In Memoriam: C. Ray Smith, Three-Time Darden Dean and Transformational Leader

C. Ray Smith posing in a room with his hand placed on a nice leather chair

C. Ray Smith, who spent 42 years on the faculty of the Darden School of Business, including three stints as dean, was described as the school’s “institutional soul.” (Photo courtesy of UVA Darden School of Business)

C. Ray Smith, a University of Virginia professor emeritus whose 42-year career at the Darden School of Business included three terms as the school’s dean, died Nov. 3. He was 88.

Smith, who was a Darden graduate and school’s longest-serving faculty member, joined the faculty in 1961 at age 26. By 1971, he was a full professor and, in 1981, became the Tipton R. Snavely Professor of Business Administration. He taught in five of the school’s academic areas. 

C. Ray Smith teaching

A versatile scholar, Smith taught in five of Darden’s instructional areas and was an encyclopedia of Darden knowledge. (Photo courtesy of UVA Darden School of Business)

“Few in Darden’s history have played a more central role in advancing Darden than C. Ray Smith,” wrote Interim Dean Jeanne Liedtka and Dean Scott Beardsley (who is away from the school on sabbatical), in a note to the school’s faculty and staff. “He was a tireless champion of the Darden community and supported countless graduates and colleagues long after graduation. He had a great sense of humor, a twinkle in his eye, a positive outlook on life and an incredible memory for people’s names and stories.”

Smith, often called “Cool Ray” by friends and colleagues, earned the Charles C. Abbot Award in 1995 for his dedication to the school, the highest honor bestowed on a Darden School graduate. When Smith retired in 2003, then UVA President John T. Casteen III called the professor “Darden’s institutional soul.” 

In retirement, Smith remained committed to serving Darden and the Charlottesville area and was inducted into the Raven Society for his community service in 1976.

In April, Darden School leaders dedicated the newly renovated C. Ray Smith Alumni Hall with Smith, his wife Phyllis and members of their family present. At the event, Smith’s son said his father was an encyclopedia of Darden knowledge.

C. Ray Smith teaching in 1961

Smith joined the faculty in 1961 at the age of 26. Ten years later, he was a full professor, and 10 years after that held an endowed chair. (Photo courtesy of UVA Darden School of Business)

“Today, we have all of our databases, and we can Google and ask Siri,” said Tony Smith, a Darden lecturer, at the dedication earlier this year. “But if you want to know anything about Darden students, alumni, faculty and staff from four decades, just ask C. Ray. He knows it.”

A memorial is scheduled for Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. at the St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish in Charlottesville. Smith’s expanded obituary is on the Darden website. Memorial donations may be made to the C. Ray Smith Fund for Academic & Professional Excellence. Contact Deputy Vice President for Advancement Samantha Hartog at 434-982-2151 or for details.