On Friday, April 12, Fairmont State history was made when Jed and Vicki Smith donated $1 million to the Fairmont State Foundation. This historic gift will create the Jed and Vicki Smith Scholars endowment which will award scholarships to full-time students. This is the largest gift received from a living alumnus in university history.
Giving back has been important to Mr. and Mrs. Smith since they settled in Charleston in 1990 and knew they wanted to be involved with making a difference in their community. The Smith’s built a successful car dealership in Charleston and expected that the business would be their legacy. After retiring in 2016, the couple realized that their idea of legacy had changed into a mission of sharing.
“His legacy was not what he did to make a living, it was what he did that made a difference.” Mrs. Smith said of her husband. “Making a difference in a student’s life is our goal with this gift, and we are hoping that it will. Supporting students that are going to be able to carry on in their education and go forward, that’s really the legacy. The legacy of giving, the legacy of giving back.”
A North Central West Virginia native and Naples, Florida resident, Mr. Smith says Fairmont State taught him the value of persistence. He earned a business administration degree from Fairmont State while working 27 to 35 hours per week at a supermarket on Country Club Road to earn his tuition. Not only did he pay his own way through school, he provided financial assistance to two of his Theta Xi fraternity brothers. Mr. Smith says that college didn’t come easy for him, that he worked hard to succeed. After graduating with honors in 1968, he planned to attend law school. Instead, he was drafted into the WV National Guard during the Vietnam War.
The oldest of four children, Jed Smith credits his parents for his success. His mother and father were told by a high school guidance counselor that he should not be encouraged to attend college and that he probably wouldn’t be successful as a student. They didn’t share the counselor’s advice until after Smith graduated from Fairmont State.
“My parents never bothered to tell me what I couldn’t do.” Mr. Smith said. They felt that he could accomplish anything if he set his mind to it and harnessed the energy to figure it out. When asked what advice the Smiths have for current students at Fairmont State University, Mr. Smith said, “Never give up.” Mrs. Smith followed with “We fail, we grow, we learn, but the reward is self-worth.”
More than 85% of Fairmont State students rely on financial assistance to complete their degrees. “The majority of students who do not make it to graduation highlight financial need as their primary reason for withdrawing.” said Gary K. Bennett, President of the Fairmont State Foundation. “Scholarships play a critical role in easing financial pressures and reducing the need for student loans.”
Dr. Timothy Oxley, Interim Dean of the School of Business said “With the majority of our students receiving financial aid, and with many more who must work to afford the cost of their education, scholarships help to provide qualifying students with additional resources which allow the recipients to focus more on their education and less on how they will pay for it. Beyond the obvious financial impact, scholarships often provide recipient students with an academic buoyancy as a sign of confidence in their ability to succeed - and they rise to the challenge.”
President Mirta M. Martin echoed the importance of the perseverance that Fairmont State University graduates are known for. “I tell every student in our Falcon Family, ‘I’ll make you a deal: if you bring a passionate willingness to work hard and pursue your dreams, and if you stick with it, we will provide you with everything you need to achieve those dreams.’ With the help of Jed and Vicki Smith’s generous gift, we can keep that promise and keep students on track to graduate.”
The Jed and Vicki Smith Scholars endowment will provide scholarships for full-time undergraduate students at Fairmont State University who have a minimum G.P.A. of 2.5. Thirty percent of the endowment will be allocated to students of the School of Business. The remaining seventy percent will be available to any qualified Fairmont State University student.
This gift was made through the Fairmont State Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of Fairmont State University.