” Smith said. “The first time he saw a picture of me in a newspaper I was in a football uniform, and his comment was, ‘Well, it looks like Carl is educating his feet instead of his head.'”
Smith took those words to heart, and as a student of economics at U.Va., he learned quickly the need to balance his time between a quiet corner of Alderman Library and the playing field in Scott Stadium.
When he made his $25 million gift five years ago he said: “I think the University is going about this in the right way. Many schools put sports first as they aim for national standings in athletics. Here, academic programs have consistently been ranked among the best in the country. Our sports programs are now following their lead.
“The university’s goals include achieving excellence in a broad spectrum of sports, and that includes team sports as well as club sports and intramurals. I hope this will encourage others to step forward to support all athletics programs at U.Va.”
Following Smith’s graduation from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1951, he served in the Army and worked as an investment banker. In 1961, he founded the Charlottesville-based AMVEST Corp. He served on the University’s Board of Visitors from 1980 to 1988.