Dr. E. Vernon Smith, 90, a retired Cincinnati internist, has given $5.95 million in the name of himself and his wife, the late Eloise C. Smith, to the university, with a portion earmarked for Greenup County graduates.
“I feel that sometimes areas like Greenup get left behind when it comes to scholarships, so I wanted to help bright young people in Greenup who wanted to enter the medical field to have that opportunity,” said Smith. “To qualify, however, they must return to Greenup for 5 years to practice and hopefully help lift the community to a higher level.”
The gift will provide scholarships in nursing, medicine and band, and will fund professorships in history, business, nursing and macular degeration research and will endow chair positions in macular degeneration and Alzheimer's disease research.
“Alzheimer's ultimately claimed the life of my wife in 1997, and I have suffered from macular degeneration,” said Smith. “I agonized about this a great deal, first considering bricks and mortar projects before deciding to do something more meaningful that would help young people struggling with financial problems.”
Smith pursued a bachelor's degree in chemistry from UK, in preparation for medical school.
He then attended medical school from 1937-41 at the University of Cincinnati.
“Four years at UK equipped me with the courage and the knowledge to go forward in life. It opened the door to medical school,” he said.
Smith grew up on Main Street in Greenup where he lived until going off to college in 1933.
“In those days, every little community had its own high school and I went to Greenup High School,” said Smith. “We didn't even have a chemistry lab at Greenup, so when I went to college, it was a major shock.”
Smith spent a year of junior residency at Cincinnati General Hospital, which was interrupted when he volunteered for the military. Selected to attend the Army Malariology school, he studied tropical medicine at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C., and volunteered for the field school of malaria control. Smith said that when he finished school he was ordered overseas and spent his entire army service in the Panama Canal Department as a member of the staff of the surgeon's office.
In 1946, he went back to Cincinnati General Hospital for retraining in internal medicine, then opened his office in the practice of internal medicine. He practiced until his retirement in 1987.
Kentucky Rep. Tanya Pullin, D-South Shore, was at a meeting of the UK board of trustees Tuesday when she got the news that the gift had been made.
“It was the best news I had received in a long time,” Pullin said. “What a change this will bring to the lives of our young people who might otherwise have a problem with finances if they plan to go to college and study medicine, nursing or band.”
Pullin said that her ultimate hope is that these students will come back to Greenup County when they graduate.
“You work and work and work for your education and hope that someone like Dr. Smith is there to help you. It is wonderful that he has remembered our community. I only hope he knows how hugely meaningful this gift is to us in Greenup County,” Pullin said.
Greenup County School Superintendent John Younce said he was excited when he got the news.
“The Board of Education and I are tickled to death that this great gentleman would provide such a great opportunity for our students,” said Younce. “We are in the process of trying to come up with a way to honor him and thank him for his generosity.”
UK president Lee T. Todd Jr. echoed Younce's sentiments.
“It's gratifying to have a graduate from this institution give this as much thought as he did and then step up to help us reach what we want to achieve,” said Todd.
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232