In Memory

James A Smith

James A Smith

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01/16/17 06:37 PM #1    

Barbara Ingersoll (Rothenberg)

Jim was  a special person in my sophomore year after I had been in Africa.  We spent a lot of time talking about Africa and what an exciting place it was at the time.  Unfortunately, the dream did not last.  Seeing Jim at the tenth reunion was special.

05/22/17 09:36 PM #2    

Thompson Webb

Jim died of a brain tumor on July 30, 1980 at the home of his parents in Oberlin, Ohio. He had returned to Oberlin after his first operation for the tumor two or so years before his death. He is survived by his former wife Karen Hazel (now DuBois) '69 and two children—Ramsay and Lauren ("Sandi")—and his parents Mr. and Mrs. Jess Smith of Oberlin, Ohio.

Jim was born in December 1943 and graduated from Oberlin High School in 1962. He entered Swarthmore in September 1962, served on the Student Council, and graduated in 1967 in Economics. During the summers at college, he worked for the State Department as a guide for foreign dignitaries. By November 1967, he had passed all the exams and was sworn in as a Foreign Service Officer. One of his assignments was to Mali, and in 1974, he wrote Harrison Wright, "One of the most disheartening results of my two years in Mali was the realization when I returned that no one really cared what happened in that large, but rather thinly populated country. The State Department and AID gave us only scant attention." This insight may have contributed to his leaving the Foreign Service in 1974 and joining Sister Cities International as an Associate Director, where he was active in establishing linkages between U.S. and African cities.

He wrote in 1974 that the sister city programs are ". . . successful in forming personal links between Americans and citizens of other countries. African participation in the program has been rather limited. . . . Despite the strong ethnic links between blacks in Africa, 300 years of living in very different cultures have produced a great deal of separation. . . . Rising black political power seems to be increasing the possiblity that the whole community, black and white, will take an interest in an affiliation with an African city. . . . We have expressions of interest from mayors, city councilmen, or citizens from [several] cities. . . . What we have is an idea whose time has come, but must be perfected. . . . I would like to see Afican teachers and 'aminateurs' coming into our cities to work with our youth. I have observed a teacher from Ghana working in, of all places, Findlay, Ohio. He was doing a fantastic job teaching woodcarving and African dance to classes of students and housewives. They were gaining a positive first impression of Africa."

After returning to Oberlin, Jim worked for the Center for Integrated Services and was a loan officer at the Oberlin Savings Bank. His parents and family were with him when he died.

John Morrow '66 remembers:

"My first impression of Jim Smith is from freshman orientation, when he
always seemed to have a female classmate on the back of the scooter. I knew
we were friends when he gave me a ride to the freshman picnic.
Jim was genuinely friendly, optimistic, and idealistic. He enjoyed student
politics, I often thought, because it gave him the occasion to meet and make
friends with many people. He would make the rounds of Sharples at mealtime,
visiting his friends in all the different groups that populated the various
nooks and crannies. His interest in foreign affairs grew logically from his
desire to bring different types of people together.
We lost touch after graduation, but I saw Karen, Jim, and their two children
in D.C. just before he began work with the Sister Cities program. He
had had difficulties with a brain tumor, but remained optimistic and confident.
I was convinced he would beat it, because he had a lifetime of contributions
to make in international relations. We lost touch again, and the next I
knew Jim had died. His death brought home to me for the first time my own
mortality. He was a fine friend; I just wish he were alive so I could tell him
that at the reunion."


01/25/18 05:04 PM #3    

Daniel Wise

Jim must have started year ahead of us because I rememer him as a sophomore living the floor above me in Wharton. Jim took me under his wing and it was a very comfortable place to be. I remember spending long hours talking with him about how to get dates with our classmates when all the upper classman were in hot pursuit. He really propelled me forward and was a great friend whenever I got shot down. I just remember his upbeat cheery personality, and was very saddened to learn that he had passe on so long ago.  


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