Robert H. Smith (philanthropist)

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Robert H. Smith
Robert H Smith.jpg
Born July 21, 1928
Winchester, Virginia
Died December 29, 2009(2009-12-29) (aged 81)
Crystal City, Virginia
Residence Crystal City, Virginia
Nationality United States
Occupation Real estate developer, philanthropist
Spouse(s) Clarice Chasen
Children Michelle Smith
David Bruce Smith
Stephen Smith (deceased)
Parent(s) Charles E. Smith

Robert Hilton Smith (July 21, 1928 – December 29, 2009) was an American builder-developer and philanthropist.


His father founded Charles E. Smith Co. in 1946, which grew to become one of the largest commercial and residential landlords in the Washington, D.C., area, managing 24,000,000 square feet (2,200,000 m2) of office space and more than 30,000 residential units.[1]

He and his brother-in-law, Robert P. Kogod, took charge of the company in 1967. He oversaw construction and development, and Kogod led leasing and management. He became chairman of Charles E. Smith Co. Commercial Realty, a division of Vornado Realty Trust, and chairman of Charles E. Smith Co. Residential, a division of Archstone-Smith Trust, both REITs listed on the New York Stock Exchange. They are best known for spearheading the development of the Crystal City complex in northern Virginia.[2]


Smith gave generously to the University of Maryland, College Park, his alma mater. The Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park, was named in his honor in 1998 to recognize his gift of $15 million, the largest gift the school had ever received. He continuously supported its programs, subsequently making additional generous gifts as the school has expanded and risen in prestige. The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, completed in 2001, is named for his wife Clarice Smith.

Interestingly, the Kogod School of Business at the American University in Washington, DC, is named after Robert P. Kogod, brother-in-law of Robert H. Smith. Like his father, Smith also served on the board of trustees at The George Washington University in 1976 and again from 1977–1997. His son currently sits on the board of trustees at George Washington. The Smith and Kogod families are major donors to GW, too. The Charles E. Smith Athletic Center at GW is named in his father's honor. In addition, Smith's contributions to Johns Hopkins Hospital allowed for the construction of a new research and surgical building for the Wilmer Eye Institute. The new building was named the Robert H. and Clarice Smith Building of the Wilmer Eye Institute.

Smith was charitable to nearby historical and preservation efforts including the development of the Robert H. & Clarice Smith Auditorium at George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, and the Robert H. and Clarice Smith Gallery at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Visitors' Center. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation renamed its International Center for Jefferson Studies the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies after Smith endowed the Center in 2004. On November 3, 2007, the National Society of Madison Family Descendant’s awarded the Madison Family Cup to Robert H. Smith for his extraordinary contributions to James Madison’s legacy and the preservation and development of Montpelier.

Smith's family also gave charitably to a number of Jewish communal causes in the greater Washington, DC, area, including the Charles E. Smith Life Communities, a senior housing and elder care campus in Rockville, Maryland, and the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, also in Rockville. Both organizations are named for Smith's father.[3]

Smith served as president and trustee of the National Gallery of Art from 1993 to 2003. The National Gallery of Art expanded during his presidency, opening the Dutch Cabinet Galleries, the Sculpture Garden, and the West Building's ground floor Sculpture Galleries.[4][5][6]

He served as chairman of the board of governors at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem from 1981-1985 and was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in 1984. Additionally, he served as president of the Washington D.C. chapter of the American Friends of the Hebrew University.[7][8]

In 2008, President George W. Bush awarded Smith with the National Humanities Medal.[9]

Personal life[edit]

In 1952, Smith married artist Clarice Chasen[10][11][12] who was also Jewish.[13] They had three children, Michelle and David, and Stephen, who is deceased. They resided in Crystal City, Virginia until his death of a stroke in December 2009.


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