C. Ray Smith, 88, of Charlottesville, Virginia, passed away in his sleep at Martha Jefferson House on November 3, 2023, after a year of ongoing health issues.
Ray was born on April 21, 1935, to William Henry and Ava Roberson Smith in Bassett, Virginia, where he remained throughout his childhood. After graduating from Bassett High School, he went to Bridgewater College where he received his Bachelor of Arts in Business Degree in 1956. He was an active student participating in multiple clubs as well as serving in various roles such as Treasurer and then President of the Business Club, Business Manager for the yearbook, Associate News Editor for the college paper, and Junior Class President.
Upon graduation from Bridgewater, he attended the Graduate School of Business (now the Darden School) at the University of Virginia, receiving his MBA in 1958. In 2004, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate Degree in Business Administration from Bridgewater College where he also served as a Life Trustee on the Board of Trustees.
After graduate school, Ray enlisted in the Army and was stationed at Ft. Knox, Kentucky where he was an officer in the finance corps. While at Ft. Knox, he met Phyllis Watkins, who later became his wife. He stayed in the Army for 3 years before returning to Charlottesville in 1961 to start his teaching career as an accounting instructor at the Darden School of Business. During his 42-year career, Ray taught across 5 of Darden’s academic areas, authored dozens of cases and courses, developed executive education programs, and mentored thousands of students, faculty, and staff across generations. In 1981, he became chaired as the Tipton R. Snavely Professor of Business Administration. He was appointed Executive Director of the Darden School Foundation in 1996 and stayed in that position until retirement. He led Darden as Interim Dean on three separate occasions: 1993, 1997, and 2001.
Ray was inducted into the Raven Society for his service to the University community in 1976. He engaged with the broader university in various capacities, including Chairman of the Faculty Senate, President of the Colonnade Club, and Board Member of the Medical School Alumni Foundation. He also served on many non-profit and corporate boards.
Ray retired in 2003 at a celebration complete with “Hurray for Cool Ray” stickers. Upon retirement, they decided to provide a permanent reminder of him on the Darden Grounds by naming the newest wing of the Sponsors Executive Residence Center the C. Ray Smith Alumni Hall.
In March of 2023, they re-dedicated a fully renovated C. Ray Smith Alumni Hall. Dean Scott Beardsley indicated that Ray played a foundational role in advancing the Darden School during its first decades. Beardsley said, “I think it’s only appropriate that we name this building, the alumni hall, in your name because I can’t think of anybody at Darden who knows more alumni than you and has made a bigger difference in more people’s lives.”
Ray was also an avid fan of UVA Sports, having season tickets for both football and basketball since his early years at the University.
Ray was instrumental in the creation of the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts (now called the CFA Institute).
Ray was proud of his involvement in the Boy Scouts of America, obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout. His son and eldest grandson carried on this tradition.
Beyond his professional accomplishments, Ray was known for his quick wit, his love for his family, and his genuine interest in the people around him.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his loving wife of 64 years, Phyllis Jane Smith. He is survived by his three children, Tony Smith (Elizabeth), Cheryl Smith, and Teri Smith; grandchildren Hunter Smith (Danielle), Tyler Greeley (Andrew), Katie Hardman, Josh Hardman, and Joe Hardman; and great-grandchildren Ava and Lincoln Smith and Isla and Bennett Greeley.
A service will be held at 11:30 a.m., on November 15, 2023, at St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish, in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Memorial donations may be made to any of the following causes that were important to Ray, or to your charity of choice:
C. Ray Smith Fund for Academic & Professional Excellence
UVA Darden School Foundation
PO Box 37963
Boone, IA 50037
402 East College St
Bridgewater, VA 22812