The Smith's children, Sherry Brown, Sherry's husband Dave Brown, Sue Post, and Eugene “Bob” Smith, chose to establish the Fellows Program after recognizing the unique needs of first generation college students.
“We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of the Smith family,” said Fairmont State University Interim President Dianna Phillips. “As a family with three first-generation college graduates, they have a deep understanding of the profound impacts of higher education. They also have a keen understanding of the unique challenges faced by first-generation students and their needs while transitioning to life on a college campus. These gifts will allow us to continue to provide critical services to our campus community, specifically our first-generation students, while serving our mission to provide a transformative education.”
The first class of fellows were named during the summer of 2022 and were provided the opportunity for an immersive orientation experience. Fellows spent a week at Fairmont State learning about the academic resources available to them through the University and learning to navigate the campus.
Meals, lodging and all activities are provided at no cost to students participating in the Datha and Gene Smith summer program. Following their summer immersion experience, fellows will continue to receive weekly academic and coaching support from peer mentors. As this pilot program evolves, it will serve as a powerful recruiting and retention tool for the University.
In addition to the launch of the Summer Bridge program, the existing Learning Enrichment and Academic Development (LEAD) Center – a tutoring and testing center – has been renamed the Datha & Gene Smith Center. In years past, the Smiths have also established a need-based scholarship and provided support for the Frank and Jane Gabor Folklife Center facility.
Datha and Gene Smith, both native West Virginians, spent most of their lives in Marion County, West Virginia before retiring to Florida. Their children and five of their grandchildren attended Fairmont State.