Smith endows concert series, music scholarship
It was Christmastime in 1938 when Dorothy J. Smith ’42 found herself in Lexington and at Transylvania for the first time, visiting a friend and fellow native of Kansas who was a student at the college. The campus was empty for the holidays, and she and Mary Margaret Aldridge Meyer ’41 found a piano so Smith could sing the “Italian Street Song” for her friend, believing they were all alone.
“I was sitting there at the piano playing and singing, and in walked (music professor) Jack Bryden,” recalled Smith. “We had no idea he was in the building. He asked me what I wanted to do, and I said, ‘I just want to sing.’ He asked if I would like to attend Transylvania, and I said yes, but that I couldn’t afford it. He left to see (business manager) Spence Carrick and came back in about half an hour. They had worked out seven serviceships—in orchestra, string quartet, girls’ quartet, girls’ trio, band, marching band, and one more—and that’s how I could afford to come to Transylvania.”
Because of that serendipitous encounter, Smith left Hutchinson, Kansas, to enroll at Transylvania and go on to major in music and English and have a career in music. And because Transylvania gave her the one opportunity she really wanted—“Just to sing”—Smith recently created the Dorothy J. and Fred K. Smith Endowed Concert Series and the Sharon Sue Smith Memorial Scholarship, both of which will enrich the cultural and academic musical environment at Transylvania for years to come.
The concert series, which will become fully endowed at $1 million as part of Smith’s estate, will bring as many as three high quality musical performances to the campus annually. It will begin this fall (Wednesday, October 10, 7:30 p.m., Haggin Auditorium) with the Kronos Quartet, the Grammy Award-winning group that has been together for more than 30 years. The group has gone far beyond the traditional boundaries of the string quartet, performing an eclectic repertoire that includes works by 20th-century masters, jazz legends, and rock and avant-garde composers, among other genres. They have performed thousands of concerts worldwide and released more than 40 recordings.
The series is planned to reflect a variety of musical styles, including classical, jazz, American folk, world music, popular, music theater, opera, and multi-media.
“I hope this concert series will enrich the campus atmosphere,” said Smith. “I want it to set a tone of excellence. Perhaps it will encourage some of the students later on in life to go to concerts and develop an interest in hearing artists in live performances.”
The concert series is named for Smith and her late husband, Fred K. Smith ’40, who had a long career with the Veterans Administration and the Social Security Administration.
The Sharon Sue Smith Memorial Scholarship, endowed for $200,000, is named after the Smiths’ late daughter, a graduate of the University of Kentucky in speech therapy who worked at Lexington’s Cardinal Hill Hospital and in Ann Arbor, Mich. In 1964, while a student at Henry Clay High School in Lexington, she was crowned Kentucky’s Junior Miss by Diane Sawyer, the reigning America’s Junior Miss.
The scholarship will be awarded to first-year students, with preference given to those with a major or minor in vocal or instrumental music. It will be preferred, but not required, that students have demonstrated financial need.
It was Dorothy Smith’s own financial need that gave Transylvania the opportunity to offer assistance to a talented young person so many years ago, and provide her the springboard to a rewarding career and satisfying life. Smith taught music in the Fayette County public schools for 25 years and at the Lexington School for four years, is a former violist with the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, is a published composer and poet, and has sung professionally in many venues. She earned a master’s degree in education from UK.
“Today is payback day,” said Smith. “These two programs are my reward for Transylvania’s generosity toward me, a generosity that will echo in every concert and every student who benefits from the scholarship. Transylvania changed the direction of my life and brought me to where I am today. I am so very grateful for that. Thank you, Transylvania.”