Leaders from the University of Nebraska system issued statements in honor of NU President Emeritus L. Dennis Smith, who died Monday at the age of 83. Smith, who was system president from 1994 to 2004, died at Indiana University Arnett Hospital in Lafayette, Indiana, with family members at his side, according to his obituary.
“Dr. Smith was responsible for hiring me as UNK chancellor nearly 20 years ago. I enjoyed my relationship with him tremendously, and admired his determination to protect academic freedom, strengthen the value of research across the university, and pioneer efforts in public-private partnerships,” UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen said. “He renewed and ignited the push for NU research and attention associated with scholarly activity, and deserves to be remembered for a decade of great achievement for Nebraska.”
As president, Smith played a key role in the 1998 passage of LB1100, which provided critical support for deferred maintenance needs at the university. The Campaign Nebraska fundraising effort was also completed during his tenure, raising $727 million for scholarships, faculty endowed chairs, facilities and other needs. Smith advanced new public-private partnerships with Nebraska businesses, including the Gallup Leadership Institute at UNL and Peter Kiewit Institute based at UNO.
University leaders remembered Smith as a staunch advocate for research and academic quality, even during periods of fiscal challenge. A scientist who held a bachelor’s degree in zoology and chemistry and a Ph.D. in experimental embryology, Smith published almost 100 research papers during his career and was a recipient of the 2002 Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility. Competitive research funding at the University of Nebraska more than doubled during his tenure.
Upon stepping down from the presidency, Smith held a faculty role in UNL’s School of Biological Sciences.
Smith is survived by his wife, Suzanne, two children and numerous siblings, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.