Arkansas State University said Monday that its former president, Eugene W. Smith, died Sunday. He was 88.
Smith's death came after "a lengthy illness," the university said. He was A-State's eighth president, appointed by the board of trustees in February 1984. He led the university until 1992, but returned as interim president from 1994-95.
"As an A-State alumnus, Eugene W. Smith brought passion and dedication to whatever role he fulfilled during his long career at Arkansas State University, especially his term as the institution's eighth president," Chancellor Kelly Damphousse said. "He will be long remembered for his leadership in establishing the university's first doctoral degree program, and his work toward enlarging the library to support advanced graduate studies."
A memorial service is scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday at Emerson Funeral Home in Jonesboro. Smith's family requests those wishing to leave memorials consider the Smith Fellowship Endowment, c/o Arkansas State University Foundation Inc., P.O. Box 1990, State University, AR 72467.
Arkansas State grew during Smith's eight years as president, during which A-State established its first doctoral degree program, in educational leadership; built the First National Bank Arena; expanded the Dean B. Ellis Library; joined Division I-A in the NCAA; and took early steps toward forming the Arkansas State University System.
"Gene Smith loved Arkansas State University immensely and put his heart, soul and talents into its growth and success through the years," Chuck Welch, president of the ASU System, said. "When you consider his military service in Korea and then his 35 years of teaching and leadership at A-State, Dr. Smith's life was one of extraordinary public service."
Dr. Tim Langford, chair of the university's board of trustees, called Smith "a gifted and visionary leader."
"He had a significant role in so many defining moments for ASU — from development of our first doctoral degree and expansion of the library to the athletics department's move to Division I-A and construction of First National Bank Arena," he said. "We are forever grateful for his life and contributions to the university and ASU System."