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Catawba College Alumnus and Spouse Establish New Scholarship at College

October 17, 2005

Category: Academics, Alumni, Students


Dick Smith ’56 of Salisbury still remembers the football scholarship he received in 1952 that enabled him to attend Catawba College.  That scholarship, and the education it allowed him to obtain, helped shape his life, he says.

Now Smith and wife Peggy are hopeful that the scholarship they have established at the Catawba can do something similar for future students.  The Dick and Peggy Smith Endowed Scholarship will assist a member of the College football team, with preference given to offensive backs on that team. 

“Coach Gordon Kirkland gave me a full football scholarship and I was able to play fullback for four years because of that,” Smith recalls.  “I still have the letter he sent me, but now it’s framed and according to the College catalog, the cost of attending Catawba back then was $795.

“The late M.M. “Chub” Richards was the line coach then and he was such an influence on me and became one of my lifetime friends.  In 1955, I served as co-captain of the football team and we were something to be reckoned with in those days.  We played Lenoir-Rhyne on Thanksgiving Day, the only colleges to have a game then, and a lot of folks turned out to see this game.”

The Smiths believe that their scholarship is one way to give back to the institution.  “It’s really the best way, we think, to perpetuate the opportunities I had -- to make sure someone else has those same opportunities,” Smith explains.

Smith recalls with pride lessons he learned under the tutelage of business professor, Dr. Millard Wilson.  “He always wore a coat and tie and called everyone ‘Mr.’ or ‘Miss,’ ” Smith says of Wilson.  “And, he had many connections with North Carolina companies and businesses in those days.  In fact, Dr. Wilson helped me land my first job with BellSouth.  He always told us ‘to match men and jobs and then let them go,’ and I found that that was terrific advice as I grew in managerial roles.” 

Catawba Senior Vice President Tom Childress applauds the Smiths’ new scholarship and is hopeful it will encourage other alumni to follow suit.  He cites instances of the couple’s support for the institution, noting Dick’s involvement with the Shuford Stadium fund-raising effort, his perennial Chiefs Club membership, his employee matching gifts through his long-time employer BellSouth, and his service on the College Alumni Board.  He is currently a member of Catawba’s Board of Visitors.  Catawba also honored Smith in 1980 with its Distinguished Alumnus Award and again in 2002 when he was inducted into Catawba’s Athletic Hall of Fame. 

“Dick and Peggy are always doing something for Catawba,” Childress says, adding, “And Dick’s not one to be content with past successes.  Now, he’s taken a leadership role with a new project on campus -- adding lights to Shuford Stadium. He’s serving as class agent for the 1950s football players as we strive to raise $150,000 for this.” 

Why lights?  Smith will explain that Shuford Stadium was lit until 1974 (when the lights were removed) and that allowed plenty of night games to be played there.  “We feel lighting the stadium for nighttime play can raise attendance to Catawba’s games and that would be just an added bonus,” Smith says. 

Peggy Smith often smiles indulgently at her husband, for she has become well aware of just how important Catawba is in his life. “I guess I’ve become an adopted alumna of the College, because he’s so over and beyond in his love for Catawba,” she jokes.  She was a longtime employee of the City of Salisbury, working there for 35 years until her retirement in 2002.  She served as the City’s playschool director and concluded her years as an administrative assistant at the City’s Civic Center. 

And even though his football playing days are over, Smith’s all about helping the cause.  He, along with friends Charlie Little ’64, Pete Stout ’58 and Bill Peeler ’54, all members of Catawba’s Grid Iron Club, are responsible for stenciling the Catawba “C” on the playing field of the stadium each week during the football season and for keeping the stadium goalposts painted. 

The Smiths, who married in 2001, together have six adult children and 12 grandchildren.