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Scholarship to Honor Father's Education Commitment

By Cynthia Machamer

Release Date: November 10, 2005

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- It took him 16 years of studying part time on nights and weekends while working full time and raising a family to complete his engineering degree at the University at Buffalo, but Felix Smist, B.S. '65, of North Tonawanda, N.Y., kept at it. To honor his father and help students who experience similar situations, Felix's son James Smist, B.S. '80, and his wife, Mary, have established the Felix Smist Scholarship at UB with their gift of $30,000.

The Felix Smist Scholarship will pay the tuition, for up to six years, of a part-time student in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

James Smist of McLean, Va., is president of Dean & Company, a management consulting firm that works with CEOs and senior management on the national and international corporate levels. He was five years old when he attended his father's graduation from UB.

"My father's example made me realize that education is a precious thing," James said. He earned a bachelor of science degree in engineering from UB in 1980. He says that, although his career developed outside of that field, "The systematic thinking process and quantitative capabilities that I learned in that program have had continuous use for me."

"This scholarship offers a unique opportunity to help a non-traditional student," said Mark Karwan, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). "We appreciate James Smist and his wife honoring Felix in this way, which will help others who need to work full time while attending school."

For James and Mary Smist, the gift benefits the school and the students, while "also honoring my father's commitment to education. This seemed like a great way to accomplish both. We believe the scholarship will encourage students."

Encouraging students is also something Felix Smist cares deeply about. "I wouldn't have been able to move up to chief engineer at Sherwood Selpac of Lockport, where I worked at the time, if I had not had my degree in engineering from UB." Smist retired 10 years ago.

The first recipient of the Felix Smist Scholarship is Rachel Marie Styn of Amherst, N.Y., executive assistant/system training specialist at Healthcare Solutions WNY, LLC, in Cheektowaga. Styn, the single parent of five-year-old Chloe, attends UB part time, working on a degree in electrical engineering.

"I've always been drawn to math and science, so engineering was a natural choice," she said. "My interest in electrical engineering was aroused originally in middle school and further developed in high school once I took physics. My particular area of interest is in cost-efficient and environmentally friendly energy sources."

Styn is grateful for the Smist Scholarship. She says, "It is inspiring and heart-warming that a person could have so much love and respect for his father that he would create this scholarship in his honor. I am honored to be the recipient of the Smist Scholarship, and I look forward to the time when I can repay his kindness by providing assistance to a student in similar circumstances."

The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in all major fields of engineering: mechanical and aerospace; chemical and biological; civil, structural and environmental; computer; electrical, and industrial engineering. Valuing interdisciplinary research, SEAS promotes connections across disciplines in its research centers, internship programs and industrial partnerships. Today's students join the ranks of over 20,000 UB engineering alumni who live in 50 states and 52 countries.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York.