In Memoriam: UVA Darden Professor Emeritus C. Ray Smith

By David Buie-Moltz

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business mourns the loss of Professor Emeritus C. Ray Smith (MBA ’58), a celebrated educator, administrator and guiding voice who served the School with unparalleled dedication for more than four decades. Smith, who joined the Darden faculty at 26 in 1961 and retired in 2003 after a 42-year career, left an indelible mark on the School.

He passed away on 3 November 2023 at the age of 88. A memorial service will be held at 11:30 a.m. on 15 November at St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“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 in a note to 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.”

As a professor, Smith taught in five of Darden’s academic areas. He has been a full Professor of Business Administration since 1971 and became chaired as the Tipton R. Snavely Professor of Business Administration in 1981. In addition to teaching in the MBA program, he taught many Darden Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs over the years.

Professor Emeritus C. Ray Smith (MBA '58) in his office. Date unknown.
Professor Emeritus C. Ray Smith (MBA '58) in the classroom. Date unknown.
Professor Emeritus C. Ray Smith (MBA '58) in the classroom. Date unknown.
Professor Emeritus C. Ray Smith (MBA '58) in the classroom. Date unknown.
Professor Emeritus C. Ray Smith (MBA '58) in the classroom. Date unknown.
Professor Emeritus C. Ray Smith (MBA '58) in February 2020.
Professor Emeritus C. Ray Smith (MBA '58) at the State of the School during Darden Reunion Weekend 2023.
"Few in Darden's history have played a more central role in advancing Darden than C. Ray Smith."
Interim Dean Jeanne Liedtka, Dean Scott Beardsley

Upon his retirement in 2003, then-UVA President John T. Casteen III called Smith “Darden’s institutional soul,” praising his “kind, devoted and bighearted spirit.” Similarly, then-UVA Board of Visitors member William H. Goodwin Jr. (MBA ’65), a former student of Smith’s, said, “He’s everything the School stands for.”

Smith’s commitment to education matched his passion for leadership and service. He was appointed executive director of the Darden School Foundation in 1996 and stayed there until retirement. He led Darden as Interim Dean on three separate occasions: 1993, 1997 and 2001. For his commitment, he was given the Charles C. Abbott Award, the highest honor bestowed on a Darden graduate, in 1995.

Beyond his professional accomplishments, Smith was known for his ability to connect with students on a personal level. Affectionately dubbed “Cool Ray,” he was a professor who transcended the boundaries of the classroom, welcoming students into his home and life. His counsel and friendship extended far beyond his formal roles at the School, making him a beloved figure to many.

Smith’s influence extended to what is now the CFA Institute, a global association of investment professionals that sets the standard for ethics, education and professional excellence in the field. The association’s relationship with Darden began a half-century ago when the Federation of Financial Analysts voted to host the CFA Institute at UVA and for Professor C. Stewart Sheppard to serve as its first director. Sheppard and Smith together wrote the first chartered financial analyst program exams.

Smith’s leadership influenced the broader UVA community. He was inducted into the Raven Society for his service in 1976. He engaged with UVA in various capacities, including chairman of the Faculty Senate, president of the Colonnade Club and board member of the Medical School Alumni Foundation. He also served on many non-profit and corporate boards.

In retirement, Smith remained an active and cherished member of the Darden community, symbolized by the establishment of the C. Ray Smith Fund for Academic and Professional Excellence and the naming of C. Ray Smith Alumni Hall in his honor.

In April 2023, Darden dedicated the newly renovated C. Ray Smith Alumni Hall with Smith, his wife Phyllis and members of their family present. The improved spaces for alumni and lifelong learning — supported by many donors, including the late Frank Sands Sr. (MBA ’63) and the Red Gates Foundation, created by the estate of the late Hunter Goodwin (MBA ’95) — cement Smith’s legacy at the School.

“Today, we have all of our databases, and we can Google and ask Siri,” said Tony Smith (MBA ’87), C. Ray Smith’s son and a Darden lecturer, at the event. “But if you want to know anything about Darden students, alumni, faculty and staff from four decades, just ask C. Ray. He knows it.”

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife of 64 years, Phyllis Jane Smith. He is survived by his sister, Gloria S. Craig (John); his three children, Tony Smith (Elizabeth), Cheryl Smith and Teri Smith; grandchildren Hunter Smith (Danielle), Tyler Greeley (Andrew), Katie Hardman, Josh Hardman and Joe Hardman; great-grandchildren Ava and Lincoln Smith and Isla and Bennett Greeley; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Memorial donations may be made to the C. Ray Smith Fund for Academic & Professional Excellence. Contact Deputy Vice President for Advancement Samantha Hartog at +1-434-982-2151 or for more details.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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