Courtesy: Donald W. Reynolds Foundation
LAS VEGAS – Longtime Donald W. Reynolds Foundation chairman, philanthropist, media executive and Las Vegas resident Fred W. Smith, 84, passed away April 29, 2017 at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, California; surrounded by his family after a long illness.
Smith was named a trustee of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation in 1961 and its chairman in 1992, a position he served in for 25 years until the Foundation’s closure in 2017. Since 1994, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation contributed over $1.85 billion to programs, institutions and nonprofit organizations across the country. To honor his leadership, the Foundation’s trustees approved grants that resulted in numerous buildings being named for him. The Foundation’s largest single grant helped establish the Fred W. and Mary B. Smith Center for the Performing Arts (The Smith Center) in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In addition, the Fred W. Smith Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, Virginia; the Smith-Pendergraft Student Center at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith and the Fred W. Smith Conference Center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences all bear his name. A lifelong Arkansas Razorback supporter and fan, Smith was especially proud of the Fred W. Smith Football Center at the University of Arkansas.
“Fred Smith spent his professional career helping Donald W. Reynolds make the money that ultimately funded the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation,” President of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation Steve Anderson said. “His leadership of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees has resulted in a significant impact on the lives of thousands of individuals who were recipients of Foundation grants.”
Born January 1, 1934 in the Peno Bottoms of Oklahoma near Fort Smith, Arkansas, Smith attended school in Fort Smith and after graduation from high school spent a short stint with the FBI in Washington D.C. He returned to Fort Smith where he attended Fort Smith Junior College and started his career in the newspaper business at the local Donrey newspaper as a classified advertising salesman.
During his 43-year career at Donrey Media Group, Smith worked his way through the ranks to become President and COO and CEO of one of the nation’s largest privately held media companies. Donald W. Reynolds promoted Smith to General Manager of the Las Vegas Review Journal in 1960 and moved him to Las Vegas. Shortly after the move Fred sent for his fiancé Mary Moore to join him in Las Vegas and the couple were married on March 4, 1961. In 1966 Reynolds named Smith Vice President of Donrey’s Western Newspaper Division where he played a major role in the expansion of Donrey into the newspaper business in California.
In 1973, Smith was promoted to Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Donrey. In 1990 Reynolds announced his retirement from the company and named Smith the President and CEO of the Donrey Media Group. In 1993 Donald W. Reynolds passed away and Donrey was sold. Smith continued to run the company during the transition of ownership and stayed on for a year after the sale closed.
In 1994, Smith retired to concentrate his time and efforts on the development of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and to oversee the operations of the family business, Peno Bottom Partners. The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation received a substantial bequest from the estate of Donald W. Reynolds making it one of the 50 largest private foundations in the country.
Throughout his career at Donrey, Smith was a leader in and an active member of the Las Vegas community. He served on the boards of numerous charitable and civic organizations including the Salvation Army, Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, Southern Nevada Industrial Foundation, Boulder Dam Area Council Boy Scouts of America, United Fund of Southern Nevada, Nevada Tax Association, First Interstate Bank of Nevada, Sierra Pacific Power Company and the University of Nevada Las Vegas Foundation. In 1993, Smith was named Distinguished Nevadan of the Year and was honored with an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the Board of Regents of UNLV.
In addition, Smith made time to serve on boards beyond those in Las Vegas including; Alltel Corporation, TCA Cable TV, Inc., the board of trustees of the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas, the advisory board for the First Commercial Bank in Little Rock, Arkansas and Safefoods, Inc.
In recognition of his professional accomplishments and his leadership role with the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation’s philanthropic efforts, Smith received honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Oklahoma, Okmulgee, Harding University, the University of Arkansas, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
After 49 years of marriage Fred’s beloved wife, Mary, passed away in 2010. In 2016, Fred married Maria Hearley and at the time of his death the couple made their home in Pebble Beach, California. In addition to his wife Mary, Fred was preceded in death by his mother Erma Wells and his stepfather Paul Wells. He is survived by his wife Maria Hearley-Smith, children; Fred Wesley Smith, Jr. (Stacie), Deborah Smith-Magness and Dr. Jonathan P. Smith (Amy) and four grandchildren.
Services are pending. In lieu of flowers the family requests that donations be made to The Salvation Army.